Events might be cancelled in 2020, but Tony Medawar has continued to collect unpublished or under appreciated short stories in his latest instalment of his anthology series, Bodies From The Library 3, based on his extensive research for his conference of the same name.
Medawar provides an engaging introduction, as well as a perfectly curated selection of short stories and novellas from some of the Golden Age of crime fiction’s most respected writers. Many of the works in the series are previously unpublished, or have gone out of print or were only published in obscure journals or magazines. As such, readers get a glimpse into the unknown, even if they are voracious readers of Golden Age crime fiction.
While there are some well-known names, such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, there are also lesser-known writers. I’ve found some new favourite writers and series over the years with these anthologies, including J.J. Connington and his amazing detective, Chief Constable Sir Clinton Driffield.
So, I was looking forward to checking out the offering in this year’s anthology, and I was not disappointed. Not only was there a virtually unheard of Poirot story that I’d never read before, but also an entire novella by the atmospheric John Dickson Carr.
There was also a piece by Ngaio Marsh, featuring the taciturn and dogged Inspector Alleyn, as well as work by Golden Age Writers I’d never heard of, including a captivating short story from Joseph Commings. Each story comes with a short biography of the author, so not only do you get to read a new piece of work, but also find out more about the writer and their place in crime fiction history.
Through the anthology, readers are transported around the world, and get to check out everything from play and TV show scripts through to short stories and even radio work. So, there’s something for everyone in this book, and even if you don’t enjoy one piece, you’ll certainly find something else that you love. However, if, like me, you adore Golden Age crime fiction, you’ll probably end up loving everything. The only issue is that now my list of books to buy and read has grown even bigger!
Introduced by Medawar and offering a unique insight into Golden Age crime fiction and the work of the Crime Club, Bodies From The Library 3 is an ingenious crossover between an academic text and a compilation of short stories and scripts. Each volume of the series has been enlightening and engaging, but this one is even more so, for it contains a series of stories created for a short story challenge issued by The Sunday Dispatch.
Described in the anthology as The Orange Plot Mysteries, the six short stories all had to revolve around the hint given by the paper:
“One night a man picked up an orange in the street. This saved his life.”
From this short, succinct plot direction, six renowned writers of the Golden Age set out to create a baffling and enjoyable story. The outpourings range from hard-hitting mob stories to tales of mistaken identity and private detection. Including this series of stories was a stroke of genius, for by giving the context and grouping them together Medawar piques the readers curiosity. The only thing I find strange is that this selection of stories is placed at the end of the anthology; in my opinion, it should have been included at the very beginning.
Despite this, readers will still be engaged by the third in this incredible short story anthology series. There are amazing pieces of undiscovered work from some of the Golden Age’s masters of suspense and the Queens Of Crime fiction. Each piece complements the others in the series well, and will engage and engross readers.
At the end of the day, if you’re a crime fiction reader who’s looking for inspiration for new authors, or just enjoy short stories, then you can’t go wrong. You don’t even need to read the first two books in the Bodies From The Library Series to enjoy the third, but once you’ve finished it you’ll definitely want to go back and get the first two if you haven’t devoured them already.