Monday, November 16, 2015

'Classic Crime Stories'

Sherlock Holmes, as it turns out, had peers. Or at least he had contemporaries who also happened to be in the detecting business.

Classic Crime Stories, edited by author David Stuart Davies, is a collection of crime mysteries written in the late 19th and early 20 centuries. In some cases, the reader knows who did it; the focus becomes how the detective ferrets out the truth. Others are more traditional mystery, with the reader accompanying the detective as the crime is eventually solved. In a few, there is no detective at all, but rather a victim or would-be victim seeking to evade their doom.

All of the authors represented in the collection of 20 stories were well known in their day, and several of them are still well known – Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, G.K. Chesterton, John Dickson Carr, and Guy de Maupassant. But all of the stories are gems.

In R. Austin Freeman’s “The Echo of a Mutiny,” a murder happens in a lighthouse – with no witnesses except the killer. In Chesterton’s “The Hammer of God,” a Catholic priest (not Father Brown) puzzles over why a small hammer was used to kill instead of a larger one. In “The Ripening Rubies” by Max Pemberton, a jeweler discovers who is stealing jewelry from London society ladies at balls and parties. William LeQueux’s “The Purple Death” concerns three bodies found in an abandoned fishing boat, each with a purple face. John Dickson Carr’s Dr. Gideon Fell solves a murder, or two, involving a summerhouse on an island – which no one seemed to have been able to reach without being noticed. Sheridan Le Fanu tells a wonderful Gothic story in “The Murdered Cousin,” and how the intended victim saves herself.

David Stuart Davies
Editor Davies has written several Sherlock Holmes novels and edited new collections of vintage detective stories, fairy tales, ghost stories, G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries, a World War II detective series, and Starring Sherlock Holmes: A Century of the Master Detective on Screen, among other works.

The stories he’s selected for Classic Crime Stories provide a window on a period where crime writing and mystery writing were reaching the first crest in a major wave of popularity, the start of the Golden Age of mystery writing. The quality of the stories here helps explain that popularity.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

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