THE 2022 ROY AWARDS: Making My Case for Jezebel

For some time now, my friend Kate has been hosting an end-of-year celebration over at her place, Cross Examining Crime, of all the wonderful classic mystery reprints that have appeared over the past year. For 2022, the list is longer than ever, and for that we really have to thank the wealth of small presses that have focused their efforts on digging up books we’ve all heard about and been dying to read forever and ever – until we went to eBay and discovered the single available copy costs $682.43 (and it’s listed as in “fair” condition!) These include, but are not limited to: the British Library, Locked Room International, Dean Street Press, Otto Penzler’s American Mystery Classics, and Ramble House. 

Not only does Kate invite bloggers like yours truly to participate by selecting two of our favorites from the list and promoting them on our own sites, she then invites her readers to vote on the #1 reprint of the year. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I happened to select the winning book for 2021. Should this happen two years in a row, I will receive a massive amount of street cred on social media and a lounge suite set from Broyhill. To paraphrase a wise saying uttered just before a bunch of children slaughtered each other, “May the odds be ever in my favor.” And they just might be because this year I’ve snagged two incredible books. 

This week’s option couldn’t have come at a better time for me because at this very moment last year I conceived my Re-Branding Project, in which I would revisit (and in one or two cases pay a first call on) all the mysteries written by one of my favorite authors, Christianna Brand. It’s always nice when my readers can, you know, read along, but that was going to prove difficult with at least one of Brand’s titles, the legendary but rare Death of Jezebel

The book is legendary because a lot of my fellow fans have a deep craving for impossible crime mysteries, and this one is mentioned in Robert Adey’s invaluable reference, Locked Room Murders. The impossibility involves a woman being killed by an invisible force while standing on a tower during a pageant, in full view of hundreds of audience members. It is such a dramatic crime that it inspired my friend James Scott Byrnside to utilize a similar sort of murder at the start of his second mystery, The Opening Night Murders. (His solution, indeed the entire tone of the novel, is utterly different, but you can feel Byrnside’s affection for Brand on every page.)

This year, the British Library included not one, but two Christianna Brand titles among its republished crime classics. While it’s always nice to see a new edition of Green for Danger come out, it is probably the most re-released title in the canon, thanks partly to its justifiable popularity as a mystery and partly due to the successful 1946 film adaptation. But Jezebel has been so little republished that affordable copies were as hard to find as, say, C. Daly King’s Obelists at Sea. (Oh, look! See what’s being released next year!!!) Thus, the new edition of Jezebel from the BL has been a boon for mystery fans, for impossible crime fans, for Brand fans, and for the thousands of people who follow this blog!

You can read my entire review of the book here. But let me just reiterate the following: while I’m not the impossible crime fan that many of my buddies are (I can never figure out the darn things!), there is much to love about Death of Jezebel besides a truly wonderful solution to the miracle. First, we have the hilarious competition between Brand’s two series sleuths, Inspector’s Cockrill and Charlesworth, to solve the case. Secondly, nobody does false solutions quite like Brand, and here she outdoes herself. What’s so nice is that she comes up with some perfectly fine solutions and then tops herself with a really good one – and then shows us that none of them is as good as the final, true solution. 

I will never claim that Death of Jezebel is my favorite Brand. Green for Danger has a similarly brilliant solution and is far more emotionally affecting, in my opinion. And the upcoming Tour de Force holds a special place in my heart for its “dangled before your eyes” giveaway clue and its heartbreaking finale. But both of these titles have always been relatively easy to pick up for a reasonable price. The 2022 release of Jezebel is an important choice and deserves your consideration for Reprint of the Year. 

My second selection couldn’t be more different from this novel, but you’ll have to wait until next week for that.

12 thoughts on “THE 2022 ROY AWARDS: Making My Case for Jezebel

  1. I would be happy to vote for D of J. But not necessarily for the puzzle plot but for the brilliance of language and characterization. They always win hands down for me above plot. I will still save my pick for The Sharp Quillet, only because it’s a favorite Flynn, read from an old hardcover (with dust jacket).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brad – you have my vote with DoJ. It has been an impossible crime in and of itself why this gem has remain out of print so long. I read that the British Library will reprint Suddenly at His Residence (aka The Crooked Wreath) next year so hoping that trend continues.

    Brand remains a favourite for me with her puzzles, characters and at times emotional endings. Can you imagine what her profile would be if she had been as prolific as Christie or Carr?


  3. Pingback: Reprint of the Year 2022 – First Nominations – crossexaminingcrime

  4. You have certainly picked one of the favourites to win this year, however last year it was a book with much poorer odds which came out on top, beating Carr’s Till Death Do Us Part, I think if I remember correctly. So it is going to be very interesting to watch how the voting goes…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Picking a favorite between DEATH OF JEZEBEL, GREEN FOR DANGER, and TOUR DE FORCE really is a toss-up, they’re all fantastic. I wish Japan produced their own Christianna Brand, the way they produce their own John Dickson Carrs, Ellery Queens, Agatha Christies, and Freeman Wills Croftses just so I could have more Brandian goodness in store! I’m glad to see you picked JEZEBEL as your ROY, since it’s my personal favorite mystery novel of all time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My only problem with JEZEBEL is that Brand excels at characterization and DoJ’ suspects don’t come to life for me like they do in GREEN FOR DANGER or TOUR DE FORCE. The puzzles in all three books are great, but the other two simply affect me more emotionally.

      Liked by 1 person

    • By the way, you asked Jim about theatrical mysteries, and I think he recommended this to you. But if you love Death of Jezebel, you should really pick up James Scott Burnside’s The Opening Night Murders as soon as possible.


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