We're doing something a bit unusual this week on the Classic Mysteries podcast: for once, we're reviewing something that's quite new - in fact, it has just been published this month.
The reason for writing about R. T. Raichev's new mystery, The Riddle of Sphinx Island, is that it really looks back at the great classic mysteries - in particular, one of my all-time favorites, Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None." Raichev uses the Christie novel as a jumping-off point for a book that quite lovingly pokes fun at many of the classic mystery conventions - and does so with a great deal of respect.
The story? Well, it features a librarian-turned-detective-story-writer, Antonia Darcy, and her husband, Major Hugh Payne. They are invited to travel to Sphinx Island, a remote and isolated island in Devon. They are told that their presence is needed there to prevent a murder from happening.
Now Darcy and Payne are pretty well acquainted with the classic mystery plots. To them, "Sphinx Island" sounds a great deal like Christie's "Indian Island," where the isolated guests found themselves cut off from the outside world with a murderer who appeared bent on killing all of them. Darcy and Payne are - to put it politely - skeptical; they are pretty sure they are being set up by their friends for some kind of murder mystery game, one of those "murder weekends" perhaps where a murder is play-acted. Nevertheless, they go.
What do they find when they get to Sphinx Island? You're going to have to read the book to find out. Suffice to say that it certainly isn't what they expected...and the reader will find a great many twists along the way; just when you think you know what's really going on...well, you don't.
What's really important here, though, is the tongue-in-cheek and rather loving look at the classics of mystery fiction. Even the chapter titles are taken from the names of classic mysteries (although I really never had thought of Kafka as a classic mystery writer).
I'll have more to say about The Riddle of Sphinx Island on the podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
This book is the eighth in a series of cozy mysteries featuring Antonia Darcy and Major Payne, and I'm told there are more on their way from their publisher, The Mystery Press. The book is distributed by Trafalgar Square Publishing, which provided me with a copy for this review.