Miraculous Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

The dead body found in a room locked from the inside is the staple of the impossible crime genre – hence the reason that it’s often referred to as the locked room mystery genre. But there is so much more to the impossible crime. From the body surrounded by snow or sand with no footprints leading away from the body, the disappearing corpse, the vanishing train – OK, that only happened in one story – there are all sorts of variations in the genre.

The British Library along with Martin Edwards, have gathered together sixteen obscure and not-so-obscure short stories from the genre for another collection of short stories. So how does this collection compare to the others?

Well, to be honest, it’s an odd bunch of stories. It opens well with Conan Doyle’s The Lost Special, a non-Holmes story with a simple explanation of the vanishing train and there are some other equally entertaining tales here. But mostly, they’re entertaining as mysteries – some of the impossible crime elements are either a little bizarre (and unsolvable) for my tastes, while some others are methods that won’t surprise some readers – although to be fair, those elements occur in some of the best old tales.

There are stories here from better-known authors, such as Sax Rohmer, R Austen Freeman, G K Chesterton, Sapper, Christopher St John Sprigg, Michael Innes, Edmund Crispin, the Coles, Dorothy L Sayers and Margery Allingham – the latter two contributing my least favourite of the tales – and other obscure writers such as William Hope Hodgion, Nicholas Olde, Marten Cumberland and E Charles Vivian.

The biggest problem with the collection is the necessity of ignoring some authors due their lack of Britishness. Most of these tales represent rare forays into the impossible crime genre from these authors – indeed, some of them are rare forays into mystery itself – so the old hands of the genre, namely John Dickson Carr, Clayton Rawson and Ellery Queen, don’t get a look in. Which is understandable, due to this being from the British Library, but a real shame that nothing in the collection comes close to the finest locked room mysteries, such as The House In Goblin Wood and Off The Face Of The Earth.

As I said, this is a fine collection of mysteries with impossible elements, but lacking a truly great impossible crime. Well Worth A Look.

Advertisements

13 comments

  1. Thanks for the review. 🙂 I believe the British Library will be releasing a collection of translated foreign short story mysteries: called ‘Foreign Bodies’, I think? Which would make for a good counterpoint to ‘Miraculous Mysteries’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeah i passed on this entry in favor of “foreign bodies”. not many of the stories inside this collection are rare of released for the first time, whereas “foreign bodies” promised never-localized stories from masters of foreign crime. cannot wait.

      Like

  2. A nice review. I’ve just finished reading this collection myself and actually I found it quite refreshing in that it left out the usual suspects of the impossible crime genre. The choices for these British Library collections are always quirky and unexpected and, for me, all the better for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your conclusion is pretty much the same as mine: a nice and even handed collection of short stories, but lacked a standout story with a truly great and memorable impossible crime. The ones by Chesterton and Sayers are classics, but already very well known among readers of GAD and locked rooms. Still a nice addition to the stack of locked room anthologies.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Did I misunderstand, or did you say that there is only one story with a vanishing train? Because I can come up with two off the top of my head, both of them classics.

    Snowball in July by Ellery Queen
    The Lost Special by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s