Detective Inspector Richard Poole is trapped in his own private hell. Not that anyone else would consider the paradise of Saint-Marie hell, but Richard Poole is a special individual. And, of course, he’s also a damn fine detective. Which is rather handy, given how many murderers seem to be lurking on the island.
Polly Carter, the famous ex-supermodel – well, famous to everyone apart from Richard – has returned to her home on the island with some friends and colleagues in tow. Polly has had a troubled life, but things seem to be getting back on track – or are they? For as Polly takes her wheelchair bound twin sister for a walk, she runs off down a staircase carved into the side of a cliff. Once out of sight to everyone, she screams and is found dead at the bottom of the steps. Suicide? Of course not. A murder weapon is soon found halfway up the stairs – but with nowhere for the murderer to come from or to go to, how on earth was she killed?
It’s Christmas! Well, no, it’s November, but it’s the time to start thinking about ordering the turkey, feeding the Christmas cake, writing letters to Santa detailing that first edition of The Black Spectacles that you’d like the elves to make for you… And the time for thinking about that perfect present for that special mystery reader in your life.
Last year, Mystery In White was a surprise best-seller for the British Library Crime Classics range – must get round to that sometime soon – and for this festive season, Martin Edwards has compiled a collection of tales from well-known and less well-known authors concerning both Christmas and crime. Ho-ho-ho!
Welcome to Aberllyn, a village in Wales, and in particular The Fisherman’s Rest, an inn that provides accommodation for those individuals who think nothing more enticing that sitting at the side of a lake (or, should the mood take them, on a boat), dangling their flies into the water on the off-chance that a passing trout or salmon should be stupid enough to put it in their mouth. You can probably tell that I’m not an angler – there’s probably more to it than that.
Needless to say, there’s a spider at the heart of the fishing community, going by the name of Mrs Mumsby, who is up to something. But before her plans can come to fruition, she is found dead, with a fish-hook buried in the palm of her hand. Everyone seems perfectly happy to accept that she died of shock from the accident, except for Mr Winkley, recently arrived from Scotland Yard for a break. He suspects murder and with the help of his younger friends (brace yourself) Piggy and Pussy, sets about finding the right bait to trap a killer…
Tom French is one of the most well-known birdwatchers amongst the twitcher community. Sorry, I meant that he was one of the most well-known – as somebody smashed his head in and left him in the marsh near the town of Rushby, Norfolk. But Tom didn’t have an enemy in the world – well, not that anybody was aware of.
George Palmer-Jones, a retired civil servant and active birdwatcher, is asked to look into the murder by a concerned parent and soon finds that there are some dark undercurrents in the community. But was Tom killed for love? For hate? For revenge? Or for an even darker reason… Aided by his wife Molly, George is determined to unmask a murderer before they strike again.
First published 1892 in The Strand magazine, The Adventure Of The Blue Carbuncle is the seventh story in the first collection, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.
All together now…
“Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, They go up diddly-up-up, They go down diddly-own-down”
This applies perfectly to George Furnace, flight instructor of Baston Aero Club, but when he goes down diddly-own-down, he does so rather rapidly and crashes his plane. When a suicide note is discovered, it seems that Furnace, unable to bear a guilty secret has chosen to end his life in a spectacular fashion.
Enter Dr Edwin Marriott, the Bishop of Cootamundra, Australia, who is visiting the airfield for flying lessons and smells the proverbial rat. His basic medical training shows a problem with the time of death – against all possibilities, Furnace was apparently alive hours after the crash. And there’s also the small matter of the bullet wound…
Seymour Merriman is holidaying in Bordeaux when to his horror, he runs out of petrol. Luckily, he gets a lift to a nearby plant that constructs pit-props – you know, those wooden things that keep a mine’s ceiling from falling in. At least I think that’s what they are. Quicker than you can say “John Dickson Carr” he quickly falls in love with the owner’s daughter and, more crucially, spots a delivery lorry carefully changing the number on its side. Why on earth would it do that?
After discussing it with his curious friend, Claud Hilliard, they deduce that something shady is going on in Bordeaux. Merriman is determined to rescue his true love (whether she wants him too or not) and Hilliard is determined to solve the puzzle of the changing numbers. So off to France they go, never envisaging how exciting their upcoming adventure is going to be…