This anthology is a real treat for the classic crime fans among us, but, I have no doubt, it can also be cherished by all bookworms alike! Edited by Martin Edwards, as usual, Murder by the Book features a mix of tales by familiar authors (thanks to British Library Crime Classic reprints) and a few obscure ones. This time around, Martin Edwards has even included a story by Philip MacDonald, a British author who immigrated to America, which turned out to be my favorite! Because the theme of this collection is bibliomysteries, the quality of the stories vary – in some of them, the book link is not quite as strong as others. But most stories got 4 stars or more from me.
In Malice Domestic by Philip MacDonald, Carl Borden, the protagonist, is a “writer of some merit.” Carl has been married to Annette for nine years. To outsiders, they seem blissfully married, but as their intimates have come to know, there’s trouble brewing in paradise. So when Carl begins to get bouts of illness, Tom, the village doctor, is obviously concerned. Has Annette been poisoning Carl is the question that keeps ringing in Tom’s mind. But as it will be revealed in the end, this is an ingeniously plotted crime!
Carl is not the only writer in this collection who is unhappy in their marriage. Geoffrey Gilroy, the protagonist of Victor Canning’s A Question of Character, is mad that the popularity of his wife Martha’s novels have eclipsed his own! When they married ten years ago, Geoffrey had already been an established writer, and Martha, his typist. Geoffrey has never been good at bringing his characters to life, so Martha has become his sounding board and given him suggestions for improvement before she began to write on her own. Now her books have become bestsellers, while Geoffrey’s book sales are dwindling, and the last straw is when someone refers to Geoffrey as ‘Martha’s husband!’ This has bruised Geoffrey’s ego terribly, so he is plotting to kill Martha, which, in his mind, would undoubtedly become his masterpiece. But would the murder go according to the plan? Or would Geoffrey’s inability to understand why people behave the way they do get in his way? This is a very memorable story!
I don’t think one would expect a bibliomystery to end on a happy note, so The Book of Honor by John Creasey is a unique addition to the collection. Keeping up with the theme, a crime takes place in this story set in India, although it is not a gruesome one. So the highlight is on the three-decades-long friendship between a British and an Indian, in this heartwarming tale!
Compared to The Book of Honor, Dear Mr Editor… by Christianna Brand gave me chills! A letter from an editor to an unnamed author asking for a contribution to an anthology has been misdelivered. Minna, the letter’s accidental recipient and a woman with a disturbed mind, is intrigued by the editor’s request for “a nice creepy sort of story full of color and horror and all the rest.” Minna has just the story that she intends to write, but she wants to see how practical her plot is, so Helen, Minna’s caretaker must die! This story is creepy because it is impossible to reason with Minna who is hellbent on killing Helen for the sake of a perfect plot. Helen’s attempts to trick Minna and save herself only make Minna angrier, so this story kept me at the edge of my seat, wondering how it would end! And I was treated to a very satisfactory resolution in the end. 🙂
This book will make a nice Christmas stocking stuffer for book lovers!
Note: Many thanks to British Library Publishing for sending me a review copy of Murder by the Book.