23 August 2018

Review: BODIES FROM THE LIBRARY: Lost Classic Stories, Tony Medawar (edit)

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 809 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Collins Crime Club (July 26, 2018)
  • Publication Date: July 26, 2018
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B077ZGVY1Z
Synopsis (Amazon)

This anthology of rare stories of crime and suspense brings together 16 rare tales by masters of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction for the first time in book form, including a newly discovered Agatha Christie crime story that has not been seen since 1922.

At a time when crime and thriller writing has once again overtaken the sales of general and literary fiction, Bodies from the Library unearths lost stories from the Golden Age, that period between the World Wars when detective fiction captured the public’s imagination and saw the emergence of some of the world’s cleverest and most popular storytellers.

This anthology brings together 16 forgotten tales that have either been published only once before – perhaps in a newspaper or rare magazine – or have never before appeared in print. From a previously unpublished 1917 script featuring Ernest Bramah’s blind detective Max Carrados, to early 1950s crime stories written for London’s Evening Standard by Cyril Hare, Freeman Wills Crofts and A.A. Milne, it spans five decades of writing by masters of the Golden Age.

Most anticipated of all are the contributions by women writers: the first detective story by Georgette Heyer, unseen since 1923; an unpublished story by Christianna Brand, creator of Nanny McPhee; and a dark tale by Agatha Christie published only in an Australian journal in 1922 during her ‘Grand Tour’ of the British Empire.

With other stories by Detection Club stalwarts Anthony Berkeley, H.C. Bailey, J.J. Connington, John Rhode and Nicholas Blake, plus Vincent Cornier, Leo Bruce, Roy Vickers and Arthur Upfield, this essential collection harks back to a time before forensic science – when murder was a complex business.

My Take

This is a fascinating collection of stories and plays by Golden Age authors, including the one that got Arthur Upfield into so much trouble, about the perfect murder, and an Agatha Christie story The Wife of the Kenite published in in an Australian Women's Magazine in 1922. This is the earliest published Christie story that I have read. (See my list here).

Most of the stories in the anthology have only been published once, or not previously. Some have worn well, others were more 19th century in their "feel". After each short story is an excellent short biography of the author. The introduction also gave an excellent summary of the Golden Age period. What a productive time it was!

The contents
Before Insulin, J.J. Connington
The Inverness Cape, Leo Bruce
Dark Waters, Freeman Wills Croft
Lincke's Great Case, Georgette Heyer
Calling James Braithwaite, Nicholas Blake - a play
The Elusive Bullet, John Rhode
The Euthanasia of Hilary's Aunt, Cyril Hare
The Girdle of Dreams, Vincent Cornier
The Fool and the Perfect Murder, Arthur Upfield
Bread Upon the Waters, A.A. Milne
The Man with the Twisted Thumb, Anthony Berkeley
The Rum Punch, Christianna Brand
Blind Man's Buff, Ernest Bramah - a play
Victoria Pumphrey, H.C. Bailey
The Starting-Handle Murder, Roy Vickers
The Wife of the Kenite, Agatha Christie

My rating: 4.5

About the Author

Editor Tony Medawar is a detective fiction expert and researcher with a penchant for tracking down rare stories. His other collections of previously uncollected stories include WHILE THE LIGHT LASTS (Agatha Christie), THE AVENGING CHANCE (Anthony Berkeley), THE SPOTTED CAT (Christianna Brand) and A SPOT OF FOLLY (Ruth Rendell).

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