Agatha Christie. Christianna Brand. Margery Allingham. Dorothy L Sayers. John Rhode. S S Van Dine. E C R Lorac. Clayton Rawson. Q Patrick. Ethel Lina White. And more. Now that I’ve got your attention…
Last year, Tony Medawar complied the excellent collection Bodies From The Library, a collection of mostly unreprinted short stories and novellas from the great and the good of the Golden Age. You might well assume that such “missing” stories were few and far between – well, you’d be quite, quite wrong.
This is another superb collection of tales. Not every one is a classic mystery, a few being primarily tales of suspense, and one being basically an explanation of a magic trick, but the majority of the tales are great reads, with the remaining few still being of significant interest.
I’m not going to go through the tales one by one, but I did want to mention the highlights:
NO FACE by Christianna Brand – a tale of suspense concerning a medium on the trail of a serial killer. More of a thriller than a whodunit, it’s a beautiful example of character-building in a short story. Which reminds me, I really must get back to reading more from Brand.
Exit Before Midnight by Q Patrick – a group of executives are threatened to be picked off on the top floor of a skyscraper in the final hours of New Year’s Eve. A novella, rather than a short story, but I thought this was really rather marvellous. The killer is pretty guessable, but there’s some nice work with the venue – the power is knocked out on half the floor, so the dark area works well as a place of danger. Which reminds me, I must read more from Patrick.
The Hours Of Darkness by Edmund Crispin – another novella, featuring Gervase Fen. It’s not the best plotted mystery I’ve ever read, mostly as the suspects are all a bit same-y, but Crispin’s strength was in his prose and his humour. Fen is a delight, and any more from him is very welcome. Which reminds me, I must read… oh, you get the idea.
Sixpennyworth by John Rhode – a short play by Rhode, although it’s not clear where or if it was performed, it’s a lovely little mystery set in a bar. It’s a lights-go-out, man-gets-stabbed tale, simply told, with a guest appearance by a Rhode regular. Rhode didn’t write many scripts and this is a brief, well-told tale, with a little splash of Rhode’s scientific expertise. Which reminds me… actually, I’ve read quite a lot of Rhode recently. Maybe I’ll try that Burton chap, I hear he’s quite similar in style…
Those stories were the highlights for me, but others will probably prefer others – do take a look at Kate’s review, as she goes into detail on each tale. One thing that is worth pointing out perhaps, is that my copy has a label on the front proclaiming the Sayers tale (featuring Peter Wimsey) to be a novella – that’s a pretty generous description for a twenty-four page story…
The other thing that needs mentioning Tony’s introductions for each tale. By placing them after the stories that they relate to, the reader has a little more context concerning the writer, especially if it’s one the reader hasn’t encountered before. These introductions are informative and very readable – I do hope that my upcoming ones are even half as good as these.
Availability: Out now in ebook and hardback.
Just The Facts, Ma’am: WHAT – Written by more than one author – obviously…
Found it interesting to see which tales you selected as personal favourites. I think our choices in this matter overlapped a lot. I also agree on the comment regarding the length of Sayers story – How short can a novella be? Oh and thanks for the mention.