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gertrude

February 2018

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Capital Crimes: London Mysteries ed. Martin Edwards

capitalcrimes

This is another book in the British Library Crime Classics series, with its lovely covers. As the title tells you, the theme here is that all the short stories are set in London. Make it a Sherlock Holmesian London of rain and fog, fill it with mean streets and dark alleys, drop in a few well known place names and you can hardly fail to write a story of interest.

Some of the authors are famous: Conan Doyle, Edgar Wallace, Ernest Bramah, Anthony Berkeley, Margery Allingham. But who knew that John Oxenham (father of Elsie J.) or E M Delafield had written detective stories? The Oxenham is terrible, in my opinion; it’s hard to believe what a popular writer he was in his day. You wouldn’t think a story about a serial killer at loose on the London Underground could possibly be dull, yet Oxenham makes it so. The best thing about it is that you can recognise the station names and picture the scenes clearly. The E M Delafield story is a distinctive one. I think that, given that story blind and asked to guess which of the authors here had written it, I’d have guessed correctly.

Martin Edwards’ introduction is excellent, as are his prefaces to each story. It’s fascinating to learn more about some of the less well known authors, their various pen names and their connection to The Detection Club. This is really invaluable research and Martin Edwards has done all lovers of crime stories a favour.

The collection of stories in Capital Crimes is one of the best I’ve read in the BLCC series. Surprisingly, the stand out story in this anthology for me is by Hugh Walpole, the once popular author of the Herries Chronicles and the Jeremy books. In The Silver Mask there is no murder within the timescale of the story, no police or detectives. Yet it gave me the horrors.

I read this courtesy of NetGalley.

Comments

I really enjoyed this and agree about the Oxenham although he does have a strong sense of place.
I felt that telling the story through newspaper reports made it less frightening than it should have been. It was all rather clinical.