Monday, May 22, 2023


 Line-Up (1940) by John Rhode (ed) [collection also published by Avon as The Avon Book of Modern Crime Stories, 1942]

This line-up includes several non-fiction pieces among the collection of short stories. Two of the non-fiction essays are interesting (Connington and Freeman), but I can only guess that G. K. Chesterton was included because...well, because he was Chesterton. I can't say that I felt like his two-page essay was all that informative or interesting. Rather than really pick the best detective story (and by story, we must mean short story), he just chooses what is often considered the first. I mean, seriously, if you don't want to have to choose a "best," then choose some other topic for your essay. There's a lot of things to say about detective fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed those that were new to me and it was fun to revisit the seven that I had already read in various other (more recent) collections.

Okay...enough of my rant on GKC's piece. This is a fairly good collection of short stories by members of the Detection Club. I am quite sure it was welcomed with open arms by the reading public in the 1940s, especially since this anthology was the first appearance of these stories in anthology form.   ★★★★

"The Sweet Shot" by E. C. Bentley: A man is found dead on the second hole of the golf course. He's either been given a huge electric shock or there's been an explosion. But there was no one near him at the time.  [one death]

"The Genuine Tabard" by E. C. Bentley: Mrs. Langley tells Philip Trent about her husband's prized tabard. When Trent hears about how it was obtained, he's sure there's something fishy about the set-up.

"Person or Things Unknown" by John Dickson Carr": A historical mystery in which the host of a holiday party invites his guests to investigate a supernatural death from the past--which took place, naturally, in a room where no one wants to sleep now. [two stabbed; one natural]

"The Best Detective Story" by G. K. Chesterton: Chesterton's short piece on what the best mystery story is. 

"Wireless" by Agatha Christie: Mary Harter is an elderly lady with a weak heart--but her doctor tells her if she takes it easy and avoids shocks that she will still have many more years left. Her nephew persuades her that a radio would be just the thing to help occupy her secluded times at home...and then the radio starts putting out some very startling messages. [one natural--shock]

"Death by Drowning" by Agatha Christie": Rose Emmett has been found drowned in the river near St. Mary Mead. She was pregnant and her lover had refused to marry her so everyone thought she had killed herself. But Miss Marple knew she'd been murdered. When she hears that Sir Henry Clithering is in town for a visit, she asks him to investigate. She has no proof and doesn't think the local police will take her reasons seriously. She writes down the name of her suspect and asks Sir Henry to find a way to discover whether she's correct. When an apparently unshakeable alibi is produced, it begins to look as if Miss Marple has made her first mistake....but Christie fans know that can't be possible. [one drowned]

"Too Clever by Half" by G.D.H. & M. Cole: Dr. Tancred tells a story to prove that it doesn't pay to be too clever if you want to get away with murder. When Sam Allsop is found shot, there are too many clues left about to "prove" that it was suicide. The murderer should have left well enough alone. [one shot; one hanged]

"A Criminologist's Book-Shelf" by J. J. Connington: A non-fiction piece by Connington on accuracy in crime fiction. He mentions how advancements in medical knowledge, police work, and the average reader's knowledge place mystery writers at the mercy of angry afficionados if they get any details wrong. Can you imagine what Connington would think of today's world where readers have the entire internet at their fingertips? 

"The Match" by Freeman Wills Crofts: Inspector French must unravel the clues to a near-perfect murder committed to cover up someone's embezzling ways. One tiny slip is all it takes... [one hit on head; one hanged]

"The Hiding-Place" by Carter Dickson: Hard-core gangsters rob a bank--killing a couple of people along the way, but are immediately caught by the police. The only difficulty? The loot has completely disappeared--twice. Leave to Colonel March of the Department of Queer Complaints to figure out the hiding place. [unfortunately for the Medical Examiner's challenge--the people aren't named]

"The Crime in Nobody's Room" by Carter Dickson: After a night on the town, Ronald Denham comes home to what he thinks is his flat--only to discover it's not his flat and it's got a dead man in it. Then he's hit on the head and wakes up in the hall. When his roommate finds him, he thinks he's drunk--especially after hearing his bizarre story. But the bump on Denham's head convinces him--except where's the body? And where is the room Denham saw? Because it doesn't match anyone's sitting room in the building. Colonel March arrives to unravel the mystery. (one stabbed)

"The Art of the Detective Story" by R. Austin Freeman: Freeman's defense of the literary nature of detective fiction. He posits that critics judge the detective story by its worst examples while judging all other forms of fiction by its best. He then goes on to explain what makes good detective fiction.

Devices to confuse and mislead the reader are bad practice. They deaden the interest, and they are quite unnecessary; the reader can always be trusted to mislead himself, no matter how plainly the data are given.

"A Professional Episode" by Arthur Morrison: The public hangman is worried that word of his job will get out--especially after he had to "fix the straps" (as he says in the narrative) on his next-door neighbor. [one hit on head; one hanged]

"A Shot in the Night" by Baroness Orczy: When retired businessman Edward Greeneadge is shot to death, it looks like his nephew is the culprit. Patrick Mulligan, lawyer (known by the nickname "Skin o' My Tooth") manages to find the solution in time to save Ralph Legge-Bright from the gallows. [one shot]

"The Tytherton Case" by Baroness Orczy: An elderly lawyer is attacked and certain papers in his office and safe are destroyed. There seems to be only one person who could have benefited from the destruction, but Orczy's Old Man in the Corner has other ideas.

"Striding Folly" by Dorothy L. Sayers": This one has a bit of the mystic about it. A man has a dream which appears to be strangely prophetic about the murder of his neighbor. Except it didn't predict that he would be accused! Lord Peter comes to the rescue, of course! [one strangled]

"The Haunted Policeman" by Dorothy L. Sayers": The story of the poor policeman who saw a house numbered thirteen where no thirteen ought to be and a murdered man where no one has been murdered. Lord Peter helps him prove that he wasn't drunk nor delusional.

"The Sub-Branch" by Henry Wade: A man running an informal branch of a bank (who knew such thing was a thing?) in a street-level front room is apparently killed while the building owner and his doctor is in the room above. Is a disgruntled customer the culprit? [one throat cut]

"Four to One--Bar One" by Henry Wade: When a race course gang tries to put the screws on the wrong bookie, they get more than they bargained for. The odds are definitely not in their favor. [four shot]

"The Perfect Close" by Hugh Walpole: An elderly man realizes that he's living his last day. The story follows him as he decides how to spend his last few hours. [one natural]

First line (1st story): "No, I happened to be abroad at the time," Philip Trent said.

Last line (last story): Minna looked up into his face and gave a cry.

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