Today I take a quick look at every story included in the Murder by the Book short story collection!
- Editor: Martin Edwards
- Series: British Library Crime Classics #101
- Genre: Murder Mystery
- No. of pages: 304
- Dates read: 22.03.2022 – 24.03.2022
- Star Rating: 3 stars
Plot: There is no better hiding place for clues – or red herrings – than inside the pages of a book. But in this world of resentful ghost writers, indiscreet playwrights and unscrupulous book collectors, literary prowess is often a prologue to disaster. This is a short story collection including stories from classic crime writers who haven written tales where the world of books and publishing is the main theme.
A Lesson in Crime by G.D.H. Cole and M Cole – 2 stars
This story follows an author who gets murdered. I felt that this was a good introduction to the kind of stories we would see in this collection. But unfortunately, the story was wrapped up very quickly with no set-up or time to solve anything. It ended as quickly as it started. While I liked the point the author was trying to make, about crimes in crime novels being overly complicated. The story itself had an unsatisfying conclusion from a mystery standpoint.
Trent and the Ministering Angel by E.C. Bently – 3.5 stars
The way the theme is used in this story enters spoiler territory so I will keep that one to myself. This one I enjoyed a lot more than the first one. The story was a bit longer, there was more of a set-up and more of an investigation. I felt that we were really following someone who was trying to solve a mystery while the other story felt that it just handed you the answers in gift wrap rather than trying to solve it. While this story was a bit predictable I enjoyed reading it nonetheless.
A Slice of Bad Luck by Nicholas Blake – 3.5 stars
In this story, a murder takes place at a meeting for fellow authors. The setting is based on the real-life Detectives club where authors of crime/detective fiction and the like would meet up for dinners to chat about stories etc. Now, this story was really good. Again, a well-paced set-up, a good level of investigation for a short story and a solid conclusion. But unlike the story before, which fell into more predictable territory, this story had a few twists.
The Strange Case of the Megatherium Thefts by S. C. Roberts – 3 stars
This story actually involves the crime of missing books rather than murder. This is actually a Sherlock Holmes short story. Written by a different author obviously. I guessed the outcome pretty early but what I liked about this was watching Holmes explain how he figured out the answer. From character behaviour to setting etc. It was expertly written. Not the most engaging story though.
Malice Domestic by Philip MacDonald – 5 stars
Now this story on the other hand was incredible. This story includes a character who is an author. That is all I can say. This was well-paced, had super engaging writing, a plot that had me on the edge of my seat. I felt this story was expertly crafted and really lures you in giving you a false sense of security. After reading this, I was super excited as I was nervous I wasn’t going to read any 5-star stories.
A Savage Game by A.A. Milne – 3 stars
In this story a crime author is approached by the police to see if he can solve a murder. This story I happened to solve early on but I thought only one thing pointed to the murderer and was then shocked when Milne proceeded to list numerous things that pointed to why that character was the murderer. As stories go this was very middle of the road.
The Clue in the Book by Julian Symons – 1 star
The writing in this story is very ableist and dated. The editor makes it clear in the introduction with a warning about the vocabulary used to describe one particular character. As you can guess by the title, a major clue in this story is to do with a book. In terms of plot, I felt this story was completely underdeveloped. When the reveal happened I was just left underwhelmed. Nothing was set up well at all.
The Manuscript by Gladys Mitchell – 1 star
Again, as you can tell by the title the focus of the story is an unpublished manuscript. This story fell short mainly because it was set up like it was going one particular way but then tried to do a twist. That twist was an awful choice. It made no real sense and felt like a cop-out. When I read it I literally was like “that is what you decided to go with???” Very disappointed.
A Man and his Mother-in-Law by Roy Vickers – 5 stars
Now the connection to the theme here is very important to the story so I won’t tell you. This was one of the longer stories in the collection and was really an exploration of character and power dynamics. It felt like a character study and I was super invested in this story despite learning the outcome in the first couple of sentences. It was less about the plot and more about the different characters that left me so intrigued.
Grey’s Ghost by Michael Innes- 1 star
To be honest, I have literally forgotten everything about this story it was so unmemorable.
Dear Mr. Editor by Christianna Brand – 4.5 stars
This story takes the form of a letter written to an editor. The use of narrative voice in this story was done expertly well. I was really intrigued by the author of this letter. I liked exploring their mind and psyche. I felt this story in particular went a completely different way compared to the other books in the collection. It was like a breath of fresh air. Every other story was just structured like a stereotypical novel. But with this story, it was structured and presented in a very different way, that of a letter.
Murder in Advance by Marjorie Bremner – 3 stars
This story focuses on the death of a playwright. This story had a really interesting premise. I felt that everything was set up really well, we got to sit down and investigate people individually. I liked the way the story was structured. The first half was about the author setting up the main theory and the second half was about interviewing the suspects. I felt the ending was a bit easy to suss out but I liked that the author gave you all the information you needed for you to solve it yourself.
A Question of Character by Victor Canning – 5 stars
Another 5 stars for me. In this story, a successful writer plans to murder his wife who has become a more successful writer than him. In this one, I really enjoyed following the character around as he plans a murder. Watching the cogs work in his brain, doing the problem solving etc. It’s a super interesting point of view to follow as you don’t normally get that POV in other crime/murder mysteries.
Book of Honour by John Creasey – 2 stars
This follows a man who travels to India who he helps start his journey to becoming a successful bookseller. This story was average and not super memorable.
We Know You’re Busy Writing… by Edmund Crispin – 3 stars
This story follows an author who is trying to finish writing his book. This story had some really fun dialogue choices and really interesting characters. What I liked the most is that many a writer can relate to the main character as he tries to sit down and meet his deadline but keeps getting interrupted.
Chapter and Verse by Ngaio Marsh – 2 stars
This story had so much potential but really fell flat at the end. Maybe it was book fatigue by the end as I had read so many short stories in a small space of time but by the end, I predicted the ending and sort of just felt underwhelmed and meh by it all.
Overall, I really enjoyed this collection. While it may look like I gave low ratings to each story I just had a fun time reading them. I would definitely read more of these collections in the future.