Sunday, January 22, 2017

Crimson Snow edited by Martin Edwards

My mother was wondering why January tends to drag so much earlier today. I'm wondering where it goes and why it's in such a hurry. I had plans for lazy reading and a bit of knitting today, but it's 8 o'clock and I still haven't managed to do either. I have made some bergamot curd though, and I'm finally tackling the pile of hooks that I read before Christmas...

I thought 'Crimson Snow' had better get written about first, and whilst it's still wintery enough outside to compliment them. I know I say this every time, but I really, really, love the short story collections from the British Library classics collections and this one more than lived up to the high expectations I had for it.

What makes this collection stand out is a slightly darker tone that creeps in from time to time. I like golden age murders mysteries precisely because the emphasis is on the mystery rather than the murder, and because the victims conveniently tend to be the sort of people we would generally be better off without. Ianthe Jerrold's 'Off the Tiles' quietly suggests that murder is a messy business, apt to go wrong, and generally a very bad idea. Josaphine Bell's 'The Carol Singers' takes it a step further with the victim, an elderly woman at home alone, subjected to a horrifying ordeal. The end of that story veers off into something unexpected (and quite gruesome), it ends this collection, and as a last word it's hard to top.

Victor Gunn's 'Death in December' is a more traditional romp in a snowbound country house, it has the hint of a ghost story about it with bodies going missing and bumps in the night, which being almost novella length makes for an excellent centrepiece to the collection. Otherwise almost everything had a slightly unexpected (to me at least) element and it was good to be kept guessing, not least because it bodes well for the future of the series.

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