I've sold the books that I could bear to part with - my sitting room wall looks oddly empty now that the couple of hundred volumes stacked against the radiator have gone, and though it doesn't seem to have made any difference to what space is left on the shelves (an indication of how many books were stacked under things, or just in piles against things) collectively the whole lot seems a little less daunting now. I have a much better idea of what I've got sitting around, can find the books I want more easily, and have slowed down the knitting and increased the amount of reading I'm doing in the last few days. It feels good.
The choice of books has undoubtedly helped on the feel good front too, and after 'English Pastoral' and 'The Eternal Season', 'Guilty Creatures' seemed the obvious choice for something different but nature related. It was also a good choice.
I'm a long term fan of the British Library Crime Classics, particularly it's short stories, and the best thing about that has been seeing how the series continues to evolve. I suppose it could have lost momentum, but as it is both this and the Weird Tales just continue to improve. This is probably partly due to the breadth of topics both now cover. I'd also like to think that there's a shared confidence between the readers and the team behind the books. I'll make the assumption that anything in the series is worth a look, because so far it always has been.
'Guilty Creatures' is blessed with a particularly lush cover, it's from a vintage railway poster celebrating the wildlife of Norfolk. The Heron in particular has an extremely stabby look about it and the bearded tit next to it doesn't look much more friendly, it's an inspired choice.
The stories themselves are great, with the possible exception of the late Conan Doyle (from 1926) that starts the collection. Conan Doyle liked it, and Martin Edwards puts in a good word for it, but the title is a massive clue so I knew the answer far to soon. On the other hand it has a bit of fun with Holmes and that's enjoyable - and starting these collections with a Conan Doyle story is something of a tradition.
The best thing from my point of view though is that a lot of these stories verge on the weird - two passions in one collection is a bonus. F. Tennyson jesse's 'The Green Parakeet' definitely has a weird element, and so I think does H. C. Bailey's 'The Yellow Slugs'. I might put Christinna Brand's 'The Hornet's Nest', and Garnett Radcliffe's 'Pit of Screams' in the same category too - all of them are more mystery than weird, but all have something a little uncanny and gothic in their atmosphere.
It's a splendid collection, the animal theme is perfect for bringing together a particularly diverse range of stories, and that in turn makes it my favourite kind of lazy afternoon reading. Highly recommended.