Sunday, January 7, 2024

Bodies from the Library 3

 Bodies from the Library 3 (2020) by Tony Medawar, ed. [all stories written pre-1990]

Another delightful collection of forgotten treasures by Golden Age detective writers. We have everything from disappearing Scotland Yard men, to possible factory espionage to gang leaders trying to do away with rival thugs. We have murders committed by scarecrows and through the use of oranges. We have murders that originate with letters to the editor and, of course, the age-old motive of greed. I love how Tony Medawar manages to track down these hidden gems--from stories that were never published to those which may have appeared only once as a serial in a newspaper or magazine. I know he's found enough material for three more collections and can only hope that he'll find even more. My favorites from this collection are "The Murder at Warbeck Hall" (even though I know it contains the scaffolding for one of Hare's novels), "The Riddle of the Black Spade," "A Torch at the Window," and "And the Answer Was" by Ethel Lina White. 

"Some Little Things" by Lynn Brock (Alister McAlister): When a Scotland Yard Inspector goes missing while investigating a necklace robber, Colonel Gore follows up on a few "little things" about the case. Those little things lead him to the Inspector--and the necklace.

"Hot Steel" by Anthony Berkeley (Cox): Roger Sheringham points out that his pal Luscombe isn't as "hush-hush" about his wartime factory business as he thinks he is.

"The Murder at Warbeck Hall" by Cyril Hare (Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark): When the heir to Warbeck Hall is killed, Sergeant Rogers discovers a most interesting motive. (one poisoned; one shot)

"The House of the Poplars" by Dorothy L. Sayers: Smith & Smith Removers will happily assist you in getting rid of any unwanted items...or people. (one suicide; one natural; one poisoned)

"The Hampstead Murder" by Christopher Bush (Charles Christmas Bush): A man murders his wife because of a letter to the editor in the Times. (one strangled)

"The Scarecrow Murders" by Joseph Commings: Senator Brooks U Banner has to solve the mystery of the scarecrow who committed murder. (two shot)

"The Incident of the Dog's Ball" by Agatha Christie: Poirot receives a letter too late to prevent a murder. But the dog Bob and his little red ball helpt the great detective find the culprit. (two poisoned)

"The Case of the Unlucky Airman" by Christopher St. John Sprigg: A daring airman loses his effort to break a flying record. He had said if he couldn't do it that he would shoot himself. To all appearances he did...but Charles Venables, crime reporter, doesn't believe it. (one shot)

"The Riddle of the Black Spade" by Stuart Palmer: To all appearances, Ronald Farling has killed his foster father with a well-placed, powerful golf shot. But Miss Withers thinks not and tells Inspector Piper he better drain the pond on the golf green. (one hit on head; one executed; one stabbed)

"A Torch at the Window" by Josephine Bell (Doris Bell Collier): When a nurse is killed on a night the hospital is plagued by a Peeping Tom, Inspector Coleridge has to determine how the two are connected. (one neck broken)

"Grand Guignol" by John Dickson Carr: This the precursor to Carr's It Walks by Night, which I read last year. One of my complaints then was that there were scenes that seemed to go on for-ev-er. Here, things are much more condensed in this tale of a psychotic ex-husband out to wreak revenge on his former wife's brand new husband. Too condensed--we need a happy medium. (two beheaded; one stabbed)

"A Knotty Problem" by Ngaio Marsh: Alleyn is in New Zealand again...and, of course, there's murder--this time at the grand opening of a new gallery. (one poisoned) [I was struck by the similarity to the opening of a museum of art in R. T. Campbell's Swing Low, Swing Death--though what's behind the curtain varies.]

The Orange Plot Mysteries: What follows here is a group of stories written around the same plot: "One night a man picked up an orange in the street. This saved his life." These stories were commissioned by the Sunday Dispatch and were written by authors in the Detective Story Club (precursor to the Collins Crime Club) plus one by the publisher Collins himself.

"The Orange Kid" by Peter Cheyney: Parelli, the mobster sets up what he thinks is the perfect solution to keep the feds out of his hair...until that drunk drops an orange in the middle of the street. (four blown up)

"And the Answer Was" by Ethel Lina White: Timothy Rolls comes across proof of who the killer of young women in town is. But will he live long enough to see the person caught? Picking up an orange in the street will see that he does...

"He Stooped to Live" by David Hume (John Victor Turner): Sammy Prince is put into the frame for the shooting of Charlie Ross by a man who wants to get rid of both of them in one fell swoop. Lucky for Sammy, he stops to pick up an orange dropped by a Christmas Eve reveller. (one shot)

"Mr. Prendergast & the Orange" by Nicholas Blake (Cecil Day-Lewis): Joe Prendergast is out of work and in need of money. He goes to see an aunt who has refused to see his side of the family. He's desperate and when she's found dead later, he's the obvious suspect. But Nigel Strangeways sees how the orange he picked up in the street might prove his innocence. (one hit on the head)

"The Yellow Sphere" by John Rhode (Cecil Street): A young man devises the perfect plan to get rid of the tiresome uncle who plans to disinherit him when he next sees his lawyer. If only uncle hadn't picked up that orange on his way to his boat moored in the harbor.... 

"The 'Eat More Fruit' Murder" by William A. R. Collins: Mr. Silvercat can't understand why his partner has suspected him of carrying on with his wife for the last six months, but he's certainly glad that Gallery has come to his senses and they've made up over a dinner where Silvercat drank a bit too much. The next day he can't understand why the police insist that he followed his partner home and shot him. But lucky for Silvercat that he picked up that orange in the road... (one shot)

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