Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: Murder by the Book

I recently started reading short stories from Murder by the Book: Mysteries for Bibliophiles, edited by Martin Edwards. It is a part of the British Library Crime Classics series, published in the US by Poisoned Pen Press. 

There are 16 stories in the book, and I have now read 6 of them. So far, I have enjoyed them all. Each story has a brief introduction of the author and the story, which were especially interesting to me for the authors that I had not read before.

"A Lesson in Crime" by G.D.H and M. Cole

The first story is a clever inverted mystery, which I always enjoy. Some other reviewers noted that this was a lesser story in the book, and maybe that was because the reader already knows who did the crime. The crime takes place on a train and the victim is a best-selling author.

"Trent and the Ministering Angel" by E.C. Bentley

E.C. Bentley is best known (to me at least) as the author of Trent's Last Case (which I have not yet read). Philip Trent, amateur detective, is featured in this story, and he solves a mystery for a lawyer who has suspicions related to his client's death and his will. This was a fine story, including both a rock garden and the dead man's library.

"A Slice of Bad Luck" by Nicholas Blake

I enjoyed this mostly because the main character is Nigel Strangeways, who featured in sixteen books by Blake. Strangeways solves a baffling puzzle of the death of an author at a meeting of the Assassins, a club similar to the real-life Detection Club. Nicholas Blake is the pseudonym used by the poet Cecil Day-Lewis. 

"The Strange Case of the Megatherium Thefts" by S.C. Roberts

S.C. Roberts was entirely new to me. He was a noted Sherlockian and a president of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. This story is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, and the first one I have ever read. 

A member of the Megatherium club brings a problem to Holmes. A large number of  books in the circulating library of the Megatherium Club have disappeared and assumed to have been stolen. This was my least favorite story of the ones I have read, but it fits the requirements of this anthology perfectly, as it centers on books and a library.

"Malice Domestic" by Phillip MacDonald

This one centers on an author, not a best-selling author but his books are critically acclaimed, who begins having serious digestive problems, always after eating at home with his wife. I thought the ending was a bit obvious but nevertheless, it was a good picture of a marital relationship suffering difficulties. Very well written. I am motivated to read something by this author, either a novel or more short stories.

"A Savage Game" by A.A. Milne

The author of the Winnie the Pooh books wrote one detective novel, The Red House Mystery, which I enjoyed very much. This short story was published in The Evening Standard Detective Book in 1950. 

So far this is my favorite story from this book, and a very clever one. A mystery author bets his policeman friend that any creative writer could come up with the solution to a crime because all one has to do is invent a creative story to fit the facts. So the Chief Constable, Colonel Saxe, challenges him to do just that, supplying the puzzling details about the latest murder in a small town in his district. A brief story at only 10 pages, but very entertaining.

I am including a list of the titles and authors so you can see if any of the others interest you.

  • "A Lesson in Crime" by G.D.H and M. Cole
  • "Trent and the Ministering Angel" by E.C. Bentley
  • "A Slice of Bad Luck" by Nicholas Blake
  • "The Strange Case of the Megatherium Thefts" by S.C. Roberts
  • "Malice Domestic" by Phillip MacDonald
  • "A Savage Game" by A.A. Milne
  • "The Clue in the Book" by Julian Symons
  • "The Manuscript" by Gladys Mitchell
  • "A Man and his Mother-in-Law" by Roy Vickers
  • "Grey’s Ghost" by Michael Innes
  • "Dear Mr. Editor…" by Christianna Brand 
  • "Murder in Advance" by Marjorie Bremner
  • "A Question of Character" by Victor Canning
  • "The Book of Honour" by John Creasey
  • "We Know You’re Busy Writing…" by Edmund Crispin
  • "Chapter and Verse" by Ngaio Marsh


George said...

I've read about a dozen of these wonderful Martin Edwards anthologies. Quality stories with Edwards' informative introductions! It doesn't get much better than this!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Have never heard of Roberts or Bremer. THe rest are familiar.
Truly I don't know how Edwards does so much.

Cath said...

I thought this was one of the best BLCC collections I've read and oddly enough a friend has just read it and said the same. They do vary a bit, another good one is Deep Water, sea stories, and the railway collection.

TracyK said...

George, I think I have only read two of the British Library Crime Classics anthologies, two of the Christmas short story collections. I have Foreign Bodies on my shelf but haven't read any of the stories yet. I never read introductions to books until after I finish the book, even short story collections, so I have not read the Introduction to this one, but the introductions to the individual stories have been very nice.

TracyK said...

Patti, I am not familiar with Bremner either. It appears she wrote two novels and Kate at crossexaminingcrime reviewed one of them, Murder Most Familiar, in January.

I agree with you on Martin Edward's output. I can see writing books OR writing mystery reference books OR editing anthologies and writing introductions to the Crime Classics series, but all of them put together is a lot.

TracyK said...

Cath, I don't have much to compare to since I have only read two of the Christmas collections, but having read this sample of the stories in this book I think this is a very good collection.

I am looking forward to the story by Victor Canning. In fact I have just started reading one of his books, Mask of Memory, this morning. Also interested to see what the stories by Gladys Mitchell and Edmund Crispin are like.

FictionFan said...

I loved this collection, and had so many favourites that it's actually hard to pick one or two. But I particularly enjoyed the three Cs: Canning, Creasey and Crispin! Lots of varieties of style - hope you enjoy the rest as much as the first six.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm so glad you've been enjoying these stories, Tracy. As soon as I read that Martin Edwards edited the volume, I know it would probably be a solid set of stories. He's very skilled as an editor, just as he skilled as a writer.

TracyK said...

FictionFan, good to have you back again. I used to read Creasey a lot when I was younger, but it was always novels. Now it will be good to see what he does with a short story. I wonder if he wrote many short stories?

I am optimistic that I will enjoy the rest of the stories.

TracyK said...

Margot, reading the stories in this anthology has inspired me to look for more of the BLCC collections edited by Edwards. The most recent one (not out here in the US yet) with theater-related stories should be interesting.