Well, I’m currently reading some new releases that aren’t out for a while, so to keep at least one toe in the Golden Age, I’m continuing my trip through Detection Medley, the collection of short stories and other bits and bobs compiled by John Rhode.
We’re on tales 8 to 14 – the first seven are looked at here, and it’s time for the real heavy hitters to stand up and be counted, mainly because as Christie, Chesterton and Dickson are all alphabetically close together and, as mentioned before, Rhode decided to order the stories by author.
The Best Detective Story by G K Chesterton
I’m not a massive Father Brown fan, but Chesterton decides to go against the format and write about what he thinks is the best detective story ever written – hint, it involves a non-human perpetrator. I don’t agree, but thankfully Chesterton doesn’t even get to the end of page two before giving up.
Wireless by Agatha Christie
An inverted mystery of sorts from Dame Agatha, and while it passes the time nicely enough, it’s nothing particularly special. Readers can find it in The Hound Of Death collection, and, so I gather, in Witness For The Prosecution in the US. It also goes by the title “Where There’s A Will” apparently.
Death By Drowning by Agatha Christie
A proper mystery this time, taken from The Thirteen Problems, as Miss Marple sticks her nose in when a local girl “throws herself off a bridge”. Yeah, right… It’s a nicely constructed little tale, admittedly with Miss Marple showing off almost psychic abilities in murderer-spotting, but there’s a cleverly chosen murderer. Not sure about the clues, though…
Too Clever By Half by G D H & M Cole
Uh-oh, it’s the Coles, authors of one of the dullest chapters in The Floating Admiral… and this one’s a doozy. An inverted impossible crime story concerning a murder upstairs in a pub while the landlord was busy polishing glasses downstairs in sight of our hero. Needless to say, the landlord’s the murderer, but this is a lovely tale. If Martin ever puts together a British Library series of murders in pubs, this is a shoe-in.
A Criminologist’s Book-Shelf by J J Connington
In which the author discusses the need for scientific accuracy in detective fiction, notably in forgery. He describes the “modern” advances in science and how a forger would get caught, listing the many things that the crime writer might overlook. A really interesting piece. Note to self: read more from Connington…
The Match by Freeman Wills Crofts
Another inverted crime story, a mini version of Crofts’ Inspector French novels. A man plans the perfect murder to hide a touch of embezzlement, only to find one tiny slip that sets Inspector French on his tail… A strong story – I’m not a fan of inverted mysteries, but this was fun.
The Hiding-Place by Carter Dickson
Yes, there are stories by Carr and Dickson in this collection, so I guess it was still a secret at this point. Odd that Rhode didn’t ask his chum Burton to contribute. Anyway this is Colonel March story about disappearing money, also known as Hot Money, which appears in The Department Of Queer Complaints. Which is good news for me as a) I’ve got a copy of said book and b) I couldn’t read the end of this one as the bundle of pages from 241 to 256 appears twice in my copy and, alas, 225 to 240 appears not at all.
Of course, this might make my copy ultra-valuable, like those stamps where the Queen’s head is upside down or something, but probably not…
Oh, the story? It’s rubbish, sub-par for Carr.
OK, back soon with tales 15 to 21, include Dickson (again), Edgar Jepson and Robert Eustace, R Austen Freeman, two from Anthony Gilbert and two from the oddly named Lord Gorell, whoever he is…