Crimson Snow -A British Library Crime Classic for Christmas
Crimson Snow, yet another British Library Crime Classic, a collection of stories with a Christmas theme, is a good read at this time of year. None of the stories here are so Christmas based that they cannot be read during the winter. The characteristic they all share is that they are all ingenious, whether short or long. Margery Allingham manages in her short story, The Man with the Sack, to create not only a situation, theft and resolve it, but also some deliciously unlikable characters in the process. Edgar Wallace plays tricks not only with the detectives, but also the reader, in his story of widespread wickedness. I also enjoyed Death in December, which plays on the idea of the country house murder with the somewhat unusual detective Bill “Ironsides” Cromwell.
Part of the fun of stories like this is working out whether you can get to the solution before the detective, but short stories do not leave you wondering for long. Indeed, some stories here seem to be solved before they really get going, but others take great pains to include characterisation and incident before the denouement. There are oddities here, including a little Sherlock Holmes script which will not be appearing on the BBC anytime soon, and a locked room mystery that isn’t all it seems. The Insurance Investigation is more interesting than a paper exercise, and the book includes two pieces contributed to the competition which surrounded it. The only criticism I really have is of a story which introduces a victim a bit too well, which I found disturbing. Nevertheless, it is an ingenious story, well told.
Overall, this is an interesting collection of stories which would be a good read for any fan of the Golden Age Mystery, but it stands alone as a good winter read with many twists and turns. It represents good value, as if you are not so keen on one story there will be another one along in a minute…