Tuesday ‘Tec! Murder by the Book edited by Martin Edwards

Beware writers!

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Whenever one of these British Library anthologies, be it crime, science fiction or horror, pops through my door, I rub my hands in glee, knowing that at least some of the stories will be great and I’ll be treated to a raft of authors, both old favourites and new acquaintances. This one contains sixteen stories, all connected in some way to books, book collectors or authors. I came to the conclusion, in fact, that being a writer is a very dangerous thing – so many of them seem to become either murderers or murder victims! Plenty of big names here – Ngaio Marsh, Julian Symons, Christianna Brand, etc. – and a few less well known ones, though through reading so many of these anthologies I’m beginning to recognise and look forward to some of the names which turn up regularly even if I’ve not yet read any of their novels. All those who, like me, loved The Red House Mystery and felt it was such a pity AA Milne only wrote one mystery novel will be delighted to know there’s a short story from him in this collection, and a fine one it is too!

The overall quality of the stories is unusually high. The lowest rating I gave was three stars (meaning OK), but by far the majority were either good or excellent. Eight out of the sixteen earned the full five stars. The variation in styles is also wide, from traditional “closed circle” and “impossible crime” mysteries, to humorous and self-mocking takes on the life of the poor downtrodden mystery writer, all the way to full-on thriller-style stories.

With such a cornucopia of goodies, it’s extremely hard to pick just a few to highlight, but here goes – three picked fairly randomly from my favourites to give a flavour of the variety…

A Question of Character by Victor Canning – Geoffrey Gilroy is a moderately successful thriller writer, but his wife, who had never written before their marriage, has now become a publishing sensation. When he finds himself being referred to as “Martha Gilroy’s husband”, he decides she’s got to go – a nice little murder will salve his vanity, plus it will allow him to marry his mistress, a woman who happily shows no inclination to write books of any kind. He plans the murder meticulously, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans! This is great – it becomes a fast-paced thriller half-way through and builds up some real page-turning tension.

Book of Honour by John Creasey – Malcolm Graham, our narrator, is a book distributor in colonial-era India. One day he gives a little money to a poor man, Baburao, who is trying to sell cheap postcards to eke out a living. Baburao uses the money to set up a rickety shelf from which he sells books. He approaches Malcolm, who again helps him, this time by allowing him to select some of his company’s books to sell, on credit. Baburao uses this favour wisely again, until eventually he has set up a thriving business as a bookseller, with his own shops. But Baburao never forgets his poor origins, and spends his time and money helping those in the famine camps. There is a crime in this one, and it’s rather a heart-breaker, but the overall story is of these two good men, Malcolm and Baburao, and their mutual respect and growing friendship. I thought it was excellent, full of humanity and warmth.

You’re Busy Writing by Edmund Crispin – Ted Bradley is a thriller writer who longs for peace to write. He sets himself a target of 2,000 words a day, but between his cleaning lady and her laundry worries, the telephone and random visitors at his cottage, he finds he’s constantly losing his flow just at the point when he’s come up with a killer metaphor or thrilling clue! On this day he’s already been interrupted countless times when a couple he barely knows turn up at his door, invite themselves in and make it clear they intend to spend the whole day and evening there, drinking his booze and keeping him from his work, until it’s dark enough for them to elope together, deserting their respective spouses. Let’s just say Ted finds a drastic way to solve his problem. Very funny, laugh out loud at some points, and one can’t help feeling it’s written from Crispin’s own experience, although hopefully he found other ways to rid himself of unwanted interruptions!

One final thought – the last four stories in the book are four of the very best. I’ve said it before, but anthologists should always aim to start with a great story or two to get the busy reader’s attention and goodwill, and then keep the rest of the best to end with, and that way the reader will promptly forget if any of the ones in the middle were a bit disappointing. This anthology starts with the weakest story of all in my opinion, but, dear reader, it’s worth rushing past that one because goodies await you in abundance! Highly recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, the British Library.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

41 thoughts on “Tuesday ‘Tec! Murder by the Book edited by Martin Edwards

  1. This sounds a wonderful collection as always; I like the sound of the Crispin story, and am very tempted by the Milne.
    Oh, and like you till very recently I thought Red House was Milne’s only mystery as well, but I recently came across another (not read yet), Four days Wonder (here’s a review: https://crossexaminingcrime.wordpress.com/2017/11/30/to-be-a-mystery-or-to-not-be-a-mystery-that-is-the-question-in-a-a-milnes-four-days-wonder-1933/) which sounds very good fun

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, thanks for the link – it does indeed sound like fun whether it “counts” as a mystery novel or not! Onto the wishlist it goes! This collection is excellent – one of the best, for my tastes anyway, and the Crispin really did make me laugh out loud several times! The variety is very good too – there’s not that feeling of sameness you occasionally get in a collection of one genre.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, this does look fantastic, FictionFan! For one thing, the whole book theme is a major draw for me. For another, with Martin Edwards curating, you know there are going to be some good ‘uns in there. And I do like the mix of really famous authors and less-well-known ones. The stories you highlighted look great, and it sounds as though the quality’s consistent, too. I’m glad the BL is doing these anthologies! Also very happy you liked this one so well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are always enough good stories in these anthologies to make them worthwhile, but this one had more than its fair share! What I like is that it’s not always the authors you’d expect who come up with the best entries either – sometimes it’s the relative unknowns. I love that the BL is doing anthologies in all the genres now, though it’s getting hard to keep up with them all! First world problems… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • No? Oh, that’s a pity! I must admit sometimes I think it comes down to timing as much as anything else – sometimes I’m in the mood for short stories and other times I’d rather be stuck in a novel. And of course at the end of the day it’s all subjective. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • You know, I’m hearing that more and more often from people in America – something must have gone seriously wrong with the BL’s system over there. I hope it becomes available soon – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

      Like

    • Try ordering from Blackswell’s. Their U.S. prices for British mysteries are quite attractive, even when U.S based booksellers do not have the title available yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like an even better collection than usual! I would be particularly interested in reading the AA Milne story and the Edmund Crispin one, but I’m pleased to hear the overall quality is so high.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I definitely thought it was one of the best so far. There are always some good stories in them but this one seemed to have loads that I loved! Both the Milne and the Crispin are excellent, and some of the less light-hearted ones are very good too – a nice mix.

      Like

  4. “Ted Bradley is a thriller writer who longs for peace to write. ”
    Makes me want to write a murder scene in sympathy for poor Ted!
    🙂

    (especially when one of my readers practically suggested it for an on-going series I’m posting!)

    Bwahahaha! Thank you for this, FicFan!
    🙂
    Shira

    Liked by 1 person

    • Are Poisoned Press still doing them? I’ve had several people from across the pond saying recently that they’re having trouble finding the BL books. Hope they do this one anyway – it’s excellent! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, it would be good if they could get something sorted – it’s annoying for people when they think a book sounds good and then can’t get hold of it. It happens to me all the time in the blogosphere, especially with Canadian books which always seem to take an age to come out over here.

          Like

  5. U.S based readers should look into ordering this book, and other BL mystery publications, from blackswells.co.uk. The price for this title is $12.61 and includes shipping to the U.S.

    Liked by 1 person

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