The Crooked Shore by Martin Edwards – a contemporary crime thriller set in the Lake District

The Crooked Shore by Martin Edwards

With suspicious deaths, cold cases and a sumptuous setting, Edwards’ latest novel is an impressive tale of relationships centred on the Lake District. This novel follows The Dungeon House, but works well as a stand alone with some well established characters. DCI Hannah Scarlett is a determined investigator, keen to increase her team to better find leads in the twenty year old disappearance of a young local woman. Ramona Smith had a reputation locally for a complex romantic life, and her mysterious fate has cast a destructive shadow over many lives. The investigation has sprung to life again with a new tragedy that could only happen on the Crooked Shore, a special place of particular danger. Hannah’s team must work hard to track down all the potential people who may know the truth of past events and contemporary dangers. With at least one murder already committed, the desperate search for the killer must speed up to prevent more deaths.

This intense novel is written with several strands of story. Hannah is obviously a skilled and experienced detective who is keen to get her team up to full strength, with the support of the new Police Commisioner, Kit Gleadall. The Prologue features an anonymous speaker confessing to the murder of Ramona Smith, and from that moment various characters are introduced who may well fulfill that role. Edwards is extremely able to introduce three dimensional characters with realistic attitudes and personal histories that weave in and out of the narrative. The establishment of the setting is well done, with the particular atmosphere of a town and countryside of historic significance. I enjoyed the writing immensely and was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this excellent novel. 

Kingsley Melton is sitting on a bench overlooking the Crooked Shore. He is charged with selling luxury apartments at Strandbeck Manor, a difficult job for this man in his fifties, who has the air of one defeated by life. The appearance of a lone jogger barely attracts his attention, while Kingsley considers a sighting of a young man that he feels he has every reason to suspect of guilty dealings. Logan Prentice has spent time at a nursing home where Kinsley’s mother was a resident, and Kingsley believes him guilty of a crime there. While he contemplates this, the jogger becomes trapped in the sand in front of him and Kinsley can only look on in horror as the tide advances. Kingsley’s obsession with a woman who lives in an apartment in the manor comes to dominate his waking hours. It later emerges that the jogger possibly meant to end his life in an horrific way, following his father’s suicide exactly twenty years before. Gerry Lace had been the chief suspect in the disappearance of Ramona, an investigation led by the late Ben Kind. The death of his son, Darren Lace, on the beach provokes a reassessment of what really happened to Ramona, with implications for many people in the area. 

This novel has real depth as both the investigators and the investigated are seen with all their interrelated stories. It is a relatively small community in a contemporary world where rumours and theories of guilt are easily communicated. This is a thriller where time is of the essence as old wounds and new dangers emerge, and Edwards maintains the tension admirably throughout, building to an exciting climax. The characters are well drawn and realistic. The plot is complex as the investigation and action takes place in the present but is affected by the past. This is a well written novel which I found completely involving and intriguing. I recommend it strongly to those who enjoy a contemporary thriller with a strong sense of place and complex characters.   

A Surprise for Christmas and other seasonal mysteries Edited by Martin Edwards – a real treat from the British Library Crime Classics series

A Surprise for Christmas and Other Stories Edited by Martin Edwards

A collection of twelve stories with a seasonal theme is always welcome, but this selection from Martin Edwards and the British Library Crime Classics series is very special for its variety. As pointed out in his Introduction to the book, there are some well known as well as some less famous authors represented here. The stories also vary in length from under ten pages to over eighty, which allow quite a range of effect, even if all are immensely entertaining. Some stories I recognised from similar collections, but all are good reads. The principle of entertainment is the main thing here; not intricate, clever plots but stories that attract and hold attention. I really enjoyed each story here, and found it difficult to put down. The separate introductions to each story by Martin Edwards are as ever informative, giving details of each author’s work and, where appropriate, the other name or names they wrote under. This book is a collection of real winter or Christmas gems, and I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it. 

Catriona Louisa Pirkis tells of an early woman detective whose stories first appeared in 1893. Loveday Brooke is a young woman who works for a detective agency, and in this case is challenged to solve a country house mystery. It is a very tightly written story which reflects Lovejoy’s methods of quickly seizing the necessary details.Edwards points out that with no storytelling “Watson”, Loveday is “completely self – defining and self – determining”.

 A well known writer, G.K. Chesterton, is seen in another country house mystery without Father Brown. Deeply unlikable characters meet their end in some stories, while in others mystery combines with mayhem, a haunted room with surprises. Some are very much of their time, the post war setting showing the effects of recent wars in at least two of the stories. My favourite story is also the longest, and it combines insight into a war blighted London, a disorientating fog, and a restless determination to find a missing loved one. “Give Me a Ring” by Anthony Gilbert is full of well drawn details that make up a story of near misses and the sort of situations that make the reader want to warn the characters of their danger. Although it includes a character the author uses in other short fiction, he does not dominate the story. Edwards reminds us that “Anthony Gilbert” is one of the pen names adopted by Lucy Malleson, and was her most successful. She also wrote as Anne Meredith, one of whose novels has been reprinted in the British Library series. This story builds the tension well, while including interesting comments on the significance of a young woman entering a public house. 

This is a very entertaining and enjoyable selection of stories which mixes rare stories which have not been previously republished, through to classics of the genre. This book is a good introduction to the British Library Crime Classics series, which gives a good idea of the range in time and type of stories. It is an impressive read which I recommend. 

Vintage Crime – a Crime Writer’s Association Anthology edited by Martin Edwards

 

Vintage Crime from the Crime Writers Association

 

This book contains no less than twenty two short stories “Hand – Picked from the Mystery Archives” by Martin Edwards from the archives of the Crime Writers’ Association going back to 1953.  In his brief introduction, Edwards points out that the earliest story in the collection is from John Dickson Carr which was reprinted from a 1940 publication, and which I had already read elsewhere. The stories are undated which is unhelpful, but it is made up for by the quality and variety of the contributions which includes stories from such well known writers as Simon Brett, Kate Ellis and Peter Lovesey. 

 

There are some very memorable stories here – as murderers confess, animals leave the solution on show, detectives follow their instincts. There are many stories here to entertain, inform and more, as some murderers just allow things to happen whereas other crimes are meticulously planned. Most, if not all of the stories, reflect careful plotting, while some of the characters really come alive in the hands of practised and skilful writers. In any collection like this, there will be some stories that a reader enjoys more than others, but this is a collection which is strong in all respects. It is not necessarily  the oldest stories which are the most enjoyable, or the most recent which reflect one’s own experience. As with any crime story, or short story of any kind, the plot needs to be almost timeless, as could happen beyond a particular set of circumstances. The great advantages of a collection like this is to discover new stories, new authors without committing to a full novel by an author who may be new to a reader. This was my experience with “Inspector Ghote and the Noted British Author” by H.T.F Keating, which manages to demonstrate gentle comedy, a different setting of India, and an excellent plot all in the space of a few pages. Celia Fremlin looks at different sorts of courage, while Frances Fyfield looks at the pressures that an individual can exert on a family in “Cold and Deep”. The famous chef Elizabeth David becomes the unwitting centre of attention in  a poisonous story from Andrew Taylor, while a wistful story of past memories of life in Egypt dominate a contribution  from Marjorie Eccles. Martin Edwards’ own “Melusine”, inspired by a legend, takes the context of a horrible situation to look at what happens when secrets are exposed. Kate Ellis’ “Top Deck” is an award winning story which takes a small experience and looks at its effect. 

 

This is a book with a story for every mood, every perception of crime, understandable or baffling, turning on small circumstances or major events. I found it a very readable book, with the ability to change moods from story to story. When life is challenging and possibly concentrating on a full novel is difficult, an anthology like this is very attractive as demanding less sustained attention. I did not have to retain clues and motives, circumstances and red herrings over a complete book; it satisfies the need for completion within a short time. I recommend this book as presenting many opportunities for satisfying, distracting reading, with an excellent mixture of stories for every taste and mood. 

The Measure of Malice – Scientific Detection Stories from the British Library Crime Classics series

The Measure of Malice: Scientific Detection Stories - British ...

 

The solving of murder in fiction has always had its challenges, and this book demonstrates one way of meeting it, with scientific method. This book of fourteen short stories edited by Martin Edwards is from the wonderful British Library Crime Classics series, and is a representative sample of various authors writing during a “Golden Age” of detective writing. Featuring well known authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L. Sayers as well as stories by Ernest Dudley and J.J. Connington, all the murders are worked out by scientific method. As may be expected, those writers who favour detectives with medical or other training bring in their expertise. Happily each expert who spots an obscure poison or unusual clue has time to explain why they are significant and how they managed to work out who was the guilty party. An interesting introduction by Edwards shows how the need for variation in murder method occupied the minds of various writers, as admitted by Sayers, and two writers co authored these stories while Sayers herself drew on the scientific knowledge of a doctor, Robert Eustace, for an entire novel. In addition to the informative introduction there is also a short biography of each author putting the story in the context of their career and its original publication. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book. 

 

Sherlock Holmes is the expert on methodical investigation, but in his story he has to call on various skills to find the truth. Lady Studley summons the assistance of an eminent doctor when her husband exhibits strange symptoms in a story which also contains elements of gothic horror.  The very existence of bodies exercise some detectives when only tiny hints of the truth remain. Bees terrify and confuse with some reason in another story.  Doctors and scientists are drawn into the search for the truth, even when they lack social skills. One extremely clever scientist seems to have an undue influence over his assistant, but she nevertheless manages to have some rather good ideas. There are elements of fluke as investigators spot a tiny detail of the murder scene and make discoveries on which to base their investigation. An ancient game proves significant, as specialist knowledge is not limited to chemicals.  A cake recipe provides a clue in one case. Some professionals are happier to throw themselves into an investigation than others, as a murdered body can throw those who usually work with the living. Chemicals and their lie at the heart of many stories, and sometimes an investigator has to move fast in order to save lives.

 

This is a book which maintains interest as each story has to introduce characters and context, show a crime or a potential problem, and resolve it all within a limited space. This is especially so in the case of Edmund Crispin’s “Blood Sport” which draws on a particular little known scientific observation and thus identifies the culprit inside four pages.  Some stories are more based on characters and the methodical examination of motive and then finding the means, however obscure, whereas others are based on the discovery of an anomaly. These short stories are all little gems, carefully chosen and happily made available once more, all based on the vital scientific detection of experts.

 

As I said before regarding a book of short stories, I find them ideal at the moment when I am, quite honestly, finding it difficult to hold on to all the facts of a murder mystery for the full length of a long book. As I suggested in my post about books of the Second World War, I do read several books at once, and this book allows me to be distracted from it at the end of each story. I think I will check back through for other such collections that I have not reviewed.!

Mortmain Hall by Martin Edwards – a expert writer constructs a Golden Age of Detection novel

 

A Golden Age mystery written in the twenty-first century sounds unlikely, but this book proves that it is gloriously possible. Of course the author, Martin Edwards, is not only a contemporary crime author, but the writer of many of the introductions to the British Library Classic Crimes and the editor of several collections of short stories in that highly successful series. He has also written extensively on the Golden Age detective novels, so if anyone knows about the hundreds of novels written at that time it is Edwards. I was really pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this well written book. 

 

 This is the second novel to feature the incredible character of Rachel Savernake, and it follows the successful “Gallows Court”. This novel works very well on its own, combining murder mystery, thriller and several views of different lifestyles in the London of 1930. Rachel is difficult to describe, being very rich, ruthless in her actions and totally dedicated to her work. Not that it is clear what that is – she is dangerously secretive and depends on a group of three people, the Trueman family, to provide her with support in many ways. Not that she needs as much physical protection as most young wealthy women would in similar situations; as she proves in this novel she can defend herself very adequately from the overly amorous men on her own. She is frequently ahead of others in the knowledge of what is truly going on, and in this novel she has a background knowledge of old murder cases which have puzzled many for years. She can predict with some certainty what people will do in many cases, and it is her understanding of people and their motives which can seem to provide her with uncanny foreknowledge. 

 

It is other people who occupy much of the first part of this novel which begins with the mysterious mourner travelling to a funeral in a special train out of central London. Rachel appears and confronts him with his true identity. She also warns him that he is in danger if he does not allow her to rescue him immediately. His choice at this point gives even more reason to investigate several cases of judicial mistakes, especially as Rachel’s late father was a notorious judge. She contacts her previous associate, an ambitious young journalist named Jacob who has already encountered the Mrs Leonora Dobell who will provide a lot of the mysterious element of this book. It does not take long for Jacob to find himself in deep trouble. Meanwhile, the strange Reggie Vickers is discovering that his life is far from easy, despite his steady job. As Rachel begins to investigate, it seems that the answer to murder and more lies in the mysterious Mortmain Hall. Exactly how dangerous this “Old mausoleum” will be is the threat which must be resolved by more than one person determined to solve more than one mystery.

 

This novel is a very clever treatment of many of the themes familiar to readers of Golden Age Detection. A determined investigator, an element of personal danger, some death defying situations all go together to create a convincing novel that builds up suspense and maintains it. Many of the recognised ingredients of a successful detective novel are here, mixed in with a memorable investigator, her supporters and associate. I really enjoyed this novel, finding a fascinating mystery in a setting which is a detailed appreciation of the era. The seedy parts of London, the clubs of the moderately wealthy, the personalities associated with the legal system, newspapers and far more all spring to life in Edwards’ excellent book. I thoroughly recommend this book as a marvellous tribute to the tradition of detective writing, and a fascinating read in its own right.   

 

This is a book which I had been looking forward to reading, and I am happy to say that it did not disappoint. I greatly enjoyed “Gallows Court”, and I have enjoyed many of Edwards other books. The Golden age of Detection has been the subject of a lot of interest in the recent past, largely fuelled by the extremely successful British Library Crime Classic series, of which at least eighty four have been published to date. 

Another publisher who has reprinted many classic mysteries, often in sets by various authors, Is Dean Street Press. Certainly any fan of crime mysteries written in Britain in the mid twentieth century has a lot to choose from at the moment.  

Deep Waters – Mysteries on the Waves Edited by Martin Edwards – a British Library crime classics collection

Deep Waters Paperback British Library Crime Classic

 

This collection of short stories represents a selection of mysteries, mainly involving murder, which were all written in the Golden Age of Detective fiction. They are brought together by the theme of water in many forms: pools, ponds and of course, the sea. They range through the complex and clever, featuring disguise and bluff, to the basic where a simple deceit leads to arrests. There are humourous elements, as when the reminiscence of past cases gives pleasure to the investigator, whereas others reveal criminal acts that are shocking. As with other books in the British Library Crime Classics series, this book benefits from an Introduction from Martin Edwards in which he examines the common theme of mysteries connected with water, including some well known novels. Each story is prefaced with a short biography of the author, which is useful, especially given that several of the writers adopted different names when publishing their work. Altogether this is an excellent collection of short stories which covers a wide range of stories and styles, and I was very glad to have the opportunity to read and review this book.

 

This book opens with a story from Arthur Conan Doyle about his earliest case, and the introduction to his story points out that the theme of water was common in his stories. Unsurprisingly sea travel forms quite an important theme, with the risk of drowning or least the possibility of disposing of the body, giving possible explanations of death. There are clever tales of deduction by professional detectives as well as gifted amateurs whose main job is not in the law, whose different perspective proves invaluable in the detection of the guilty party. Some murders take place on board a sea vessel, surely the perfect closed community where there is a limit to the number of potential suspects. Given those restrictions, there are some extremely clever twists which emerge in these stories. Some of the stories only have a brief connection with water or the sea as they happen on the edge of rivers and the sea. The string of coincidences which lead to the detection of crime is well described in one or two stories. There are tiny mistakes which lead to the guilty party when spotted by the investigator, needing a careful inclusion in the story.

 

It is not easy to write a satisfying murder mystery in a short story format, as so much has to be established in a minimum words. The setting must be evoked, conveying a place such as on a ship and giving enough information to the non specialist reader. Characters must be established, giving a few possibilities of murderer. The crime or crimes must be observed or reported, the detection and revelation must be revealed and as necessary explained. Thus the sidekick or associate can be invaluable to explain the story. The fact that all these stories succeed in covering all these points to a certain extent is part of their great achievement. This collection happens to have a common theme, and the quality is consistently high throughout. Read straight through or picked up frequently, these are the ideal short tastes of skilled writers at their best, and this selection will not disappoint.    

 

This is an ideal book for the moment, when concentration can be a bit of a struggle. The British Library Crime Classics can still be bought at the moment – there may even be a discount available. This is a very good value book in the series as there will definitely be a story which appeals for everyone.

So, another day, another book review. I appreciate that not all the reviews appeal to everyone, but I hope that most will find a recommendation to a book of interest. I certainly hope so!

Gallows Court by Martin Edwards – London in 1930 is not a safe place to be…

Image result for gallows court martin edwards

London in 1930 is a strange place. Puzzles, death, suspicions, and one man is sure that he has the key. Rachel Savernake is always there – powerful, wealthy but at heart an enigma. Martin Edwards pulls out all the stops to create not only characters that fill the complex and many layered novel, but to create a world in which seemingly anything can happen, expectations can be overturned, and no one is safe. Edwards has used his unique knowledge of the period and the Golden Age Mystery novel to produce a powerful story which does not hinge on one murder, however complex. This novel describes a series of deaths which are perhaps suicide, perhaps extraordinary accidents, perhaps unconnected, but all seem to hang together, as the wisps of a story come together into a strong conclusion. I was delighted to receive a copy of this brilliant book to read and review.

Jacob Flint is a determined young man. He has moved from Yorkshire to make his name as a journalist in a London where self made men were common. For reasons that are perhaps unclear, he becomes convinced that a mysterious young woman, Rachel Savernake, knows something about not only the notorious crime that she has been rumoured to have solved, but also has special knowledge of various unexplained deaths among rich and powerful men. After all,  she is extraordinarily well informed about seemingly unconnected things, she is in the area when many of the deaths occur, she has few but absolutely devoted servants, and she has a great deal of money. Jacob begins to make links by determined efforts to be at the right place at the right, or wrong, time. He does begin to wonder, however, as he experiences first hand not only near misses, but the actual death of those around him. While he could walk away, be sensible, be safe, he becomes enthralled by the desperate hunt for the truth. Rachel meanwhile seems not only an observer of these desperate deaths, but also have some strange involvement. Also, throughout the novel there are inserts of a journal of a young woman, concerned with her life on an island where Rachel and her cruel father are frequently mentioned. Who is Rachel, and how does she feature in this account of collective destruction?

This is a colourful book, where no death, no murder, takes place in an isolated or colourless    manner. This is a London of seedy boarding houses, new art, gaudy theatre and new ways of death. Not that this is a gloomy novel; there is great strength of purpose and some flashes of humour as Jacob, Rachel and others act, observe and discover various truths. This is a mature, effortlessly confident novel in which Edwards uses all his skills and experience of writing contemporary murder mysteries to create mysteries within a mystery which absorbs and compels the reader to become involved. I was really bewildered at times by this book at times, but in a really good way, as just as I thought that I could see what would happen, it would suddenly plunge off in another direction. This is far from the common woman detective solving murder mysteries in the 1930s novel which is surprisingly common at the moment; this is a novel of unexpected heroes and villains.  I can whole heartedly recommend this unusual and unique book to anyone with an interest in the Golden Age of detective writing, the social life of London in the 1930s, and how the motives of a few affect the lives of many in unique ways.

 

We have gone north over the last few days to view our son’s new house and to allow the Vicar to go on a five church crawl around York today. All has gone well, as much effort has gone into the new (actually quite old) house and its period features. http://www.northernvicar.co.uk has got much material for blog posts in the near future, and daughter and I found many wonderful books in Waterstones and the Oxfam bookshop in York. I even found a folio set of Jane Austen in the latter, which is very beautiful…..

The Christmas Card Crime – A list of the Stories and Authors from the Editor

Image result for christmas card crime

One of the comments on my previous post about this book asked for a list of Stories and Authors contained in the anthology. Well, I asked the Editor, Martin Edwards, and he has provided me with the list. So, here it is:

  • Baroness Orczy – A Christmas Tragedy

    Selwyn Jepson – By the Sword

    Donald Stuart (Gerald Verner) – The Christmas Card Crime

    Ronald Knox – The Motive

    Carter Dickson – Blind Man’s Hood

    Francis Durbridge – Paul Temple’s White Christmas

    Cyril Hare – Sister Bessie

    E C R Lorac – A Bit of Wire-Pulling

    John Bude – Pattern of Revenge

    John Bingham – Crime at Lark Cottage

    Julian Symons – Twixt the Cup and the Lip

    As I said in the review, quite a range of authors represented. Keen followers of the British Library Crime Classics series will recognise some names here, and some that I have reviewed on this blog. Why not look at a few on my list of authors in the right hand panel? Thank you so much, Martin, not only for providing this list but also discovering and editing so many really great books.  If you are a fan of Classic Crime, or in need of a present for one, why not  get your hands on a copy of Martin’s book of Classic Crime novels? Here is my review https://northernreader.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/the-story-of-classic-crime-in-100-books-by-martin-edwards-the-review/

    It is a lovely read, packed with information in a very readable style. A great present for yourself or someone else!

The Christmas Card Crime and other Stories Edited by Martin Edwards – A British Library collection

Image result for Christmascard crime and other stories Edwards

Eleven stories, eleven classics, and surely something for everyone in this book of crime classics brought out in time for Christmas by the British Library. As Martin Edwards points out in his excellent introduction to this volume in the Crime Classics series, the short story is a format well suited to crime tales. There is certainly no room for lengthy descriptions, character examinations and guessing at motive when the story is only a few pages long; as Edwards points out, every word must count. In these stories every crime is set up, executed and solved (or the solution is presented) brilliantly. There are no loose ends, empty speculation or confusion, but that is not to say that there is any lack of impetus in these tales of death and double dealing.  They are all seriously enjoyable tales, often more thematically winter than actual Christmas events, and I was glad to receive a copy of this, the twelfth collection of short stories in this series.

Another fascinating element of this book is the brief introduction to each author written by Edwards, giving biographical details and the place of the story in the entire canon of writer’s work. It also points out where the story originally appeared, and how difficult it may have been to read it without this book. The author’s range from Baroness Orczy, of Scarlet Pimpernel fame, with one of her “Lady Molly” stories, a woman apparently gifted with all sorts of intuitive skills appreciated by Scotland Yard in solving murder. While Jepson’s story “By the Sword” sounds grand, it actually concerns a country house mystery of multiple motives. The eponymous story concerning a Christmas card has a large cast, an effective detective, and a railway journey affected by the wintery weather. The other stories cover a large range of situations; distantly described crimes from the oddest of motives, observations on families and relationships, and a complex tale of jewel robbery. Murder is rarely a straightforward issue in these tales, elegant schemes replace brutality, natural justice often wins out.

This book has some very welcome short stories by authors that have been largely ignored since the time of their greatest popularity; it is only with the start of this series that writers such as John Bude and E.C.R. Lorac have been rediscovered and enjoyed in the novels reprinted by the British Library. As with any collection of this nature from different authors written at different times, some novels work better than others and will appeal more to a particular reader differently at different times. However, the stories are all of a high quality and will appeal to anyone who is a fan of the Golden Age of Detection writings. Despite the festive title, these stories are not so Christmas based that they can only be read at that time of year; this book would make an excellent gift as every recipient would find stories that would appeal in this collection. While some crime novels are more suited to one reader or another, this collection has a broader range. I would recommend it has a gift or as a treat for anyone interested in mysteries written in a different age but with themes familiar even today.

Life in the Vicarage at this time is busy. The weekend was dominated by a display of nativity/ crib scenes in one of the churches. Happily we actually had more than fifty sets in the end, ranging from the tiny in a jewelry case to a large set of antique figures. Over a hundred and seventy people came to see them, including lots of small people who enjoyed spotting the main characters and various animals. It was a good day but a bit tiring. Thankfully virtually all of them have been collected intact; none of them had a huge monetary value but many had been in families for years, with children, grandchildren and even great  grandchildren expecting to see them at home. No two were the same, but I am still looking for one we bought in September and put away safely…

Blood on the Tracks – Railway Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards. An excellent British Library Crime Classic

Image result for Blood on the tracks edited Martin Edwards

Ranging from Arthur Conan Doyle to Michael Gilbert, this collection of stories edited by Martin Edwards represents a Golden Age of murder mysteries encapsulated in short stories. The common theme is railways; travel on them, as settings for untimely death, and even the use of trains as weapons. As pointed out by Edwards, they are enclosed spaces in which ‘locked room’ mysteries are contrived, as only a limited number of people are travelling in the carriages and coaches, thus providing a certain number of suspects. This collection of stories, all chosen as representative of the authors’ output, are strong tales creating a world of steam trains, timetables and solutions. I was grateful to receive a copy of this book.

From the beginning the stories in this volume include mysteries of bodies found with interesting clues. Not all the bodies are found on a train; in some the bodies are found in or near the lines. Weapons must be found, means of killing established, bodies horribly mangled to conceal other wounds. Rarely are these gentle deaths by poison or other sophisticated means, but often well thought out and dependent on the accuracy of time tables. Other crimes such as theft are facilitated by the use of trains; depending on frequency and predictability, opportunity for deceit. There are also inverted tales to be found, as the murderer is described from the start and the suspense is to be found in the possibility of detection. Sophisticated stories prevail here, as men and women plot and plan but circumstances intervene. Not all the mysteries here are sorted out by detectives; the truth emerges in various ways and there is always a satisfactory ending. I particularly enjoyed the story by Dorothy L. Sayers, as the detection and resolution is not the obvious eventual solution. At least one of these stories reveal accurate knowledge of incidents on railways which ended in death; all depend on understanding of trains, signals and the way they were run.  A few of the stories relate to the supernatural or non human agencies, they are literally haunting in their use of the supernatural and atmospheric reality of trains cloaked in steam. The power and predictability of trains is well examined here, not as dreary modes of commuter transport but scenes of struggle and emotion in so many ways.

Given the range and variety of these stories and the fifteen different authors who wrote them, it would be reasonable to expect one or two weak efforts, but actually they are all strong in their way. None have the depth and subtlety of the novels set on trains as they are all brief works, but all are clever working out of mysteries set either on trains or the lines on which they run to time and significantly, signals. This book would appeal to fans of mysteries in the grand traditions of the Golden Age, even if some are earlier and later than the inter war period. It would also be of great interest to the many who appreciate the preserved trains and lines throughout Britain, and are fascinated by the railways of previous times.

Of course , Northernvicar has shown great interest in this particular volume in the British Library Crime Classics series! I imagine he will find time to polish off a few of these stories; he has already checked some of the accuracy of the circumstances. A great value for money book….