Murder on a Winter’s Night – Ten Classic Crime Stories
Every year a book of ten classic tales from Profile books appears, and they are a welcome little treat featuring Golden Age classics from authors such as Margery Allingham mixed with one or two more contemporary tales from the likes of Mark Billingham. Some authors reappear in most of the volumes if not all, such as Arthur Conan Doyle in a chilling non Sherlock Holmes story. My favourite treat is the Dorothy L Sayers story, which is a most satisfying tale in this particular book. Not all of them are set at or focus on Christmas, which is worth knowing, indeed they are more concerned with cold and dark conditions, when everything seems different and more challenging. There is a mixture of detectives, both police and more amateur, and a few where there is a realisation that a crime has been committed. There are a variety of styles, from the sad to the amusing, and sometimes bordering on surreal. All are worth reading, and while some are less surprising than others, all are well written examples of truly classic crime stories where so much is accomplished in a very little space.
The first story by Cyril Hare is a small gem of surprise, whereas the second by HC Bailey is more detailed. Allingham’s story relates a tale of Mr Campion being impressed, while Julian Symon’s story is a festive treat. “The Motive” by G D H and M Cole is clever, while Billingham’s story is very Christmas based. Conan Doyle’s tale is disturbing and perhaps the least festive, and a second tale called “The Motive”, this time by Ronald Knox, is a lawyer based story. The final story by Edmund Crispin is a clever little tale, as may be expected from a writer known for his interesting twists. My favourite story is the longest in the collection and features the ever popular (at least in my house) Lord Peter Wimsey who is enjoying a country retreat. It is concerned with night time apparitions and a few mysteries that appeal to the gentleman sleuth. There is a distinctive atmosphere of darkness and dampness in this story, as well as some interesting surprises even for the determined Wimsey. Big houses, a village church and country lanes are the setting for a twisty tale beautifully written as ever.
This is a worthy book of seasonal tales in this gentle series. It is winter crime without the gore, where clever suggestion and mature puzzles dominate the narratives. This is a book that will suit Golden Age of detection devotees and those who enjoy well crafted tales equally, by authors who have stood the tests of time. It is another enjoyable book in this series which I recommend which can be read in any order by many people.