I came across the British Library Crime classics a few months ago and since then have bought about 8 or so, there three of them recently as they are Christmas themed in one way or another.
These Books, being republished by the British Library, were all written in ‘The golden age of crime writing’ around the 1920s and 1930s, and whilst it would be rather odd to match my reading to my favourite furniture, also of that era, apparently that’s what I’ve been subconsciously doing recently between these and F Scott Fitzgerald.
Some of the books in the series are better than others but I haven’t found any I don’t like at all. This one is made up of short stories, starting with a Sherlock Holmes one, and like all collections of short stories it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
The stories included are:
- The blue carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle
- Parlour tricks by Ralph Plummer
- A happy solution by Raymond Allen
- The flying stars by G.K. Chesterton
- Stuffing by Edgar Wallace
- The unknown murderer by H.C. Bailey
- The absconding treasurer by J. Jefferson Farjeon
- The necklace of pearls by Dorothy L. Sayers
- The case is altered by Margery Allingham
- Waxworks by Ethel Lina White
- Cambric tea by Marjorie Bowen
- The Chinese apple by Joseph Shearling
- A problem in white by Nicholas Blake
- The name on the window by Edmund Crispin
- Beef for Christmas by Leo Bruce
Rather than go into all the stories in detail I am just going to say a bit more about my top three favourites and my least favourite.
My top three favourites are:
Waxworks – there isn’t a clever crime in this one, but it does build an amazing amount of tension and suspense for such a short story. A reporter staying the night in a seemingly deserted waxwork museum. Is her mind playing tricks on her or is one of the waxworks really someone out to kill her?
The unknown murderer – this story cleverly links three apparently unconnected murders and does it in an elegant way. Whilst I did have a suspicion who the murderer was going to be it was nevertheless a good read.
A problem in white – a train journey goes wrong when snow on the line halts the train and a man is murdered. It seems like practically all the characters mentioned could have been responsible for the murder, and in fact the story itself doesn’t tell you who did it, although there is a solution in the back if you can’t work it out. It wasn’t an obvious answer and I couldn’t guess it from the start. Skillfully written.
My least favourite story is:
A happy solution – I have a feeling this story is a lot cleverer than I realise, but not being a chess player most of the subtlety and intrigue is lost on me. It’s still worth a read as a non chess player but its frustrating to not be able to quite get the point.
I find short story collections a but hard to get into sometime. Just as I’m developing a feel for a character and really starting to get into a story it stops and I have to start all over again. I tend to have to push myself to finish books of short stories and this was no exception but that’s not to discredit the book, just an indication of my tastes.
Whilst the stories are all round Christmas in one way or another, its importance varies throughout the book as do the setting and types of crime stories. It’s a well thought out collection and has introduced me to a few new (to me) authors I would like to read more of.