Friday, September 9, 2011

Great British Detectives: Review

Great British Detectives, edited by Martin H Greenberg and Edward D Hoch, is a collection of four novellas by some of the best known names in British crime fiction. In it, we have selections by Leslie Charteris, G. K. Chesteron, Michael Gilbert, and Dorothy L. Sayers. We meet the Saint, Father Brown, Inspector Patrick Petrella, and Lord Peter Wimsey.

Charteris' story, "The Beauty Specialist," is classic Simon Templar--a modern day Robin Hood who takes from the crooks and the swindlers and gives back to swindled. He likes nothing more than come up against a self-modeled master criminal and show him (or her) a trick or two. In this one, the Saint comes up against the "Z-Man"--a blackmailer who has come up with a twist on the blackmailing game. (Four stars)

"The Oracle of the Dog" by G. K. Chesteron involves an "impossible crime." A man goes into a garden summer house with only one door. A host of witnesses are prepared that no one entered the summer house after his last visitor left and the victim was seen most obviously alive and showing him out. And yet, Colonel Duce, is found stabbed to death not ten minutes later. Father Brown uses the "oracle of the dog" to solve the mystery. The novella is considered by many to be the best of the Father Brown Stories and in 1983 was chosen by the Mystery Writers of America as one of the best mysteries of all time. (three and a half stars)

Michael Gilbert's story, "The Cleaners," features Inspector Patrick Petrella. Initially Petrella is called in to aid a colleague with the murder of Bernard Francis Nicholls, but he soon finds himself drawn into a plot involving high stakes and money laundering. This one was not my cup of tea at all. I didn't find Petrella to be a sympathetic character at all and I didn't like the way he was handled by his author. The wrap-up left a bit to be desired. (two stars)

"The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey" by Dorothy L Sayers finds my favorite aristocratic sleuth in one of his rare adventures outside England. Lord Peter becomes interested in a rather grotesque revenge--plotted and carried out in the Basque region of northern Spain. It is up to Lord Peter to rescue a damsel in distress from the evil machinations of her jealous husband. (four stars)

Over all, a fairly sold group of stories. I love the Saint and Lord Peter and like Father Brown in small doses. I have enjoyed Micheal Gilbert's Smallbone, Deceased--but I'm not sure I'll seek out any more Petrella stories. Three and a half stars total for the collection.

1 comment:

Debbie Rodgers said...

That's the thing about collections, isn't it? Usually some are quite good, but others...

I can take Lord Peter only a bit at a time, yet I enjoy Sayers nonetheless. And I'm ashamed to admit that I've never read a Father Brown(!) This collection may be just the place to start - thanks for the tip!