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Posts Tagged ‘British Library Crime Classics’

Product Details

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley.

This is an interesting collection of crime stories dating back to early in the twentieth century.  All are set in Europe.  There are well know authors as well as not so well known ones.  There are thefts of jewels, the discovery of murdered bodies and some very spooky happenings in a fairy tale castle on the Rhine.

I enjoyed the Agatha Christie story which features J Parker Pyne rather than the much better known Hercule Poirot.  I thought it was interesting to see that there is a story featuring a retired French detective called Hercules Popeau who has many similarities to Christie’s later creation of Poirot.  The story’s author was apparently not very impressed when she came across Christie’s creation.

If you enjoy Golden Age detective fiction then you will probably enjoy this interesting collection of short stories which has something for everyone.

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The Dead Shall Be Raised & The Murder of a Quack (British Library Crime Classics)

This book includes two of George Bellairs’ delightful mysteries. In the first one – The Dead Shall be Raised – Inspector Littlejohn is bombed out of his London flat and travels to the north to spend Christmas with his wife in a rented cottage on the moors.  Almost as soon as he arrives the Home Guard dig up a skeleton on the moors and Littlejohn is immediately plunged into a police investigation – and a very cold case as the man disappeared twenty years ago.   As Littlejohn plods around asking pertinent questions and uncovering things which those involved would have preferred to have kept hidden.

The Murder of a Quack is an intriguing mystery in which a very popular ‘quack’ – someone who would today be called an alternative practitioner – is found murdered in his own consulting room.  The only clues are his comprehensive casebooks and an interesting collection of press cuttings. The conventional doctor is a drunkard and very bitter at the way people prefer to see his unqualified rival but could he really have committed the crime?

These mysteries are written in the author’s trademark low key style with plenty of touches of humour.  I really like Inspector Littlejohn. He is  hugely knowledgeable about human nature and crime and very observant.  He doesn’t work in conventional ways and many of the things he does in these two books wouldn’t be accepted in the twenty first century but he gets results but if you forget twenty first century policing methods and read these books in the context of the time in which they are written then they are entertaining stories.

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Verdict of Twelve (British Library Crime Classics)

This is something different in crime novels.  It features the twelve members of a jury trying a woman for murder.  You get pen pictures of the jurors and little vignettes about their lives.  Then the events which lead up to the crime are related and the reader gets an idea of the characters and the events leading up to the murder.  Then there is the trial itself and the jury’s deliberations.

I loved the way the author brought the characters to life with just a few words so that even though there are a lot of characters involved in what is a relatively short book it is still easy to remember all the people involved.  I thought the jury’s deliberations were very well done too and you could see what influences were working on each person.

This is a masterpiece of its kind and even if you prefer conventional crime novels it is still worth reading for the characters alone.

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Product Details

Twelve crime stories from masters of the genre are collected together in this book.  Some authors represented here will be well known to readers of crime fiction, though some authors may be unfamiliar.  All the stories are set in and around the Christmas season.

The story which has remained in my mind after I finished the book is The Carol Singers by Josephine Bell which involves a particularly unpleasant murder in circumstances which could easily have happened in the twenty first century.

The other story which sent a frisson down my spine is the first one in the collection called The Ghost’s Touch by Fergus Hume – an author I hadn’t heard of before.

If you’re looking for a collection of crime stories to read after Christmas lunch then this would be ideal.  All the stories are well written and have stood the test of time.  I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review.

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The Cheltenham Square Murder (British Library Crime Classics)

Regency Square in Cheltenham is a quiet refined neighbourhood but like any group of people it has its tensions.  There are arguments over a tree which is felt by some to be dangerous and by others to be perfectly safe.  One resident is paying too much attention to another resident’s young wife.  Many of the residents belong to an archery club so when one of the residents is murdered with an arrow it seems somehow appropriate and provides the police with plenty of suspects.

I enjoyed the way the author introduces the various characters and sketches in their personalities and backgrounds.  There aren’t pages and pages of description but somehow the various personalities come to life and it is easy to imagine all these people going about their daily concerns.  The plot is cleverly done and though I did work out who had committed the first murder I didn’t work out why or exactly how.

I have read most of these British Library Crime Classics and enjoyed them all.  It is good to see these classic crime novels back in print and many of them have stood the test of time and read well nearly a hundred years after they were first published.

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Mystery in the Channel (British Library Crime Classics)

A boat is found adrift in the English Channel with two dead bodies on board.  How did the murderer escape and who was the murderer? When the two men are identified as being partners in the firm of Moxon Securities which is in a precarious financial state with a large amount of cash missing from its strong room it seems as though they may have been trying to flee the country. There is no trace of the missing £1.5 million.

Inspector French has his work cut out to track down the missing money and the murderer and it will involve him in many trips to France and a nail biting denouement as French puts his own life at risk in the interests of justice.  I think this is a well written and well plotted mystery.  I didn’t work out who the murderer was but I really enjoyed following the detail of French’s investigation and the way all the information was pieced together.

This book has many aspects which are relevant to the modern world even though it was written in the early nineteen thirties – big financial institutions going bust and ordinary people losing their life savings and people in positions of trust absconding with money which doesn’t belong to them.  The details of course would be different today  with the advent of computer technology but the principles are very much the same.  I thought the details of timetables and the sea faring aspects were reasonably easy to follow even if you don’t have much knowledge of the sea and boats.

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The Female Detective: The Original Lady Detective, 1864 (British Library Crime Classics)

This is a collection of short stories featuring Mrs Gladden – the first female detective. The book is primarily of interest because it shows how crimes could be detected by deduction and by meticulous collection of evidence.  Mrs Gladden has a huge advantage over her male counterparts in that she is not generally regarded with suspicion because she is female.  She has another profession as a milliner and as such she can go into houses where she makes and repairs hats and can sit and chat with the servants and accumulate a lot of information about the household without appearing to do so.

She is good at talking to people and finding out their stories and people seem to warm to her and tell her things they might not tell anyone else.  I particularly like the story which is very similar to the Road House Mystery – which was covered in detail by Kate Summerscale in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.  I also like the last story in the book – The Mystery – which made me laugh.

This book starts off slowly and is written in a rather more ponderous style than modern readers are used to but it is worth persevering as I found I really got into the stories once I slowed down my reading speed in order to appreciate what was being said.  There are plenty of touches of humour and an excellent knowledge of human nature in the stories.  I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review.

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