Author: Martin Edwards (editor)

Review – Final Acts

Posted June 9, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Final Acts

Final Acts: Theatrical Mysteries

by Martin Edwards (editor)

Genres: Crime, Mystery, Short Stories
Pages: 347
Series: British Library Crime Classics
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

"… and what a motive! Murder to save one's artistic soul… who'd believe that?"

Behind the stage lights and word-perfect soliloquies, sinister secrets are lurking in the wings. The mysteries in this collection reveal the dark side to theatre and performing arts: a world of backstage dealings, where unscrupulous actors risk everything to land a starring role, costumed figures lead to mistaken identities, and on-stage deaths begin to look a little too convincing...

This expertly curated thespian anthology features fourteen stories from giants of the classic crime genre such as Dorothy L. Sayers, Julian Symons and Ngaio Marsh, as well as firm favourites from the British Library Crime Classics series: Anthony Wynne, Christianna Brand, Bernard J. Farmer and many more.

Mysteries abound when a player's fate hangs on a single performance, and opening night may very well be their last.

Final Acts is another collection from the British Library Crime Classics series, edited as always by Martin Edwards, and this time all themed around the theatre and acting. It’s a fun spread of stories, not all using the theatre in quite the same way, and as usual demonstrating a bit of a spread across time as well.

The one thing to note is that there’s a repeat story in here, by Christianna Brand. I’m not sure which other anthology it appeared in, or whether it was maybe included with one of her novels, and I’m also not sure (because of that) whether this is the repeat or the other is the repeat. Still, bit disappointing.

Still, as usual, a fun handful of stories.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – A Surprise for Christmas

Posted January 2, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – A Surprise for Christmas

A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries

by Martin Edwards (editor)

Genres: Crime, Mystery, Short Stories
Pages: 304
Series: British Library Crime Classics
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

A Postman murdered while delivering cards on Christmas morning. A Christmas pine growing over a forgotten homicide. A Yuletide heist gone horribly wrong. When there's as much murder as magic in the air and the facts seem to point to the impossible, it's up to the detective’s trained eye to unwrap the clues and neatly tie together an explanation (preferably with a bow on top).

Martin Edwards has once again gathered the best of these seasonal stories into a stellar anthology brimming with rare tales, fresh as fallen snow, and classics from the likes of Julian Symons, Margery Allingham, Anthony Gilbert and Cyril Hare. A most welcome surprise indeed, and perfect to be shared between super-sleuths by the fire on a cold winter's night.

A Surprise for Christmas is the 2020 collection of short crime/mystery stories based around Christmas-time from the British Library Crime Classics series, edited as always by Martin Edwards. It’s a surprisingly star-studded volume, including stories from Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham, along with other standbys that appear more often in the anthologies of this series (like Carter Dickson, AKA John Dickson Carr).

It’s a strong enough collection, much in the same vein as the others, without being surprising — after all, that’s somewhat part of the point in crime/mystery fiction of this general period. It usually isn’t too surprising, though here and there an author like Julian Symons is included (as in this one), someone who tends more toward a psychological story.

Oddly enough, the Symons story included here is a repeat with a different title, previously included in The Christmas Card Crime, from 2018. Weird that no one realised that. The other stories are all new to the series so far as I can tell, though I haven’t read Crimson Snow.

“The Turn-Again Bell”, the final story, has quite the atmosphere, and would’ve been my favourite of the book, except that it seems a little trite in how it all wraps up. It doesn’t feel quite at home with the other stories in this volume, to be honest, being less a crime/mystery, and more definitively a Christmas story. Maybe that’s just me.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Silent Nights

Posted December 30, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Silent Nights

Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries

by Martin Edwards (editor)

Genres: Crime, Mystery, Short Stories
Pages: 287
Series: British Library Crime Classics
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

Christmas is a mysterious, as well as magical, time of year. Strange things can happen, and this helps to explain the hallowed tradition of telling ghost stories around the fireside as the year draws to a close. Christmas tales of crime and detection have a similar appeal. When television becomes tiresome, and party games pall, the prospect of curling up in the warm with a good mystery is enticing – and much better for the digestion than yet another helping of plum pudding.

Crime writers are just as susceptible as readers to the countless attractions of Christmas. Over the years, many distinguished practitioners of the genre have given one or more of their stories a Yuletide setting. The most memorable Christmas mysteries blend a lively storyline with an atmospheric evocation of the season. Getting the mixture right is much harder than it looks.

This book introduces of readers to some of the finest Christmas detective stories of the past. Martin Edwards’ selection blends festive pieces from much-loved authors with one or two stories which are likely to be unfamiliar even to diehard mystery fans. The result is a collection of crime fiction to savour, whatever the season.

Silent Nights is another anthology of crime/mystery stories in the British Library Crime Classics series — edited as always by Martin Edwards. I think this may even have been the first one in the series, which means it contains an Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock story (Conan Doyle being conspicuous by his absence from the more recent anthologies, presumably owing to running out of Holmes stories that fit the theme) and even a Dorothy L. Sayers story.

It’s a fun collection, with a couple of authors I’d be curious to read more books from (such as Marjorie Bowen). I raised my eyebrows a bit about including back-to-back stories by the same author, one under a pseudonym… but they’re somewhat different in tone, so it didn’t feel too samey.

As ever, it’s a collection greater than the sum of its parts, which is a phrase I’ve typed about these anthologies so often that perhaps I should just assume people will take it as read. Each individual story is mildly entertaining, some more questionable than others, but as a group they’re an interesting cross-section. Or archaeological dig through time, really, since they’re in chronological order…

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Christmas Card Crime

Posted December 22, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Review – The Christmas Card Crime

The Christmas Card Crime And Other Stories

by Martin Edwards (editor)

Genres: Crime, Mystery, Short Stories
Pages: 252
Series: British Library Crime Classics
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

A Christmas party is punctuated by a gunshot under a policeman’s watchful eye. A jewel heist is planned amidst the glitz and glamour of Oxford Street’s Christmas shopping. Lost in a snowstorm, a man finds a motive for murder.

This collection of mysteries explores the darker side of the festive season – from unexplained disturbances in the fresh snow, to the darkness that lurks beneath the sparkling decorations.

With neglected stories by John Bude and E.C.R. Lorac, as well as tales by little-known writers of crime fiction, Martin Edwards blends the cosy atmosphere of the fireside story with a chill to match the temperature outside. This is a gripping seasonal collection sure to delight mystery fans.

As ever, this collection of short stories from the British Library Crime Classics imprint is edited by Martin Edwards. It’s one of the older Christmas collections (I think the third, if I remember rightly), and includes stories by John Dickson Carr (under the Carter Dickson name) and E.C.R. Lorac — big names! There are some lesser known ones as well.

I think the story I’ll remember most is Julian Symons’; I don’t entirely love his work, it always seems a little too cerebral (which I’m sure he would’ve prided himself on, but I don’t read mysteries for that) and like he thinks he’s superior… but here in a short story that wasn’t so much on show, and there was something that just stood out about it, in the attention to detail, and the little sting in the tail.

Overall, it’s a fun enough collection, and as usual it’s fascinating to see a range of approaches through the chronological presentation of the various stories. I missed that in the newest volume, even though I hadn’t consciously thought about it before.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Who Killed Father Christmas?

Posted December 13, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Who Killed Father Christmas?

Who Killed Father Christmas? And Other Seasonal Mysteries

by Martin Edwards (editor)

Genres: Mystery, Short Stories
Pages: 264
Series: British Library Crime Classics
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

'The red robe concealed the blood until it made my hand sticky. Father Christmas had been stabbed in the back, and he was certainly dead.'

The murder of Father Christmas at one of London’s great toy shops is just one of many yuletide disasters in this new collection of stories from the Golden Age of crime writing and beyond. Masters of the genre such as Patricia Moyes and John Dickson Carr present perfectly packaged short pieces, and Martin Edwards delivers a sackful of rarities from authors such as Ellis Peters, Gwyn Evans and Michael Innes.

The answer to any classic crime fiction fan’s Christmas wish – and the only way for you to answer Who Killed Father Christmas? – this new anthology is set to muddle, befuddle, surprise and delight.

I think this is the first of the British Library Crime Classics anthologies I’ve read that’s themed around Christmas, though there are three or four others. As usual, it’s edited by Martin Edwards, and features a spread of different authors (within the volume, there are no repeat authors, though many of them have been seen in the other anthologies). This is a rare one without a Sherlock Holmes story, and unlike the usual habit, it’s not arranged in order of when it was written/published, but instead with an eye to increasing the sense of variety between the stories.

I have to say that I probably prefer the chronological order, because part of my interest is in the development of the genre (I studied it during my undergrad, and can’t quite turn off that part of my brain — it adds to the interest for me, so I don’t see why I should). I can’t say that it felt particularly more varied than the other volumes, either.

I was a little shocked by the inclusion of a modern story (from the 90s): it seems a bit early to call that a classic. I was a kid in the 90s, and I’m only in my 30s now: it’s not that long ago. I know some stories are “instant classics”, but with this series I’m really expecting a certain period and a certain fit with the themes of that period — not that style etc through the eyes of a more modern author. So, hmm.

Anyway, it’s a fun seasonal volume. Crime is crime, no matter the time of year, so it’s not exactly about the joy and bounty of the time of year, mind you — but if that’s your cup of tea, you’ll have fun.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Settling Scores

Posted November 27, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Settling Scores

Settling Scores: Sporting Mysteries

by Martin Edwards (editor)

Genres: Crime, Mystery, Short Stories
Series: British Library Crime Classics
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

Talented sportsmen inexplicably go absent without leave, crafty gamblers conspire in the hope of making a killing, and personal rivalries and jealousies come to a head on fields of play The classic stories in this new British Library anthology show that crime is a game for all seasons.

I thought I’d read these sporting mysteries (in this collection curated by Martin Edwards) in honour of the Rugby World Cup, the only sport I have so far managed to care about or even half-understand. The majority of these stories need no sporting knowledge at all to understand and follow; the sporting environment is just the backdrop. Even where you do need to know something, it’s fairly minimal.

It’s not a bad spread of stories, though the tone varies a bit (some stories feel rather brutal, and one involves spies and espionage, etc). Not one of my favourite collections, perhaps, but the sporting types might appreciate it a bit more. I did appreciate that it wasn’t just football and cricket stories or something — there was an archery story included, for example.

As ever, the collection is greater than the sum of its parts: it’s nice to read across a spread of the classic crime/mystery writers, and not just the biggest names, though there is (inevitably) a story by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Rating: 3/5

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