Great French Detective Stories (1983; all stories pre-1960) by T. J. Hale (ed)
A selection of mystery short stories direct from France. It brings together more well-known authors such as Georges Simenon , Maurice Leblanc, and Gaston Leroux as well as a variety of authors which most readers will be unacquainted with. It includes everything from detectives who share methods with Sherlock Holmes to those who have skirted the law themselves and now fight on the side of the angels. As with all collections, some stories are much stronger than others. My favorites include "Drops That Trickle Away," "Watch the Red Balloons," and "The Haulage Company." ★★★ for the entire collection.
"The Little Old Man of Batignolles" by Emile Gaboriau: This features a shrewd but compassionate private detective named Mechinet. We have a Watson-like companion--a 23 year old health officer who lives in the same tenant house as Mechinet--and many points which put me in mind of the Holmes stories. The story opens with their meeting--and our narrator's attempts to discover what kind of man his neighbor is. He realizes he has become friends with a detective when Mechinet is called out to investigate the death of a wealthy old man. Everything points to the man's nephew--but our narrator is the first to call attention to a clue that will lead Mechinet to the truth of the matter.
"The Mysterious Railway Passenger" by Maurice Leblanc: Sometimes it takes a thief to catch a thief...and a murderer. Arsene Lupin is on the run from authorities himself and gets caught up in a robbery on a train. He winds up helping the police to effect the capture of a very dangerous criminal.
"Drops That Trickle Away" by Maurice Leblanc: Jim Barnett investigates the mystery of the intruder in Baroness Valerie Assermann's boudoir--an intruder who, though he made noise and left clues in the room, left no traces of how he got in or out and seemed to have taken nothing. But when her priceless pearls are proven to be mere substitutes, she isn't certain that she wants Barnett to finish the investigation.
"The Mystery of the Four Husbands" by Gaston Leroux: An interesting mystery about a woman who marries several men--all of whom meet tragic deaths. Is she a murderess...or is someone else behind the deeds?
"Storm over the Channel" by Georges Simenon: The story sees now-retired Superintendent Maigret setting off with his wife on holiday to England. But a storm in English Channel prevents their crossing and they take refuge in boarding house. Maigret finds himself on something of a busman's holiday when the maid is found shot to death after helping one of the other boarders carry luggage down to the boat. The local detective thinks the retired policeman may be past it, but Maigret soon proves that he can read clues in a menu with dress measurements doodled on it. It isn't long before the detective has a confessed murderer in charge. This is straight deduction and Maigret makes the most of the few clues he finds.Quote:
"It must have been a crime of passion....That girl was a really fast one. She was always hanging around the dance-hall at the far end of the harbour." "Well, that makes it different," murmured Madame Mosselet, who seemed to think that if passion was involved the whole thing was natural.
Deaths = 19 (nine stabbed; one natural; three shot; three poisoned; one hit by taxi; two hanged)