Yes, I really haven’t forgotten that I’m still making my way through the wonderful collection of vintage crime stories, “The Dead Witness” – and after the debacle with “The Infatuations” it seemed like a safe place to go…. I took on another trio of tales, and jolly enjoyable they were, too!

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The Absent-Minded Coterie by Robert Barr

This turned out to be a story I know well as I read it in a collection of Barr’s tale of Eugene Valmont (which I reviewed here) and I’d already read it in a previous collection. Suffice to say, Barr and Valmont make excellent reading, and this tale of a clever con artist is worthy anybody’s time; really, detective stories this enjoyable don’t deserve to be forgotten. Highly recommended!

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The Hammer of God by G.K. Chesterton

Ah, Father Brown! I recall reading a lot of Father Brown stories in my early days of classic crime reading, and recall thinking that the eponymous cleric was, well – odd! Certainly Chesterton is a great and very inventive writer (I’ve read some of his other works and they’re strange but compelling). This tale of the detecting priest involves a dissolute old rake being struck down by a hammer from God, which really couldn’t have been wielded by a human being. The only possible suspects are the man’s wife and her (possible) lover – but the wife is not strong enough, and the lover was miles away with a perfect alibi. Fortunately, Father Brown sees all and knows all and is able to bring about justice. I rather think I might like to go back and revisit these tales in the not too distant future.

The Crime at Big Tree Portage by Hesketh Prichard

The last tale in this batch was an unusual and pleasant diversion. Set in the wilds of Canada, the story features the tracker November Joe; adept at reading signs in the woods (and everywhere else), he detects in a kind of Sherlockian way but in a completely opposite landscape to that of Holmes’ city based adventures.

A man named Henry Lyon has been murdered in a woodland camp, and a reward is offered. Joe, and his Watson-like sidekick Quaritch, set off through the forest to track down (literally) the murder. There’s danger, detecting and the dispensation of woodland justice, which is quite forward-thinking and very satisfactory. Again, this is an author and detective who warrant wider recognition, and I shall be keeping my eyes out for more of Prichard’s work too.

So, three more enjoyable tales, and I think I only have another three left until the book is finished… which means I’ll have to look out for another vintage crime fix! πŸ™‚

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