After reading some Wimsey and Poirot short mystery stories not too long ago, I thought I’d take a break. But, another collection of short stories worked its way into the rotation in between some book club reading. I’d found the previous collections easy to pick up and read at breakfast or lunch, or when I only had a little bit of time in the evening. Continental Crimes turned out to consist of longer stories than the other two collections contained. For the most part, that was an asset.
Prior to these three collections, I don’t think I’d read many short story mysteries. All that comes to mind are a couple stories from one of the Noir collections and a Mississippi Delta novella from Carolyn Haines. My husband has asked me about writing short stories and, so far, I haven’t had any ideas for a short story mystery. I’m still a little bewildered about how to pull off the mystery in such a short space without making it entirely obvious or ridiculously opaque.
This collection was full of some fantastic Golden Age writers, including many I’d never read before, but have heard of via the Shedunnit podcast. (I highly recommend that podcast if you love classic mysteries… it’s outstanding.) I had my first introduction to Father Brown from G.K. Chesterton. That story, “The Secret Garden,” had an interesting twist that I only vaguely put together ahead of time. It was enough to pique my interest in Father Brown and I think I’ll have to see if I can dig up the first mystery featuring him.
I was pleased to see J. Jefferson Farjeon included in the collection, but then didn’t like the story very much. It was atmospheric and felt more gothic than anything. But it had a touch of the supernatural about it. I’m not opposed to the supernatural elements, but they aren’t my favorite to read. The story “The Room in the Tower” had some lovely descriptions, but was light on mystery.
This was also my first introduction to Ian Hay, Marie Belloc Lowndes, Josephine Bell, and Michael Gilbert. I’d be pleased to find some more stories or books by these writers to explore a little more fully what their writing was like. At least a couple of them I know I can find via the British Library Crime Classics re-releases.
I’ll also be interested to pick up a couple of the other British Library Crime Classics collections after reading this one. There’s one that centers on train mysteries, one to do with water, and another that features animals. And a whole collection of Scottish mysteries, too. That might be the one I look for first at the library.
Do you have a favorite short story mystery? I’d like to keep adding to my list and will always take recommendations.
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