E.C.R. Lorac: Murder in the Mill-Race

Author: E.C.R. Lorac
Title: Murder in the Mill-Race: A Devon Mystery
Series: Robert MacDonald #37

“Never make trouble in the village” is an unspoken law, but it’s a binding law. You may know about your neighbours’ sins and shortcomings, but you must never name them aloud. It’d make trouble, and small societies want to avoid trouble.’
When Dr Raymond Ferens moves to a practice at Milham in the Moor in North Devon, he and his wife are enchanted with the beautiful hilltop village lying so close to moor and sky. At first they see only its charm, but soon they begin to uncover its secrets – envy, hatred and malice. A few months after the Ferens’ arrival, the body of Sister Monica, warden of the local children’s home, is found floating in the mill-race. Chief Inspector Macdonald faces one of his most difficult cases in a village determined not to betray its dark secrets to a stranger.

I really enjoyed this…*mild exclamation of surprise*. After all, I hadn’t been overwhelmed by my previous experiences with Lorac and the first few chapters of the book didn’t make me think that this time would be different. We follow a young couple – Raymond and Anne – who has just moved to Devon because he’s a doctor and wants to take over the practice of the old village doctor who is about to retire. They meet the other inhabitants of the village, including Sister Monica who oversees the local children’s home and we’re immediately informed that they don’t like Sister Monica. They talk to each other about how little they like her. Anne meets Sister Monica again, they have a conversation and while they have this conversation we’re again told how little Anne likes her. After that she talks to her husband again about…you know. It got boring, especially because we only got to see Sister Monica being somewhat annoying but nothing that seemed to justify the level of hatred aimed at her.

Well, unsurprisingly Sister Monica gets killed and the focus shifts from other people talking about how horrible she was to Inspector MacDonald trying to figure out who killed her (and admittedly, discovering that enough people had reason to do so, so Anne’s initial assessment wasn’t exactly wrong). And the investigation is again good and solid crime novel fare, admittedly not terribly exciting but I enjoyed the backdrop of the small Devon village a lot. I have already mentioned that I think Lorac is very good at describing the settings and anchoring the crime story firmly in those and this is no exception. In many mysteries set in small villages, those places are described as really cozy and charming but this one really focusses on the claustrophobia that comes with the everyone knows everyone and everybody’s buisness which I definitely prefer. So, after a slow start, I really enjoyed this one.

ARC received from NetGalley

George Bellairs: The Body in the Dumb River

Author: George Bellairs
Title: The Body in the Dumb River. A Yorkshire Mystery
Series: Chief Inspector Littlejohn #35

A decent, hardworking chap, with not an enemy anywhere. People were surprised that anybody should want to kill Jim.’

But Jim has been found stabbed in the back near Ely, miles from his Yorkshire home. His body, clearly dumped in the usually silent (‘dumb’) river has been discovered before the killer intended – disturbed by a torrential flood in the night.

Roused from a comfortable night’s sleep Superintendent Littlejohn of Scotland Yard is soon at the scene. With any clues to the culprit’s identity swept away with the surging water, Bellairs’ veteran sleuth boards a train heading north to dredge up the truth about the real Jim Teasdale and to trace the mystery of this unassuming victim’s murder to its source.

The workpeople had returned to their factories and offices and the market was almost deserted now. All the bargains had gone. The man with the cheese and the chickens had sold up and was packing up his belongings and dismantling his stall. Fruit salesmen were altering their prices, chalked up on brown paper bags and stuck among the fruits on the end of a stick. Oranges at 4d. each in the morning were now four a shilling. A man who sold curtains was holding an auction sale. He was drunk already and now and then gave away a length of material for nothing.

Aren’t you fascinated by that paragraph? Isn’t it…thrilling? Especially considering nothing plot-relevant happens on this market. The investigator simply passes it at the end of his workday. And that’s one of the problems of this book; it gets clogged down with so much description of unnecessary details. It’s not enough to say that a character grabbed his coat and left. We’ll read how he got up, walked to his coat, put it on, walked to the door, opened it and went out. It’s extremely boring and there’s no good mystery to distract me from it. The murder victim is a man who turns out to have been leading a double life. He told his family that he was a travelling salesman but actually had a stall on a travelling carnival and lived there with another woman. The investigation quickly focusses on his first family and every single one is a flat caricature whose only aim is to appear as unlikeable as possible. His father-in-law is even described as having “an indescribable odour of evil and corruption around him”. Just so know he even smells evil…

Of course, these kinds of characters aren’t terribly rare in mysteries. Especially horrible family patriarch is a staple in mysteries. But the thing is that these characters usually get murdered in chapter two or three and so you don’t have too much time to think about just how flat this character really is. Sometimes there are books that have the setup “horrible person gets murdered but only halfway through the book” and honestly, I already have a hard time getting through those because I find it exhausting. Here, none of the horrible people get murdered, they just spent all their time being horrible about each other and about the victim. It’s not particularly enjoyable to read about and so the book left me feeling bored and annoyed in turn.

J. Jefferson Farjeon – The Z Murders

Richard Temperley arrives at Euston station early on a fogbound London morning. He takes refuge in a nearby hotel, along with a disagreeable fellow passenger, who had snored his way through the train journey. But within minutes the other man has snored for the last time – he has been shot dead while sleeping in an armchair.

Temperley has a brief encounter with a beautiful young woman, but she flees the scene.

When the police arrive, Detective Inspector James discovers a token at the crime scene: a small piece of enamelled metal. Its colour was crimson, and it was in the shape of the letter Z. Temperley sets off in pursuit of the mysterious woman from the hotel, and finds himself embroiled in a cross-country chase – by train and taxi – on the tail of a sinister serial killer.

I can only suspend my disbelief so far and this book went further. 

Much further.

It’s the story of Richard Temperley who enters the smoking-room of a hotel just when a woman is leaving. He has never met this woman before and they don’t talk. Richard then finds a murdered man in the room and calls the police as any honest citizen would. He also mentions the woman to the police and of course that makes them curious. But Richard decides that the woman can’t have committed the murder because…she’s a woman and also beautiful? And beautiful women can’t commit crimes. Ever. Even when the inspector patiently points out that the police doesn’t necessarily suspect her but is still looking for her because she might have seen something Richard goes basically “I see. You are planning to lock her in the darkest dungeon and throw away the key. YOU MONSTER! And anyway it’s not like I would know where to find her.” and the inspector then shows massive self-restraint by not murdering Richard on the spot.

Then Richard picks up the handbag the mysterious lady lost and that the police conveniently missed, finds her calling card in it and goes to visit her. He meets her there but she is incapable of giving a straightforward answer and really does nothing that makes it seem she is an innocent bystander who knows nothing about the crime. Does Richard care? No. His blood left his brain long ago and is now somewhere else. So when the lady disappears again he decides to look for her himself instead of talk to the police.

To be fair to the book: this isn’t a classic mystery. This is an unashamedly batshit insane pulp thriller with an unashamedly batshit insane finale (which I admit was beautiful). It’s not meant to be realistic, or even vaguely reality-adjacent in the way Christie et al. are. I didn’t expect it to be. I’ve read Farjeon before. Seven Dead features both a shipwreck and a plane-crash. But -well- I can only suspend my disbelief so far and this plot made me overstretch it and I might have injured my eyes from rolling them so much.

Perhaps I could have lived with it if Richard had known the woman before. It still would have been a shallow reason for his actions but “I know this woman and can’t believe she’s a murderer even if she’s acting oddly” is still better than “she’s too pretty to be evil”

Carol Carnac – Crossed Skies

Title: Crossed Skies – An Alpine Mystery
Author: Carol Carnac (E. C. R. Lorac)

In London’s Bloomsbury, Inspector Julian Rivers of Scotland Yard looks down at a dismal scene. Here is the victim, burnt to a crisp. Here are the clues – clues which point to a good climber and expert skier, and which lead Rivers to the piercing sunshine and sparkling snow of the Austrian Alps. Yet there is something sinister beneath the heady joys of the slopes, and Rivers is soon confronted by a merry group of suspects, and a long list of reasons not to trust each of them. For the mountains can be a dangerous, changeable place, and it can be lonely out between the pines of the slopes… 

The blurb for this book intrigued me immediately. A murder in London that is somehow connected to a group of people skiing in the Alps? Exactly my cup of tea. After reading the introduction I was somewhat disappointed after discovering that Carol Carnac is a pseudonym of E. C. R. Lorac. I’ve already read some of her books and while not bad they were quite obviously mass-produced mystery-by-the numbers. C follows B follows A. If you want to be really surprised, you have to look somewhere else.

Admittedly, Crossed Skies isn’t quite as by-the-numbers. We get two stories that run parallel: In London, Inspector Rivers is investigating a murder where he’s not even quite sure who the victim is. In Austria a group of friends are on a skiing-holiday. There is, of course, a connection. And it’s not that much a surprise what the connection turns out to be but it’s different from the formula Lorac usually uses and I found it more entertaining than her other works.

Still, there were some issues; the group of friends that go skiing? 16 people in total. And that in a relatively short book (240 pages in the paperback edition) and half the time we don’t even spend with them but in London with Inspector Rivers. There’s no way that one can really get to know all of those people…I’m not even sure if all of them had a speaking role or if some were just mentioned in passing. You can’t say they were there to enlarge the suspect pool and confuse the reader because that would require the reader to be aware of them and for most of them I can’t say that I was. Overall there were perhaps 5 or 6 characters that played an actual role in the story and several of those could easily be removed from the suspect list for various reasons. And that, once again, leaves us with E. C. R. Lorac. Mass-producer of crime fiction whose work doesn’t offer that many surprises.

What can be said for her is that she put effort in the surrounding/the time her novels were set in. Previous books were firmly anchored in the time of the Blitz/blackout and this one is set shortly after WWII during the time of rationing and with some shadows of the war still looming over everything. I do enjoy that aspect of her work but it doesn’t quite cover up the weakness of the mystery.

John Dickson Carr: Castle Skull

‘That is the case. Alison has been murdered. His blazing body was seen running about the battlements of Castle Skull.’
And so a dark shadow looms over the Rhineland where Inspector Henri Bencolin and his accomplice Jeff Marle have arrived from Paris. Entreated by the Belgian financier D’Aunay to investigate the gruesome and grimly theatrical death of actor Myron Alison, the pair find themselves at the imposing hilltop fortress Schloss Schädel, in which a small group of suspects are still assembled.
As thunder rolls in the distance, Bencolin and Marle enter a world steeped in macabre legends of murder and magic to catch the killer still walking the maze-like passages and towers of the keep.

Before Castle Skull I’d only read a couple of John Dickson Carr short stories in anthologies and was not exactly overwhelmed. They were a bit too outlandish for me. Of course, Carr is “the master of the locked room mystery” and those are rarely down-to-earth and full of realism but there’s “this isn’t that realistic” and there’s the “apart from a 10-step cunning plan by the villain this also requires a riddiculous chain of coincidences to work” that happened in the Carr stories I came across.

This book…well it features a riddiculous mustache-twirling villain and a series of coincidences that should have made me roll my eyes. But it also fully commited to the riddiculousness. I mean, it’s called Castle Skull for God’s sake. And the eponymous castle isn’t called like that for some strange outlandish reason…it simply resembles a skull if you look at it from a certain distance. The murder victim was shot and then set on fire and “danced” and screamed before eventually dying. This book doesn’t pretend to be a normal run-of-the-mill mystery and then hit you over the head with a riddiculous solution (which happened to me with the other Carr stories). It goes: “Do you want to read something over-the top and insane? Sit down with me. I have just the right thing for you.” And I really can’t complain about that.

ARC received from NetGalley

The Measure of Malice: Scientific Detection Stories

Title: The Measure of Malice: Scientific Detection Stories

Forensic dentistry; precise examination of ballistics; an expertise in apiology to identify the exact bee which killed the victim?
The detective’s role may be simple; solve the case and catch the culprit, but when the crime is fiendishly well-executed the application of the scientific method may be the only answer.
The detectives in this collection are masters of scientific deduction, employing principles of chemistry, the latest technological innovations and an irresistible logical brilliance in their pursuit of justice. With stories by early masters in the field such as Arthur Conan Doyle and L. T. Meade alongside fine-tuned mysteries from the likes of Edmund Crispin and Dorothy L. Sayers, The Measure of Malice collects tales of rational thinking to prove the power of the brain over villainous deeds.

First of all: It’s much quicker to name the stories I disliked than the ones I liked. Ernest Dudley’s The Case of the Chemist in the Cupboard isn’t a bad mystery but the sleuth is a massive bully who treats his assistant horribly and Meade and Eustace’s The Man Who Disappeared features a bit too much period-typical racism for my taste and apart from that it is a rather odd mix of a serious crime story with extremely pulpy murder methods. But I enjoyed pretty much all other stories (though the science of some of them was…well not very scientific, like C. E. Bechhofer Roberts’ story The English Filter in which the case gets solved with Optography).

However, I can’t say that I really loved any of the stories. There was one by Dorothy L Sayers (In the Teeth of the Evidence), a in a collection with this theme basically inevitable Thorndyke (The Contents of a Mare’s Nest) and a Sherlock Holmes (Boscombe Valley Mystery) and they were all fun but they were by authors I already knew and liked anyway (though usually I prefer Sayer’s novels to her short stories and BCLC have a talent to put Conan Doyle stories I hate in their collections).

Most of the stories are “just” solid entertainment. Fairly straightforward stories about professional detectives and amateur sleuths solving crime (But With Science), which happens to be exactly what I like and I disliked other collections that included too many stories that did not adhere to that basic formula. (Admittedly, experimenting with, or throwing out that formula completely can lead to amazing results. Sometimes).

So in the end…I got what it said on the tin. I didn’t find any gems but I was entertained.

Capital Crimes: London Mysteries

Title: Capital Crimes – London Mysteries

With its fascinating mix of people – rich and poor, British and foreign, worthy and suspicious – London is a city where anything can happen. The possibilities for criminals and for the crime writer are endless. London has been home to many of fiction’s finest detectives, and the setting for mystery novels and short stories of the highest quality.

Capital Crimes is an eclectic collection of London-based crime stories, blending the familiar with the unexpected in a way that reflects the personality of the city. Alongside classics by Margery Allingham, Anthony Berkeley and Thomas Burke are excellent and unusual stories by authors who are far less well known. The stories give a flavour of how writers have tackled crime in London over the span of more than half a century. Their contributions range from an early serial-killer thriller set on the London Underground and horrific vignettes to cerebral whodunits. What they have in common is an atmospheric London setting, and enduring value as entertainment.

This collection wasn’t very capital if you excuse the very stupid joke. What choice do you have anyway? First of all, I didn’t feel that many of the stories “reflect the personality of the city” as promised. I understand that not every story can be one where London feels like it’s an additional main character, as it does in some Holmes stories (or as Oxford does in the Morse novels) but most feel like…they didn’t even try. For me only one story (Anthony Gilbert’s/Anne Meredith’s You Can’t Hang Twice) had a real London feel (admittedly mostly thanks to the old reliable London Fog but hey…it worked). A few more referenced enough places in London to also evoke some feeling of the place (Freeman’s The Magic Casket, Oxenham’s The Mystery of the Underground) and a couple were (partly) set in Gentlemen’s Clubs which I guess aren’t technically a purely London phenomenon but certainly feel like it if you’ve read enough mysteries (Berkeley’s The Avenging Chance and Allingham’s The Unseen Door). But the majority of the story have a sentence that informs you that this all happens in London but it never comes up again and you can’t help but think that this story could as well have taken place in Liverpool, Midsummer, Paris or Cleveland. I know it’s not the first time I’ve complained about the BCLC collections not quite living up to the title but e.g. Blood on the Tracks only had some stories that were set on a train but could easily have taken place somewhere else while Capital Crimes only has a few stories that could have only taken place in London.

The other reason it’s not very capital is…that most of the stories aren’t that great. I did enjoy You can’t Hang Twice a lot and not only because it was the only story that felt truly London. It was simply a good mystery with a criminal who in the end falls over his own attempts to construct an alibi.
J.S. Fletcher’s The Magician of Cannon Street is a story that’s more pulp than classic mystery (hypnotising villains that make even Moriarty look harmless) and I do enjoy some pulp but it wasn’t as completely bonkers as some other pulp stories and really: if you do pulp got all-out (the same goes for Edgar Wallace’s The Stealer of Marble: a very pulpy murder method but otherwise somewhat tame). Non-pulpy but still enjoyable is Berkeley’s The Avenging Chance, the basis for his later novel Poisoned Chocolate Case and yes, I do think the short story is better than the novel.

A mystery to me is what was done to The Mystery of the Underground no I wasn’t finished with bad jokes. It’s actually a novella that is printed in an abridged version and I don’t understand why it was abridged the way it was. We get a lot of (very dull) newspaper articles and then a paragraph that sums up how the sleuth figures out who did it, how the villain fled on a ship but was followed by the sleuth, how there was a confrontation on the high seas…and then the last page of the story. This didn’t exactly endear me to it even though it’s an early story that features a serial killer which I always find interesting. (Unless it’s The Hands of Mr. Ottermole by Thomas Burke, which is also in this collection and which according to the introduction was described as “The Best Crime Story” by Ellery Queen, a sentiment I can’t share. *sobs* Serial killers don’t work that way).

A few stories were…nice but nothing more. The Magic Casket is another Thorndyke story and even though I usually like him, this story lost itself too much in scientific details and explanations to be really enjoyable. The Holloway Flat Tragedy was at least a pleasant surprise because I’m usually not a fan of Ernest Bramah but this one had none of the things that bothered me about the other stories I know by him (namely extreme racism and Max Carrados making Daredevil’s talents look unimpressive) but this was just a neat (if slightly predictable) mystery (just like The Tea Leaf by Euston and Epson).

Finally, what bothered me that quite a lot of stories in this collection have the bad guy win. And it’s really in the sense of “the villain gets away with it” and not “we’re presented with a person who has completely understandable reasons for murder and doesn’t get caught”. I know that’s much more frequent in short stories than it is in full length crime novels but it’s not something I ever enjoyed.

All in all this made for a rather disappointing collection.

Anthony Gilbert (Anne Meredith): Death in a Fancy Dress

Author: Anthony Gilbert
Title: Death in a Fancy Dress

The British Secret Service, working to uncover a large-scale blackmail ring and catch its mysterious mastermind ‘The Spider’, find themselves at the country residence Feltham Abbey, where a fancy dress ball is in full swing.
In the tumult of the revelry, Sir Ralph Feltham is found dead. Not the atmosphere bewildered young lawyer Tony was expecting, he sets out to make sense of the night’s activities and the motives of the other guests. Among them is Hilary, an independently-minded socialite still in her costume of vivid silk pyjamas and accompanying teddy bear…
This classic country house mystery, first published in 1933, contrasts the splendours and frivolities of the English upper classes with the sombre over-hang of the First World War and the irresistible complications of deadly familial relationships – with just the right amount of international intrigue thrown in.
This edition also includes the rare Anthony Gilbert short stories ‘Horseshoes for Luck’ and ‘The Cockroach and the Tortoise’.

This story is narrated by Tony – a character with no depth and so little influence on the plot that it’s hard to remember that this book wasn’t written in a third-person POV. At the beginning of the story, he meets his old friend Jeremy. Would Jeremy live today he’d have founded several start-ups, tell every woman he meets all the details about it and – if they don’t return his calls – would complain that women never want nice guys like him. Jeremy has decided that he wants to marry Hillary – a young socialite who has not been consulted on this matter and is in fact engaged to someone else. That someone else is Arthur, a man who has slightly more depth than Tony but I didn’t feel the need to strangle him like Jeremy.

However, it seems that neither Jeremy nor Arthur will get what they want because Hillary now proclaims she wants to marry Ralph. Everybody knows that Ralph once committed a murder and got away with it but since the victim was a French prostitute his social standing isn’t completely ruined. Everybody is convinced that Ralph has some sort of hold over Hillary and he does but she doesn’t seem particularly bothered by it and it seems she would also marry him if he wasn’t blackmailing her because bad boys are cool or something. Hillary reads like a female character written by a man who really hates women which is quite an achievement since there’s actually a woman behind the Anthony Gilbert pen name. But then it’s not like Baroness Orczy liked women much.

And then I though for a while that this book goes in an interesting direction after all. Because more than halfway through the book Tony, Jeremy and Arthur sit together and talk about how someone really should murder Ralph. Since I read Portrait of a Murderer by the same author, a story where the reader knew who the killer was, I thought this would now also turn out to be a book where we witness the murder ‘live on-page’. But no, it continues like a typical murder mystery with our trio of definitely not loveable amateur detectives doing some sleuthing, find the killer and now I thankfully don’t have to read about any of them ever again because I hate them all.

tl;dr: I disliked all the characters too much to really care about the story.

Michael Gilbert: Death Has Deep Roots

Title: Death Has Deep Roots
Author: Michael Gilbert
Series: Inspector Hazlerigg #5

An eager London crowd awaits the trial of Victoria Lamartine: hotel worker, ex-French Resistance fighter, and the only logical suspect for the murder of her supposed lover, Major Eric Thoseby. Lamartine – who once escaped from the clutches of the Gestapo – is set to meet her end at the gallows.
One final opportunity remains: the defendant calls on solicitor Nap Rumbold to replace the defence counsel, and grants an eight-day reprieve from the proceedings. Without any time to spare, Rumbold boards a ferry across the Channel, tracing the roots of the brutal murder back into the war-torn past.

This book was so enjoyable, I almost forgot that this was half legal drama, which is something I usually don’t care much about. I just want to read about a detective figuring out the mystery and I only got this for half the book. But it was a quite brilliant half. As you can already guess from the tagline, this isn’t the typical murder at the manor (or murder in the sleepy village) mystery; but it’s also not a story set during the second world war, only one that’s very much about it. The motive can be found in events that happened back then and wouldn’t have taken place in peacetime. Now I enjoy the good old ‘offing the horrid family patriarch for the inheritance’ plotlines as much as the next mystery reader but since diving into the British Crime Library classics and coming across a few stories that were more anchored to a certain time, I found myself enjoying those immensely as well and Death Has Deep Roots is a great example of these types of stories.

Well, and the courtroom scenes were…bearable. As said, I just don’t care for legal thrillers that much but occasionally a crime novel will contain them and I must say that at least I found them less exhausting than e.g. in Excellent Intentions (I’m still haunted by the prosecutor’s run-on sentences) and thankfully it’s also not really a novel that’s half courtroom-scenes. The parts that featured the legal team also contained planning, discussions and bouncing theories back and forth. Almost like two detectives discussing a case 😉

Gilbert is definitely an author I will look out for and see what else he’s written.

ARC received from NetGalley

Deep Waters: Murder on the Waves

Title: Deep Waters – Murder on the Waves

From picturesque canals to the swirling currents of the ocean, a world of secrets lies buried beneath the surface of the water. Dubious vessels crawl along riverbeds, while the murky depths conceal more than one gruesome murder.

The stories in this collection will dredge up delight in crime fiction fans, as watery graves claim unintended dwellers and disembodied whispers penetrate the sleeping quarters of a ship’s captain. How might a thief plot their escape from a floating crime scene? And what is to follow when murder victims, lost to the ocean floor, inevitably resurface?

This is the first BCLC-Anthology I read that featured a story by Doyle that’s an actual Holmes story: The Adventure of the ‘Gloria Scott’; a story I didn’t remember at all, even though I have read/listened to all Holmes stories at least once. The reason for my memory-loss is…well that it’s not a very good story. It’s a lot like the non-Holmes story that featured in some of the previous anthologies that had no sleuthing and just a considerate person turning up and explaining everything. Here Holmes makes a couple of deductions early in the story, but the actual mystery is again solved by a convenient letter.

One of Holmes’ rivals (and an old acquaintance for Crime Library readers) also turns up: Dr Thorndyke solves another ‘inverted mystery’ in The Echo of a Mutiny and while it is a nice story, every reader with some prior experience with mystery will easily spot the mistake that will be the killer’s downfall.

Two more familiar names for me were E. W. Hornung who sends Raffles and Bunny after The Gift of the Emperor and William Hope Hodgson has a sailor telling a story of strange events on a ship in Bullion! I only read a couple of stories by both authors and in the case of the Raffles story that’s clearly a disadvantage. There are several references to past events that meant nothing to me and then the story also leaves you hanging at the end. Meanwhile the Hodgson-story was more of a positive surprise. I hadn’t much liked what I read by him so far but Bullion! is very nice and creepy.

Talking about creepy: to my great delight Gwyn Evans’ The Pool of Secrets is again a very pulpy story featuring a deadly swimming pool, lots of dead bodies and an utterly absurd solution. I loved it.

My totally reasonable and valid reason to include this gif is that the collection also features a short story by C. S. Forester who is better known for his Horatio Hornblower books. I was aware that he’d written a crime novel but didn’t know about any short stories. The Turning of the Tide also has some pulp elements. A dark and stormy night and an unusual and gruesome punishment for the bad guy but the story took itself a bit too seriously for me to enjoy it.

A first is that I ended up skipping a story completely: The Swimming Pool by H. C. Bailey. As Martin Edwards informs us in the introduction, Bailey’s “idiosyncratic prose” fell out of fashion. Idiosyncratic apparently means “Why use one short word when five long ones will do?” I tried to read it but kept forgetting how one sentence had started by the time I had come to the end of it.

From the rest of the stories two more were memorable to me because they also didn’t take themselves too serious. In Man Overboard Edmund Crispin lets Gervase Fan meditate on the usefulness of (dead) blackmailers. And in Kem Bennett’s The Queer Fish a lot of things go wrong for several people and in the end the right ones triumph. The remaining handful of stories were mainly…OK. Nothing I hated but also nothing that made me want to check out more by the author.