This week has been slumpish. I haven’t felt like diving into any heavy reads or even full length novels or really anything that required a lot of focus. So, poetry and short stories and Paul Temple, and even this only a few minutes at a time, were the only reads I engaged in this week. Not that poetry doesn’t require some focus etc. … but poems are short and you don’t generally need to remember a plot or characters from one poem to the next.
Anyway, I did manage to start Capital Crimes, which is a collection of short stories with London as a theme. Well, it’s a loose theme. Some of the stories manage to convey London as a place better than others. Still, I love discovering Golden Age authors through short story collections, and this collection has a great variety of authors on offer.
I have not added notes to all of the stories in this collection, but I still want to keep notes on what a I thought about some of the stories for my own reference:
The Case of Lady Sannox – Arthur Conan Doyle
I have read this story before in a superb collection of ACD’s (non-Holmes) short stories called Gothic Tales, and I found it stomach-turning then. On the re-read, it’s still makes me wince, but then I am not a fan of horror … and this falls into the horror genre for me.
However, I think I also appreciated the story a little more on the re-read for its pointing out issues regarding xenophobia and domestic violence. It’s one of ACD’s stories that I thought was quite modern, ahead if its time even, for story first published in 1893.
Btw, all of ACD’s stories are available online for free.
I am not sure I will write an update for all of the other stories in Capital Crimes, but for reference the stories included in the collection are:
A Mystery of the Underground – John Oxenham:
I have no idea what I just read. I may have missed the point … and plot of this story in its entirety. This is not one that will be memorable at all.
The Finchley Puzzle – Richard Marsh:
This story evidently emulates one by ACD, and one of my favourite Holmes stories at that. While the original required some suspension of disbelief, Marsh’s story was absolutely preposterous, and not in a good way.
The Magic Casket – R. Austin Freeman
An interesting concept. I liked the local colour of mentioning exhibits at the museum in South Kensington (now the V&A), but other than that the depiction of the Japanese gangsters makes this one another one that won’t be all that memorable.
The Holloway Flat Tragedy – Ernest Bramah
This is not my first Bramah, but it is the first that I have DNF’s even tho it is a short story. There is something about Bramah’s writing and his Max Carrados stories that just bores me stiff.
It’s a pity, the setting around Holloway sounded promising.
The Magician Of Cannon Street – J. S. Fletcher
Interesting up to a point, but it’s another story that features the “evil foreigner” trope. That’s not unusual for a GA mystery but it does lessen my reading enjoyment. Meh.
The Stealer of Marble – Edgar Wallace
This was delightful. True to form Wallace with the smart, yet totally bonkers, solution.
The Tea Leaf – Robert Eustace and Edgar Jepson
Fantastic. I loved this locked room mystery. Not dissimilar to the Wallace story that precedes it (The Stealer of Marble) but I loved that this one combines several elements I liked with good mystery that kept me guessing.
To be fair, I did not expect anything less from Robert Eustace.
The Hands of Mr Ottermole – Thomas Burke
I know I read this only a few days ago, but I remember little about it. So, not one that is memorable.
The Little House – H. C. Bailey
Interesting, but more of a crime story than a mystery. Not entirely my cup as it did include crime involving children.
The Silver Mask – Hugh Walpole
Well, this was unnerving. It’s a crime story, but it’s more of a horror story in my book.
Wind in the East – Henry Wade
A pretty straight-forward locked room mystery.
The Avenging Chance – Anthony Berkley
If this short story was indicative of Berkley’s other work, then I need to consider whether I should wait for the library to open again. I’d probably regret buying his books. Not that the story was a bad mystery. The mystery was good. What really irked me was how drawn out it was and the closing comments of the Scotland Yard detective (Sheringham) seemed to imply that the victim was to blame for “their” (trying not to spoil things) own murder. Different times, different mores, but this just goes against the grain.
They Don’t Wear Labels – E. M. Delafield
Really good! This one is DARK! I loved it. It also reminds me of Christie’s The Blue Geranium because it is very psychology-driven. The reference to Christie is not a spoiler btw., the plot etc. are completely different. The stories have the same sinister feel to them, tho.
The Unseen Door – Margery Allingham
Erm, … I’ll file this under “pointless” and “unresolved” and “missed the point because the author got distracted by her own brilliance”, shall I?
Cheese – Ethel Lina White
Yes, White had a penchant for young female leads who think they are so clever, and then…things happen so they need a hero. Not bad, not great, but definitely not for me. I do like the references to the changing society and how this puts young women into peril in a new world, but I also sense a nostalgia here for world that never existed.
You Can’t Hang Twice – Anthony Gilbert
I love the atmosphere of this story – it starts in an ugly night in London, lots of fog – or smog – about to hide all sorts of goings on, including the murder game.
Anthony Gilbert was another pen-name used by Lucy Beatrice Malleson. She also wrote under the names “Anne Meredith” and “J. Kilmeny Keith”.
I rather liked “Anne Meredith’s” Portrait of a Murderer, and I definitely want to read more by her.
However, as far as this short story goes, it is not a great example of the format structurally. It’s overly long and disjointed.