Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: "Clever and Quick" by Christianna Brand

 


This is a very clever short story about a couple who earn their living acting in the theater, but are not getting roles any more. They are running out of money to support their lifestyle, and are fighting over whether to get rid of their au pair girl.

I made a discovery after reading this short story. I can tolerate unsympathetic characters much better in short stories. No one in this story was likable, but that wasn't an issue for me, probably because I don't have to spend a lot of time with them. And, of course, the number of characters is limited in a short story.

The introduction to this story says:

In the short-story form, Brand specialized less in pure detection than in the twist-upon-twist double-or-triple-cross crime story of which “Clever and Quick” is a prime example.


I read this story in A Moment on the Edge, an anthology edited by Elizabeth George. I believe the story was also published as "Madame Thinks Quick." Although I think of Christianna Brand as a Golden Age mystery author, this story was first published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in 1974.

A Moment on the Edge consists of 26 short stories by women, selected by Elizabeth George. The stories are in chronological order by copyright date. The first story is "A Jury of Her Peers" by Susan Glaspell from 1917, an excellent story which I had read before and was worth rereading. The last two stories are from 2001, one by Joyce Carol Oates and one by Minette Walters. 

I have only read the first nine stories in the anthology, and will continue reading them. 


Mathew Paust wrote about this anthology and the story by Joyce Carol Oates at Crime Time.

B. V. Lawson wrote an overview of the anthology at In Reference to Murder.


13 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

A Jury of Her Peers was chosen by Updyke as one of the best short stories of the 20th Century. I agree. This looks like a great collection

George said...

I've read a few of Christianna Brand's novels but don't remember reading any of her short stories. This looks like a wonderful anthology...which I wasn't aware of. I'll track down a copy.

Margot Kinberg said...

I hadn't thought about it before, Tracy, but I see your point about tolerating unsympathetic characters more easily in short stories. It makes a lot of sense to me. I'll admit I've not read Brand's short stories, but if they're as good as her novels, I really ought to try!

TracyK said...

Patti, so far I have found it to be a very good collection. It is a good mix of older stories and newer stories, although the anthology was published in 2002, so not too new.

TracyK said...

George, I have only read two of Brand's novels, both in the Inspector Cockrill series. HEADS YOU LOSE, which I did not like at all. And GREEN FOR DANGER, which I loved. I have three collections of her short stories on my kindle and I had forgotten all about them.

TracyK said...

Margot, I would not have thought about the subject of unlikable characters in this particular story, except that it had come up in a recent review (of Murder in Piccadilly). As I mentioned above, I have three collections of her short stories, and there is one I don't have, which is all Inspector Cockrill stories. I might not like those as well, but I would like to try some of them.

Sam Sattler said...

I'm a big fan of short stories, and I usually read five or six compilations a year. I didn't know about this one put together by Elizabeth George; I've enjoyed her mysteries and stories, so I'll have to look at this to see which short story writers impressed her enough to get into the book.

TracyK said...

I wasn't that fond of short stories for many years, Sam, but about four or five years ago I started reading more of them gradually and now I enjoy them a lot. And I have way too many books of short stories, many that I picked up at the annual book sale.

Rick Robinson said...

reading short stories now, but library book just popped (The Three Locks by Bonnie Macbird) so suddenly that's next up.

TracyK said...

Rick, I have so many partially read short story books, I am going to have to allot some time to finishing those up. I have some planned reading through May but after that I am going to read whatever I feel like for a while.

Rick Robinson said...

Oops. I got The Three Locks by Bonnie Macbird (4th in series) from the library only to discover I haven't yet read the third one. Now I have it on hold from the library and I'm in waiting mode again. Then I guess I'll read them back-to-back. Meanwhile, more short stories, I guess.

TracyK said...

More short stories is good, Rick, while you are waiting. And I know you have plenty of them.

col2910 said...

Sounds like a decent anthology, not that I need any more of them in my life.