Thursday, August 8, 2019

Deep Water, Mysteries on the Waves - edited by Martin Edwards

I've always found August a strange sort of inbetween month. Growing up in Shetland, August could throw some distinctly autumnal days at you, the long twilight hours of midsummer are going, and the new school year loomed. Even as an adult it's a month that makes me think more of endings than beginnings. In retail it's when Christmas planning starts in earnest. Looking out the window the landscape has an overcooked feel, and altogether my current employment status is all of a piece with how I see this month.

I can't settle to much, I'm finding it easier to knit than read, and when I am reading I'm drifting towards short stories. I actually read 'Deep Waters' whilst I was on holiday back in June. It was the perfect book for the ferry journey to and from Shetland - not least because much of the water involved was river rather than ocean (there's even a swimming pool).

It's an enjoyable collection - as I would expect from the crime classics series, with plenty of variety. I love these for holiday reading because there's something for most moods, nothing demands to much attention, and short stories fit so well into the odd pockets of time when I actually get to read in (rather than the weeks of uninterrupted reading time I still sometimes imagine I might get).

'Deep Waters' gives everything from the pulpiest of efforts involving piranhas trained to kill on demand (sort of) to Kem Bennett's masterly 'The Queer Fish' which perfectly draws the line between comedy and drama. A couple of the stories flirt with suggestions of the supernatural before resolving themselves into something closer to science fiction.

There is also the last appearance of Raffles (E. W. Hornung's amateur cracksmen - gentleman cricketer and burgler) in 'The Gift of the Emperor'. I read a collection of Raffles stories in a cheap Wordsworth Classics edition one August well over 20 years ago, but not this one. I'm not sure I'd ever given it much thought, but this isn't the end I would have imagined. It was unexpectedly melancholy, more so in an anthology that separates them from their previous exploits (in which setting it would sound more like just desserts). As it stands it's another example of how well Edwards puts together these collections.

They're beautifully balanced, and together his collections are always more than the sum of their parts. That piranha story that in another setting would be to silly for words is the perfect seasoning in this book, as is Raffles last adventure. Perfect summer reading indeed.

2 comments:

  1. I have this pre ordered, since we have to wait for the American edition. I'm really looking forward to it.

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  2. Hello Hayley, I haven't been here for a while and so have only just caught up on your job news. I hope that everything works out for you and something you love comes up. And that in the mean time you get to enjoy Christmas for once...

    I keep meaning to read some Raffles. I don't think I could cope with the piranhas after seeing a James Bond film with similar at an impressionable age.

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