Crimson Snow: Winter Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

Deep and crisp and even…

😀 😀 😀 😀

crimson-snowThe latest addition to the British Library themed anthologies of classic crime, this one includes eleven stories all set around the festive season. A great time for people to get together in family gatherings or country house parties, and bump each other off. Who amongst us hasn’t thought that the one thing that would improve Christmas would be the quick dispatching of one of our nearest and dearest, or that the only way to pay for all those gifts would be to hasten the inheritance from one of our much loved rich relatives? Or is that just me? On the basis of the evidence in this book, I’m not alone in thinking Christmas is a particularly jolly time for a murder…

As with the earlier anthologies, this one is introduced and edited by Martin Edwards who also gives a short introduction to each story telling a little about the author. There’s the usual mix of well-known authors – Margery Allingham, Edgar Wallace – and forgotten ones, and as always the quality of the individual stories varies. However, overall I thought this was a more consistent collection than the last couple – none of the stories rate as less than three stars for me and there are plenty of fours and a sprinkling of fives. The lengths also vary from a few pages to a couple of the stories being what I’d think of as novelette length – taking an hour or so to read.

chalk-outline

There’s a nice variety of whodunits and howdunits, some dark and serious, others lighter and more quirky, and a few with ghostly aspects to add to the winter chills. And there’s fog and feverish policemen, and wicked carol-singers, and isolated houses with all access cut off by snow… perfect accompaniment to a mug of hot chocolate and a seat near the fire!

Here are a few of the ones I enjoyed most…

The Ghost’s Touch by Fergus Hume – when the narrator is invited to spend the festive season as a guest in a haunted country house, one feels he should have swiftly invented a prior engagement. However, clearly he doesn’t read crime novels, because off he goes, all cheerful and expecting to have a good time. Hah! After the fire, the ghost, and a meeting with the murderer at the dead of night, I suspect he changed his mind… The plot in this one is totally obvious, but nevertheless the author manages to get a nice atmosphere of tension going, and it’s very well written.

crime-scene-tape

Death in December by Victor Gunn – a great cross between ghost and crime story, this one is probably going to appear on a future Tuesday Terror! post so I won’t go into detail. It’s one of the longer stories in the collection, giving time for a bit more characterisation than usual and both the detectives, grumpy Bill “Ironside” Cromwell and his sidekick, lovely Johnny Lister, are well drawn and fun. There are aspects of both who and how in this one, not to mention some genuinely scary bits, all topped off with a lot of humour. And a nice little bit of detection too…

Mr Cork’s Secret by Macdonald Hastings – When Montague Cork’s firm insures a valuable necklace, Montague begins to worry about its safety. So off he goes with his wife to a top London hotel where the owner of the necklace is expected to be staying. He’s lucky to get a room at such short notice, especially at Christmas time. Not so lucky for the person who vacated the room, though – since he was carried out feet first by the police, headed for the morgue. Could the murder have anything to do with the necklace? It’s up to Montague to find out… This has a nice twist in that when it was originally published the author held one fact back as part of a competition. Edwards has left it like that, but at the end of the book, gives the solution as provided by the author, along with the prize-winners’ suggestions.

handcuffs

Deep and Crisp and Even by Michael Gilbert – PC Petrella is covering for his boss over Christmas, and takes his duties seriously. So it’s unfortunate that he develops a feverish cold leaving him weak and a bit confused. But when he suspects a house in the neighbourhood has been burgled, he’s determined to track the perpetrator, even when he’s near collapse himself. Complete with carol-singing, dreadful weather and seasonal illness, this is a fun little story with a neat twist.

* * * * *

So plenty of good stuff here, and a lot of the stories make excellent use of either weather or the holidays to add to the atmosphere and tension. I’m thoroughly enjoying these anthologies – even the less good stories are always fun for seeing the different attitudes and writing styles of the time, and the little author bios add a bit of context, putting each story into its appropriate place in the development of crime fiction. I also like the way they’re themed, and this theme in particular works well – I suppose that these would mostly have originally been published in Christmas editions of magazines, and perhaps that inspired the authors to show off their best. Next to the London-themed one, this is probably my favourite of the collections so far. I do hope there will be more…

blood-spatterNB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press.

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28 thoughts on “Crimson Snow: Winter Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

  1. What a great collection of stories, FictionFan! I’m glad you enjoyed them. Of course, with Martin Edwards at the helm, you knew you were going to get quality…. At any rate, it’s good to hear the individual stories were enjoyable, as well as the collection.

    • I’m becoming more and more addicted to the BL books, and the short story collections in particular have been a lot of fun. This one and the London one are my favourites – there’s something about both London and winter that’s perfect for crime!

  2. Sometimes a good short story is all one has time for, and this collection sounds most interesting. Thanks for pointing it out, FF! What is it about Christmas that makes for good mysteries? Probably the contrast between what should be a happy time and the shock of having bodies turn up?!

    • There was a nice variety of lengths in this one too, for very quick reads, or something a bit more leisurely. Yes, I think that might be it – plus it’s a great excuse for the type of gathering that makes for a good murder mystery…

  3. I absolutely enjoy reading short stories though I never read all of them in an anthology. There’s always a few left for another day. Margery Allingham and Edgar Wallace have been on my reading radar for a long time now. Fergus Hume is another writer I’d like to read. And to think his and Wallace’s stories and novels are available in the public domain. I’d probably read them if they were out of easy reach.

    • I’ve got into the habit of reading the whole thing now because I have to review them, but generally I like to dip in and out of them as the mood takes me. Ha! I know – but even so, I really prefer them collected this way to searching them out online. Especially with the little introductions which give a bit of info about the author. Martin Edwards always finds plenty of authors I’ve never heard of too, which is fun…

  4. This does sound like a sterling collection of stories all with the theme of snow which I’m only fond of if it means I can’t go to work (unlikely to happen here) So now I’ve proved I’m totally unlike PC Petrella who goes crime busting even when the weather is awful and he’s poorly!

  5. I remember you writing about these collections before, and I think it’s a fantastic idea. I’ve always loved the little cheap pulp anthologies that lump together good old-fashioned scary stories about witches, werewolves, and vampires myself. I like how this collection goes a bit further and adds in the snow element, especially the horrifying instance of losing all connection due to being unable to get out! Stupid snow! The Shining always freaked me out because the family either can’t or doesn’t want to get down the mountain, so a-murderin’ they go! In regards to the story with the competition: are you saying that readers wrote in suggestions as to WHAT the twist would be? Does that mean there was a gap in the story, or that there entire ending wasn’t written?

    • I’ve been enjoying these anthologies – the quality’s variable of course, but enough of the stories are good or great to make the whole thing fun. Haha! I know – I’m a little bit claustrophobic, so being stuck anywhere unable to get out is one of my fears – maybe that’s why I enjoyed this one so much!

      It wasn’t a major plot point, so you could enjoy the story without getting it at all – it was an extra little element that kinda stood on its own and had its own specially planted clue for you to find – of course, you were told at the beginning that it was a competition so you knew to be on the lookout. I still didn’t get it though!

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