Following on from my review of Leo Bruce’s collection of short stories, Murder In Miniature, I thought I’d finish up my reading for January with another such collection, this one from John Dickson Carr, published in 1963 but containing stories from up to two decades earlier. It features two problems for Colonel March of The Department For Queer Complaints to deal with, two for Gideon Fell, two “Secret Service Stories” and a novella detailing the final case for Sir Henry Merrivale.
Disappearing men and women, a ghost hunter scared to death, a man murdered while robbing his own house, a woman strangled surrounded by undisturbed sand, a trip to Napoleonic France and a threat heard when nobody is around to say it. Seven tales from the master of the locked room mystery – but are these classics?
Two years have passed since the events of Taking Pity. The threat from the Headhunters, a ruthless group determined to take control of the Hull underworld, seems to have been dealt with but new problems have arisen. Hannah Kelly, a young woman, has been missing for nine months and her fate is haunting DS Aector McAvoy. Another girl, Ava Delaney, has been found brutally murdered in her flat. Two disparate crimes, but McAvoy is having trouble getting the images of the girls out of his head.
Meanwhile, his boss, Trish Pharaoh, is the scapegoat for an investigation gone terribly wrong and is on the verge of making a very bad mistake. His colleague DC Helen Tremberg has been transferred to the Drug Squad, but has stumbled across evidence of a serial killer, one determined to punish wrongdoers. Disparate strands leading the investigators in different directions – but some of them at least are soon going to converge – and it won’t be pretty when they do…
Rupert Croft-Cooke was a prolific writer who, under the pseudonym Leo Bruce, wrote over thirty detective novels between 1936 and 1974. The first eight feature Sergeant Beef and the remaining feature Carolus Deene (about whom I know absolutely nothing). Between 1950 and 1957, Bruce also wrote a bucketload of short stories, some featuring Beef, some featuring Sergeant Grebe and some without a sleuth. Those stories were written for the Evening Standard – and they are all reproduced in this collection.
There are twenty eight mini-mysteries here, tales of would-be perfect crimes, masterclasses of deduction and scheming murderers. But it’s a fairly pricey tome – is it worth your while?
Kappa Kappa Tau is the sorority from hell at Wallace University, dominated by Chanelle Oberlin and her coven of acolytes, all re-named Chanelle Number X in honour of their leader. The sorority has a secret however – twenty years ago, a sister died in childbirth during a party. The death was covered up and the child disappeared… until now.
As a new term starts, Dean Munsch is determined to sort out Kappa Kappa Tau, and Chanelle in particular, once and for all. But so does somebody else (or is it somebody else?) Someone wearing the college mascot Red Devil costume is killing off… well, basically anyone they feel like who has a vague connection with the sorority and they’re not being subtle about. But who is the killer? How high is the death toll going to get? And is it all going to make sense at the end of the day?
The bombs are falling on London and Kate Mayhew, a frustrated theatrical type, decided that she’s going to head for the countryside – not for fear of her life, but her head has been turned by a cry for help. Young Sidney Brentwood has disappeared in the Welsh countryside and Kate is determined to find him.
On arriving, it seems that nobody has a clue what happened to him. He went out one evening, with his net, and never returned. Did he have an accident? Was he spirited away by “gypsies”? Or is something more sinister happen in the Welsh countryside, away from the prying eyes of the authorities? With no sign of Sidney, dead or alive, Kate’s investigations are going to get her into more and more danger?
Meet Algernon Vereker, an artist (amongst other things) who is looking for a new challenge – and one is about to land in his lap.
Lord Bygrave, a Minister, left work on Friday night, heading to the countryside for a week’s break. He checks into a small hotel… and is never seen again. No evidence of foul play, no evidence of anything, really. But a national newspaper is offering a reward for information on the Minister, dead or alive. Inspector Heather of Scotland Yard is assigned to investigate – but the executor of Lord Bygrave’s decides to look into things as well. That executor? Algernon Vereker…
As Vereker and Heather begin their parallel investigations, it seems they are going nowhere – with no trace of a body but no trace of a living Lord Bygrave either, will either of them get to the bottom of the mystery of his fate?
A shadow is hanging over Stoke Druid a village in Somerset. A campaign of poison pen letters is setting the villagers on edge, driving one young girl to suicide. The letters are signed by The Mocking Widow, a figure from local legend, symbolised by the giant rock situated on the outskirts, allegedly a witch turned to stone. But one villager, a bookseller, has the intelligence to summon help before things get any worse. Help in the shape of the Old Man himself, Sir Henry Merrivale.
Making his usually rambunctious entrance, Merrivale finds himself deeply concerned by the campaign of terror and fears things are going to get worse – and, of course, he’s right. The Widow herself materialises and vanishes into and out of a locked room and soon… well, eventually, someone else lies dead. Can H.M. put an end to the troubles and unmask the Widow?