The traditional country house. Full of upper-class over-privileged families with a troop of servants from butlers to skivvies dedicated to satisfying their every whim. With more rooms than anyone could ever need, they’re the perfect setting for stories of all sorts – but mostly murders, obviously.
Murder At The Manor is the latest collection of Golden Age mysteries from the British Library Crime Classic range, as compiled by Martin Edwards. With tales from well-known authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Margery Allingham and other, less famous writers, such as J.S. (not J.B.) Fletcher, James Hilton, J.J. Bell and E.V. Knox. So is this a selection of classics? Or were they forgotten for a reason?
Of course not. There are some little treasures here.
Short stories aren’t my favourite aspect of the crime fiction genre. Often there isn’t enough space to generate an intriguing enough mystery plot and it comes down to the writing style. So in a collection with a variety of writing styles (rather than a collection from a single writer) can be, for me, a bit of a mixed bag. And some of these stories didn’t really work for me, but plenty of them do.
The highlights of this collection are:
- The Murder At The Towers by E V Knox – a bonkers little tale from the brother of Ronald “Decalogue” Knox.
- An Unlocked Window by Ethel Lina White – a very tense thriller with a clever twist.
- The Perfect Plan by James Hilton – a tale of a near-perfect crime from a writer who clearly didn’t spend enough time in the genre.
- The Mystery of Horne’s Copse by Anthony Berkeley – an episodic mystery with a bizarre set-up and a nice line in humour.
I’m sure others will find different favourites in the collection as there’s plenty to choose from – sixteen tales in total – and as with the other collection in the range, if you like short stories, this is Well Worth A Look.