Short stories are a great way to explore new writers, and many great writers have compiled collections that showcase the best of their work. The word limit allows for strong plotting and non-descriptive characterisation that is always a pleasure when done well. They also make a great way to indulge in tales of your favourite detectives without investing the time that you would have to spend reading a full novel.
Here are my top picks of the five best collections from five of the world’s best crime fiction authors. Enjoy!
- Poirot’s Early Cases: Featuring a selection of early examples of the famed Belgium detective and his little grey cells, this great collection of stories is a wonderful example of the best of Agatha Christie’s writing. Narrated by Captain Hastings, whose honesty and dry, often unsuspecting wit is regularly overlooked by those marvelling at Christie’s characterisation of her superb criminals is showcased to the full in this riveting collection.
- The Return of Sherlock Holmes: Arguably the best of Conan Doyle’s short story collections about his famed sleuth, the reintroduction of Holmes following his supposed death at the Reichenbach Falls and the stories that follow are as exciting as they are expertly plotted. Doyle doesn’t miss a trick as he weaves a series of tales that highlight the very best and worst of Victorian English society.
- The Pyramid: Not the shortest of short stories, this selection of tales are as gritty and powerful as Mankell’s novels, full of dark characters and social commentary. Each offers a range of themes that offer a unique perspective on life in modern Sweden that is both intriguing and fascinating. Written by the Godfather of Scandinavian crime fiction this masterful exercise in literature is a must read.
- Lord Peter Views the Body: Dorothy L Sayers’ gripping collection features some truly unforgettable stories (The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers is a particular favourite of mine, for all its spine chilling gore). These stories contain all the wit and wisdom of the novels whilst offering a unique perspective on everyone’s favourite gentleman detective, as we see Lord Peter and Bunter in new and varied situations.
- Killer in the Rain: Featuring an early incarnation of Raymond Chandler’s famed sleuth Philip Marlowe, this dark and thrilling set of short stories is exciting whilst still integrating the social commentary which Chandler was famed for. These stunning short stories are excellent examples of crime fiction and literary marvels in their own rights.