Before I get down to the fun part and start reviewing this amazing anthology series, I’d like to apologise for neglecting my blog. I’ve been very busy and I’ve been working very hard at my day job, particularly in the run up to Christmas.
I’m hoping to get things back on track soon, so for now, thanks ever so much for bearing with me. I really appreciate all of the ongoing support and I’m excited to start getting back to posting on the blog more often in the future.
With that done, I’d like to love to tell you about the fourth instalment of the Bodies From The Library series. The series is linked to a lecture series of the same name, which aims to educate crime fiction fans on the Golden Age and how it came to influence almost every aspect of the genre and popular culture in general.
Edited, introduced and compiled by crime fiction connoisseur Tony Medawar, the series gives the reader the chance to read previously undiscovered short stories and novellas from the Golden Age of Crime Fiction. These stories might be from old archives, have been previously unpublished, or have not been included in old magazines but not collected in a printed book before.
Beginning with the introduction from Medawar, Bodies From The Library 4 then goes on to offer each story followed by a short biography of the author and an overview of where and when the text was originally published and how it came to be selected for the anthology. That means you can learn a bit about prominent and influential authors from the Golden Age without having to read
The one thing I found disappointing about the fourth instalment of the series of Bodies From The Library books is that it doesn’t contain an Agatha Christie story this time. As she was one of the key writers from the era, it’s a shame they didn’t include her work in this latest edition, especially as she was included in the past. Dorthy L. Sayers is another notable name who is missing from volume four, but it does mean that we get to read tales from new names that weren’t in previous books in the series, so that’s a bonus.
However, with many other major writers from the period, including Leo Bruce, Ngaio Marsh and Edmund Crispin, there are still plenty of big names that you’ll have heard of. So, you’ll get the chance to discover some awesome tales by authors you love, as well as some you might not have necessarily heard of, but who’ve influenced popular culture. For example, the short story that inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes is included in the anthology.
At the end of the book, there is a section of stories from the Sunday Dispatch, which were commissioned as part of a writing challenge for crime fiction authors during 1938. A previous set of stories from an earlier Sunday Dispatch competition was included in the previous edition of the anthology series, and this next one was a set of pieces centred around specific and unusual pictures. The 6 writers were challenged to write a brief story about these unique images, which include an anvil with a glass of wine perched on top of it, a pub sign, and a drawing of a creepy skeleton hand with what appears to be a pocket watch perched on top of it.
Each tale incorporates the content of the image, in some cases in very inventive and uniquely creative ways. These short stories, most of which are less than 3 pages in length, are incredible feats of writing and unforgettable examples of crime fiction prowess. They’re so good, and I’ve not seen them collected like this before, so I’d recommend reading the book for this section alone.
That being said, there are loads of other great examples of crime fiction writing from the 1920s and 30s in the book, so it’s an ideal choice for lovers of the genre. One of the best is the novella Shadowed Sunlight by Chrisitianna Brand, a story about a poisoning during a yacht race on board one of the vessels. The assembled family and friends are all suspects, but as each food and drink item the victim ingested was also eaten or drunk by another member of the company, who wasn’t harmed, it’s difficult for the detectives to uncover the truth.
Another incredible tale from the anthology is The Only Husband by H.C. Bailey, a play script about the shooting of an elderly nobleman in the grounds of his country estate just as an investigator he asked to help him deal with an unspecified family issue arrives. Alongside local lawmakers, the detective has to deal with lies, secrets and family disloyalty to uncover the truth about who shot the murder victim or if his death was merely an unfortunate and tragic, if timely, accident. The script’s dialogue is witty and punchy, and the characters are believably droll and unscrupulous, so it’s a great read for crime fiction lovers who want to discover something new from the Golden Age of Crime Fiction.
In summary, Bodies From The Library 4 is another great addition to this gripping anthology series. While it might not contain as many big name authors as past editions, the fourth part of the series is engaging and contains some great tales that you’ll enjoy. As a result, I’d throughly recommend checking it out.