Detection Medley (1939) edited by John Rhode Part 1 of 5

So, having set the scene, let’s take a look at the first seven stories in Detection Medley.

There are a couple of oddities here. First of all, not all of the thirty-five contributions are actually stories. These first seven are, but a few of the later stories aren’t. Also, I’m not exactly clear which stories were original to the collection. The foreword by Rhode seems to indicate which of the stories that weren’t new at the time, but at least one of them appeared in another collection very quickly after this came out.

The other odd thing – Rhode ordered the stories by author in alphabetical order. Nothing desperately wrong with that, but given that some of the authors contributed two stories, it’s a bit odd to see them back to back. Anyway, off we go.

The Lieabout by Margery Allingham

My first impression – not the greatest thing to start a book with, not one but two Allingham tales. Long-time readers will recall I’ve never been that taken with her work, but this is perfectly pleasant. It’s the story of a jewel robbery and the homeless person – the lieabout of the title – who hangs around near the shop, told through the eyes of a female customer. Not a whodunit, but a well-constructed tale of crime with a nice little twist at the end…

The Same To Us by Margery Allingham

… as is this one. I think I prefer the preceding tale but there is something, probably rather spoilery, about this tale that does set it apart from some Golden Age tales.

Mr Bowley’s Sunday Evening by H C Bailey

I’ve struggled through one set of Reggie  Fortune tales and am in no rush to return, but this is something different. Miss Celia Verney asks Mr Bowley, a decidedly odd individual, for help as her brute of a husband has returned. And Mr Bowley, a jolly individual does something… well, it’s odd. Too odd for my tastes, to be honest. The whole story is weird… Oh, and it’s not a mystery or even really a detective story.

The Sweet Shot by E C Bentley

Now, I read Trent’s Last Case once upon a time, but I do need to look at it again. Especially based on this tale, which probably classes as an impossible crime. Arthur Freer dies from what could only be a lightning strike on a golf course with no one else around him. While the method of murder seems rather unlikely to work, it’s an absorbing little tale with an effective finale.

The Genuine Tabard by E C Bentley

This one, about the sale of dubious antiques by a local vicar is less successful. There’s an obscure clue that only those familiar with the minutiae of Oxford Univerisity would spot, but given that there the villain isn’t even trying to hide, I’m not sure what the point was. It’s like Poirot explaining why the axe-wielding maniac is the butler, missing the obvious clue that the butler is standing in front of him wielding an axe like a… well, maniac.

A Slice Of Bad Luck by Nicholas Blake

Nigel Strangeways is attending a party of crime-writers when the lights go out and the most obnoxious one is stabbed in the back. It’s an entertaining little tale but points off for a whodunit where the clue is only told after the murderer is unmasked. Just like Sherlock Holmes, I guess…

Persons Or Things Unknown by John Dickson Carr

Not a story I recall but it’s in The Department Of Queer Complaints, released the following year. It’s an early historical tale concerning a stabbing in a room with no weapon. The solution is an old chestnut, probably even in 1939, but as you would expect from Carr, it’s told with confidence and panache, with enough style to overcome the basic impossibility.

7 down, 28 to go. I’m taking my time on these, by the way – there’ll be at least one other review before part two. Stay tuned!

7 comments

  1. I’ve read the last four you mention here, and I probably liked them a bit better than you did. I agree with you that the first Bentley story is an impossible crime, and I think it’s quite clever. I hardly remember the second Bentley story any more, but I was quite appreciative of the Blake story, and Carr’s is a minor classic, possibly his best historical short story.

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