Music of the Night – An Anthology from The Crime Writers’ Association
This is an anthology of twenty five new crime and mystery tales from the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) edited by Martin Edwards. It has a huge range of stories – contemporary and historical, established characters or totally new creations, well known authors with those who are emerging. They have been selected from a large volume of submissions by Edwards, who has “tried to cater to a wide range of tastes” and I believe he has certainly succeeded. All the books have a linking theme of music; some are based on particular pieces or types of music, some feature musicians, fans of music or performers, others have a more fleeting reference to music in the background. Some are elaborate pieces with several scenes and elaborate plots, while others are very short and based on a single idea, which are no less effective. The settings vary widely which reflects where music is important; in homes of various types, theatres, a school, and other sites. Many stories involve murder or crimes of a serious nature, either in the story or reflecting past actions. Some crimes are detected, even if they are of the “locked room” type, whereas others happen and detection and punishment is to happen. There are detectives of various types and abilities, official and unofficial, and some reflect “classic” mysteries whereas others are very different. This is an excellent selection of stories which I enjoyed, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this special book.
This collection is well set out with biographies of all the authors in the back of the book in the same order in which the stories appear. In the excellent Introduction, Edwards points out that music is a popular aspect of many crime stories, from Sherlock’s violin to modern music fans. Some of the contributors have a musical background, and have chosen to exploit that as a strong element in their story. For others there is a recurring song that a character sings or plays that are very revealing. Some stories use the fact that death, whether of the musician or someone close to them, will sell more recordings and generate more interest. In at least one case the lyrics of a song gives a huge clue to what really happened. In other stories the making of music leads to all sorts of trouble, and musicians are killed. While all the stories are new, they often reflect past times, historical or half remembered events in earlier times. There are musical instruments that get damaged for various reasons connected with the crimes in the story, or represent certain elements of the story. People are in locked rooms in order to enjoy music but still get killed, and then the pressure is on to find out how they were killed. Some stories are clever constructions, others just have a strong and memorable central point. In general I found the longer pieces more absorbing, but the impact of some short pieces is stronger.
Some of the authors I recognised, such as Martin Edwards, the amusing LC Tyler, Kate Ellis and Peter Lovesey. Andrew Taylor, Christine Poulson, Paul Charles, Vaseem Khan and Paul Gitsham’s stories in particular caught my interest, but every story in the book deserves its place. I thoroughly recommend this book to those who enjoy short stories, crime mysteries and collections of fascinating tales.