Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Bodies & Souls: Review

Bodies & Souls (1961) edited by Dann Herr and Joel Wells is a collection of fourteen tales of mystery and suspense featuring Agatha Christie, G. K. Chesterton, Rufus King, and other less well-known authors (at least to me). The collection also has the distinction of containing stories that, loosely speaking, involve Catholics or have a Catholic background. As with most collections there are a variety of story strengths represented with some very good mysteries--such as "The Dark Corner," "The Chocolate Box," "Heaven Can Wait," and "The Secret Garden"--and some very marginal mysteries (as well as those that don't even marginally qualify as mysteries)--such as "The Body in the Basement," "The Green Scarf," and "The Vigil of Brother Fernando." Overall, a decent selection of stories which earns a mid-range score of ★★.

A brief run-down of the stories:

"The Dark Corner" by Frank Ward: This story of the murder of a priest during the rite of confession features Lieutenant Archer, a man with little love for the Church and even less for the victim. But he does know his duty and faithfully follows the clues to find the less-than-saintly killer.

"The Body in the Basement" by Ernest F. Miller, C.S.S.R: A priest, who took up his calling after a failed love affair, is called upon to fill in at a parish in northern Minnesota. While there he will find himself giving last rites to his lost love...under the most unusual circumstances.

"A Diabolic Intervention" by Shane Leslie: A fairly pedestrian story of a haunted house.

"The Chocolate Box" by Agatha Christie: In which Poirot reveals a time early in his career when his little grey cells were not functioning at peak performance. M. Déroulard is found dead after eating chocolates but his death is ruled to be from a heart attack. A young woman in his household comes to Poirot because she is convinced the death was not natural.At a time of strife over the separation of church and state M. Déroulard was a key player as an anti-Catholic and a potential minister and his death could benefit many. Poirot misses a few vital clues concerning the chocolate box...

"Heaven Can Wait" by C. B. Gilford: A mystery author dies and in the process of his check-in at the Pearly Gates he discovers that he was murdered. But the recording angel can't tell him who did it. He insists that he won't be happy in Paradise unless he knows the answer to his very personal "whodunnit" and is granted one day's return to Earth to figure it out. He finds that solving the real-life crime isn't nearly as easy as creating fictional ones.

"The Finger of Stone" by G. K. Chesterton: A short story by Chesterton which does not feature his famous sleuth, Father Brown. But it does feature an outrageous solution worthy of Carr in one of his most deranged moments. A controversial scientist disappears and is presumed dead. But what happened to his body?

"The Patron Saint of the Impossible" by Rufus King: Monsignor Lavigny comes to the rescue of a pair of young lovers when the rather hot-headed young man is accused of murdering his beloved's father. It all depends on a set of fingerprints and how they got to the scene of the crime.

"Too Many Coincidences" by Paul Eiden: As the title might suggest, the coincidences seem to pile up when a loosely-connected group of young women keep turning up at funerals--as the guests of honor. Our hero, Starbuck, is a little too slow on picking up the few clues available to him....

"The Green Scarf" by A. M. Burrage: Another ghost story--this time the discovery of the titular legendary green scarf from the time of the English Civil War calls up dark forces that nearly spell the end of our narrator and his friend.

"Rogue's Gallery" by Mackinlay Kantor: No whodunnit here. Just a fairly straight-forward tale of how an itinerant artist manages to provide the proof the police need to arrest his killer/s.

"The Apples of the Hesperides" by Agatha Christie: A rich collector asks Poirot to discover what happened to his emerald apple-encrusted goblet...a goblet which once belonged to a Pope and which he won at auction but never actually possessed. It's been missing for ten years, can Poirot follow such a cold trail? Mais oui!

"The Vigil of Brother Fernando" by Joan Vatsek: Definitely not a mystery in the crime sense of the word. Brother Fernando spends a night among the dead to learn the value of the living.

"The Secret Garden" by G. K. Chesterton: An impossible crime mystery where, during a dinner party hosted by the great French policeman Valentin, an uninvited guest manages to appear in a garden with only one entrance, accessible only to those who had gained entry to the house. The unknown man not only appears, but gets himself killed for his trouble. In the meantime, one of the invited guests manages to escape the house (thus, apparently, proving his guilt) despite needing to have passed the watchful eyes of Valentin's faithful servant in order to leave. Father Brown is on hand to provide the solution.

"Murder for Fine Art" by John Basye Price: A man fro antiquity confesses to an as yet undiscovered crime.

Since all the stories were originally published before 1960, this collection counts for the "Candle" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card


fredamans said...

This sounds AWE-some!! I love G.K. so seeing him numerous times really catches me.

Ryan said...

I think I need this.