- this edition published by Poisoned Pen Press 2016
- ISBN 978-1-4642-0673-6
- 376 pages
- subtitled: Country House Mysteries
- source: my local library
The English country house is an iconic setting for some of the greatest British crime fiction. This collection gathers together stories written over a span of about 65 years, during which British society, and life in country houses, was transformed out of all recognition.
It includes fascinating and unfamiliar twists on the classic 'closed circle' plot, in which the assorted guests at a country house party become suspects when a crime is committed. In the more sinister tales featured here, a gloomy mansion set in lonely grounds offers an eerie backdrop for dark deeds. Many distinguished writers are represented in this collection, including such great names of the genre as Anthony Berkeley, Nicholas Blake and G.K. Chesterton.
Martin Edwards has also unearthed hidden gems and forgotten masterpieces: among them are a fine send-up of the country house murder; a suspenseful tale by the unaccountably neglected Ethel Lina White; and a story by the little-known Scottish writer J.J. Bell.
This anthology contains 16 short stories, some written by masters of the genre and others by less well known. I never cease to be amazed at how many people were writing crime fiction in England in the period covered by this anthology.
Short story collections are among my favourites as they offer the prospect of quick delving, of a variety of approaches. Each of the stories in this collection relates somehow to a crime, often murder, committed at a country house. They also offer an interesting insight into a period of English life where society rapidly changed because of the advent of World War One.
I was surprised however that the editor - and there was probably good reason for it - allowed this volume to go to press without page numbers on the Table of Contents, and without the short story titles being repeated in the top margins of the printed pages.
My rating: 4.3
I've also read
THE ARSENIC LABYRINTH
THE SERPENT POOL
DANCING FOR THE HANGMAN
4.8, THE HANGING WOOD
4.6, THE FROZEN SHROUD
4.5, M.O. CRIMES OF PRACTICE (edit)
4.3, TAKE MY BREATH AWAY
4.3, SERPENTS IN EDEN (edit)
4.5, MOTIVES FOR MURDER(edit)
4.5, GALLOWS COURT