Monday, December 28, 2015

Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries

From the description at Poisoned Pen Press:
Crime writers are just as susceptible as readers to the countless attractions of Christmas. Over the years, many distinguished practitioners of the genre have given one or more of their stories a Yuletide setting. The most memorable Christmas mysteries blend a lively storyline with an atmospheric evocation of the season. Getting the mixture right is much harder than it looks. 
This book introduces readers to some of the finest Christmas detective stories of the past. Martin Edwards’ selection blends festive pieces from much-loved authors with one or two stories which are likely to be unfamiliar even to diehard mystery fans. The result is a collection of crime fiction to savor, whatever the season.
This is a collection of classic short stories, featuring favorite and little-known holiday mysteries. The Introduction by Martin Edwards is very interesting and informative. As he says: "This book, like other short story collections in the British Library’s Crime Classics series, aims to introduce a new generation of readers to some of the finest detective story writers of the past."

I enjoyed the first story in the book: "The Blue Carbuncle" by Arthur Conan Doyle. It was my first Sherlock Holmes story ever. The story was clever and I like how the ending was handled.

Another one I liked was "Waxworks" by Ethel Lina White. Two men died when they stayed overnight in the Waxwork Collection of Oldhampton.  A young female reporter decides to spend a night in the Waxworks to determine if the men were frightened to death in that environment. The story is spooky, and her overnight visit has unexpected results.  I have read nothing else by this author, but there are a couple of her books I want to try someday.

While investigating "Waxworks" and its author, I was reminded that Moira at Clothes in Books had posted about a novel by White titled Wax. Since the heroine has the same name (Sonia) and there is a connection to waxworks, I assume there must be some connection between the short story and the book. Yet I could find nothing to confirm that in the time I had to research it. The story was first published in 1930.

Marjorie Bowen was one pseudonym of Gabrielle Margaret Vere Long (1885–1952).  This book includes "Cambric Tea" by this author and also a story she wrote as Joseph Shearing: "The Chinese Apple." Of the two, I much preferred "The Chinese Apple," which was truly creepy although it did not contain supernatural elements. I only mention that because I have read that a lot of her stories do feature the supernatural.

I should have liked "A Problem in White" by Nicholas Blake (pseudonym of Cecil Day-Lewis) because (a) it is set on a train and (b) I have read and loved many mystery novels by this author. However, it is the type where the solution is not included in the story itself, but at the end of the book, and gives the reader the chance to solve the mystery. I was not impressed with the story overall and I did not like that approach to the ending. (However, another reviewer cited Nicholas Blake's story as her favorite in the book.)

I think my favorite story was "Stuffing" by Edgar Wallace and that was very unexpected. It is a charming story about a failed robbery attempt. The ending is no surprise but I loved it. That story was fiirst published in The Saturday Evening Post, Dec 11, 1926. Clearly I need to look into other works by Edgar Wallace.

Due to the variety in types of stories and authors, I cannot say I wholeheartedly liked every story I read, but it was fun to read a group of stories featuring Christmas traditions of the times and get a sampling of the various author's writings. Based on some of the stories, I like many of these authors better when they are telling a novel-length story.

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Publisher:   Poisoned Pen Press, 2015 (orig. pub. by The British Library Publishing Division, 2015)
Editor:        Martin Edwards
Length:       298 pages
Format:      e-book
Genre:       Mysteries, short story collection
Source:      Provided by the publisher for review via NetGalley

10 comments:

  1. I think it is very hard to write a whodunit short story. It is far easier to paint a character portrait or an atmospheric tale. The cozies have their work cut out pulling off a satisfying story in 7000 or less words.

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    1. I think you are right, Patti. I was feeling that way as I read the stories. I have read some contemporary Christmas short stories that I enjoyed more, and they were not so much about whodunit or clues.

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  2. As soon as you mentioned Martin Edwards as the editor, Tracy, I knew I'd probably like the collection. He's extremely talented, isn't he? Glad you enjoyed this.

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    1. I am sure you would like this story collection, Margot. I think Edwards has edited two other collections for The British Library Crime Classics series.

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  3. Not one I'm remotely tempted by I'm afraid. Glad you enjoyed the collection though.

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  4. Tracy, like Margot says, any anthology by Martin would be worth reading. Besides, I have not read any Christmas stories this year and would like to know the ones in this book.

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    1. Like any book of short stories, some appealed to me and some not, Prashant. I had not read many classic short stories, so I enjoyed the experience.

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  5. Well that is so interesting about Wax, Tracy - I wonder if she wrote the story and then thought she could expand it into a novel? It is a proper full-length one.
    Anyway, sounds like a great collection - we can trust Martin of course....

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    1. Moira, I am guessing that White did what you said, decided that she could expand the short story into a novel. I only found one other reference to both the short story and the novel, and they suggested the same thing but it sounded like it was a supposition, not based on any references.

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