Crimson Snow, edited by Martin Edwards
I really am getting into the groove with my Golden Age crime reading at the moment. It seems particularly suited to this time of year, and the new collection of short stories, “Crimson Snow”, is absolutely perfect, featuring as it does crimes that take place in the dead of winter! I’ve read a few of the BL short story collections which have all been fantastic, and this one is again in the more than capable editorial hands of Martin Edwards.
“Crimson Snow” collects together 11 stories set in the middle of the coldest of the seasons, and of course the concept of a snowed in country house lends itself well to a murder mystery; in fact several of the stories do take place in that kind of setting, and some do have a hint of supernatural thrown in to add a frisson, even if that’s eventually debunked. The stories are presented chronologically, starting with Fergus Hulme’s “The Ghost’s Touch” and ending with Josephine Bell’s “Carol Singers”, and there are a wide variety of authors. Interestingly, the majority of the authors were ones I hadn’t read before so it was really good to be able to explore new writers. In fact, as far as I can recall I’ve only read Allingham before, so this was a real voyage of discovery!
When reviewing short stories I’m never quite sure how much detail to go into, so I think I’ll touch on favourites and give some general thoughts. “The Chopham Affair” by Edgar Wallace was very enjoyable – he was astonishingly prolific and although this is probably pulp, it was great fun. The Fergus Hulme had a bit of scariness thrown in, as did “Death in December” by Victor Gunn. This latter, one of the longer pieces, was very memorable; there was plenty of spookiness and wicked deeds, and Gunn’s regular detective, Chief Inspector “Ironsides” Cromwell, was great fun.
Another treat was in the form of “Mr. Cork’s Secret” by Macdonald Hastings. Cork is the head of Anchor Insurance company, and ends up spending his festive season investigating a murder and jewel theft at a luxury hotel. It’s a satisfying mystery which ends up with the reader being challenged to find out what Cork’s secret actually is – and the solution is given at the end. Margery Allingham’s “The Man with the Suit” is of course a standout, being a wonderful tale featuring Mr. Campion; it’s reproduced here in its original, longer form and has the classic, snowy country house setting. Campion himself is a joy and reading this made me even keener to revisit more of Allingham’s work.
Even the later stories could be described as Golden Age, except for one slightly anachronistic tale in the form of Bell’s “Carol Singers”. This brings us into the more modern world, closing the collection on a downbeat note and a leaving a slightly bitter taste. An old lady living on her own is preyed upon by young hoodlums, and it’s a sad story; although the guilty are tracked down, it still takes us away from the slightly less realistic atmosphere of GA crime.
So, another wonderful book from the British Library Crime Classics, and perfect for festive reading. I particular enjoyed getting to know some new authors, and I think I’ll definitely follow up some of the names featured here to see what else of theirs is available – always happy to find new writers to read! 🙂
(Review copy kindly provided by the publishers, for which many thanks!)