Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries (British Library Crime Classics) by Martin Edwards (editor)

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Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries (British Library Crime Classics) by Martin Edwards (editor)

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Sixteen short stories broadly from the golden age of crime all loosely based on the English country house. It's a strong collection without a dud amongst them.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: February 2016
Publisher: The British Library
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0712309936

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I'm not big on short stories, but two factors nudged me towards this book. Firstly, it's broadly golden age crime, one of my weaknesses and secondly, the editor is Martin Edwards, a man whose knowledge of golden age crime is probably unsurpassed and he's done us proud, not only with his selection, but with the half-page biographies of the writers, which precede each story. There's just enough there to allow you to place the author and to direct you to other works if you're tempted. It's an elegant selection, from the well known and the less well known, all set in and around the country house.

I expected to enjoy the stories from the big names more than those who have not survived quite so well, but I was pleasantly surprised. Arthur Conan Doyle is represented - as you might expect - by Sherlock Holmes, but it's one of the lesser-known stories: The Copper Beeches. In contrast we don't meet Father Brown in the offering from G K Chesterton, but his less well known detective, Dr Adrian Hyde, who has been rather overlooked. E W Hornung gives us Raffles, the gentleman thief and this was my only slight disappointment (and it was purely personal) as it's only a year or so since I read the story Gentleman and Players. gives us his blind detective, Max Carrados, whilst Margery Allingham allows her favourite detective, Albert Campion to rest in favour of a very short story about the Molesworths.

Dick Donovan was new to me but I enjoyed his story of an unusual poisoning in The Problem of Dead Wood Hall, where, in an unusual turn of events, the reader is invited to make up their mind as to whether or not the titular 'problem' was solved. James Hilton is best known as a screenwriter (think Mrs Miniver) and The Perfect Plan is unusual in that we know who the murderer is in the first paragraph but the story will make you regret that he didn't leave more of his work for us to enjoy. W W Jacobs' The Well will leave you smiling as a young man gets his comeuppance.

It was hard to pick a favourite, but I finally rested on J J Bell's The Message on the Sundial, where the murderer is betrayed by a series of seemingly nonsensical numbers. It's followed a close second by The Manor House Mystery by J S Fletcher. Sapper's story of The Horror at Staveley Grange is perhaps the most ingenious in the collection and was just nicely on the right side of believability. Anthony Berkeley is better know to me as Francis Iles and his story The Mystery of Horne's Copse is one of the longest in the collection (a short story with chapters) but earns the space well. Other stories come from E V Knox, Ethel Lina White and Blake.

It's an excellent selection: not a dud amongst them and no author whose name kept springing to mind but who failed to materialise in the book. It's no mean feat to bring sixteen stories with almost the same location together and yet have them retain their individuality. A triumph. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more short stories from Arthur Conan Doyle you might like to try The Complete Brigadier Gerard Stories as a diversion from the near-ubiquitous Sherlock Holmes. Our reviewer gave them five stars. From G K Chesterton we can offer you The Complete Father Brown Stories. If you want to know more about golden age crime then you can do no better than The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards.

Buy Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries (British Library Crime Classics) by Martin Edwards (editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries (British Library Crime Classics) by Martin Edwards (editor) at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries (British Library Crime Classics) by Martin Edwards (editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries (British Library Crime Classics) by Martin Edwards (editor) at Amazon.com.

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