Merry Christmas! Wednesday the 25th of December–Shelf Control time once again, and the final one of the year! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it–what its all about, what makes you want to read it, and such. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

This week, once again, I have a mystery (endless numbers of those on my TBR), and a Golden Age one, but not a British Library Crime Classic, but an American mystery, The Bishop Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine (1928).

This is the fourth in the Philo Vance series of mysteries which has twelve books published between 1925 and 1935. In this one, a wealthy neighbourhood in New York City (most of the books are set in the Manhattan Borough) is hit by a series of murders. The first victim is a Mr Joseph Cochrane Robin, accompanied by an extract from the rhyme ‘Who Killed Cock Robin’. The District Attorney finds the circumstances so unusual that he calls in Philo Vance. Then comes a murder with extracts from Mother Goose, further complicating matters. The Bishop’s Murder Case is believed to be the first nursery-rhyme mystery book, and a precursor to other mysteries including Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, and One, Two Buckle My Shoe.

Vance himself is portrayed in the books as a stylish, foppish dandy, highly intelligent, but rather pompous and conceited. In film adaptations, Vance has been portrayed by Basil Rathbone and William Powell, among others.

William Powell as Philo Vance in The Benson Murder Case
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Author: S.S. Van Dine was the pen name of William Huntingdon Wright (1888-1939), American art critic and writer. He used the pseudonym to write his detective fiction. Wright had also worked as Literary Editor for the Los Angeles Times, but was most respected for his writings about art. According to Wikipedia, “….Wright became one of the most progressive (and belligerently opinionated) art critics of the time…” He also wrote a series of scenarios for Warner brothers, used as the basis for short (twenty-minute) mystery films!

I have read one Philo Vance mystery earlier but it was I think fairly long ago, because I really don’t remember how I liked it (or even what it was about), or Vance. But apart from Vance’s pompousness, the mysteries themselves are supposed to be fairly complex (this one with not just nursery rhymes but also mathematics and physics involved) and interesting, and that makes me certainly want to give them a try.

Have you read any mysteries featuring Vance? Which ones and How did you like them? Any you’d recommend? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Info on the book is from wikipedia (here), also Goodreads (here) and on Vance (here), and Van Dine (here).

2 thoughts on “Shelf Control #70: The Bishop Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine #Mystery #Golden Age #TBR

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