Friday, January 8, 2021

Murder in Midwinter - edited by Cecily Gayford

I've spent today with what I can only describe as a politics/current affairs hangover. Between Covid, Brexit, and whatever that was in America it's all been a lot. I suppose one thing to be grateful for is that the current lockdown is eclipsing some of the Brexit issues that might otherwise be painfully obvious. The only places I've been are my local market and M&S food hall. If I can't shop outside, then M&S is at least spacious, well staffed, and never hugely busy. In M&S there are not only gaps on the shelves, but gaps where shelves have been removed. 

On the whole though, it's not something I want to think about much here where it feels like the most useful thing I can do is concentrate on positive things - such Jane Grigson's suggestions for red cabbage, and books I've enjoyed. Which brings me to 'Murder in Midwinter'.

I think this is the 5th in what has become an annual Christmas tradition from Profile books. I have the last 3 of them, but as far as I can tell I've only read last years 'Murder at Christmas' which I was slightly underwhelmed by. It was okay, but not as good as the British Library Christmas collections that I've become used too. 

'Murder in Midwinter' is in my opinion a much better collection and has me re-assessing how much I want the earlier collections (much more now). Midwinter is a slightly wider remit than Christmas which perhaps helps with the selection but I liked everything in this one, and enjoyed the variety of writers too. I guess both John Mortimer and Ruth Rendell fall well without the golden age remit of the BL books - but the Rendell has fun referencing a couple of golden age lady sleuths, and Rumpole of the Bailey is always a treat for me. 

There's a version of Anthony Berkley's Chocolate Box mystery (titled The Avenging Chance this time) which is always satisfying, and Ellis Peters 'A Present for Ivo' has an equally satisfying pulp fiction (genre not film) feel to it. Edward D. Hoch's 'The Man From Nowhere' treads the line between murder mystery and weird tale which makes it ideal midwinter reading too.

Unlike previous lockdown's I'm actually managing to read quite a lot at the moment, but even so I'm keeping a big stack of short stories to hand. A good collection will keep me busy when I can't decide what I'm really in the mood for, a short story will generally hold even my wandering attention when a novel will not, and this selection is comfortingly traditional. 

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