One day, when browsing in a book shop, I discovered the British Library Crime Classics series. Yes, the British Library has reissued a collection of crime stories from bygone days. I read a lot of Agatha Christie when I was younger so I decided to give this collection a go. I have bought a few from the series and, apart from the Christmas short story collection – Silent Nights- this is the first one I’ve read.
Briefly, the story is set around the opening night of a new musical “Blue Music”. On stage in front of the entire audience on opening night, an actor, instead of just pretending to get shot, is actually shot- dead.
I’m not sure how I feel about Quick Curtain to be honest. It was light-hearted, (you know, for a story that contains a murder), and there is some nice quirky banter. However, you do wonder how the detective ever solves any crimes. He and his amateur assistant, in this case his journalist son, seem a bit absent-minded and slightly incompetent; but this is meant as a humorous novel so that’s alright as far as it goes. I found it amusing in places with some interesting character observations.
For me, what let it down was the ending. It didn’t feel satisfying. It didn’t feel true or convincing, which you expect, even in a book with an element of tongue in cheek spoof about it. I don’t want to give anything away so I wont comment on why it felt unconvincing. I can see what the writer might have been trying to accomplish and it’s an interesting take but for me it doesn’t quite work as it is.
All in all, I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. It’s a bit of a light-hearted adventure. It’s a nice casual read but ultimately a little let down by an ending that could have been managed better.
A while back I was browsing through the list of Penguin’s little black classics when I came across Lot No.249 by Arthur Conan Doyle. It wasn’t one I was familiar with. It was described as the first story to feature a supernatural mummy. Not being overly familiar with mummy literature, excepting the ring of Thoth, also by Conan Doyle and of a different variety, the mummy not being the supernatural element, when I was obliged to buy some books for my next course I decided to treat myself to this one at the same time; well it would be rude not to. For £1 it seemed worth a try.
The story centres around three students who occupy rooms in a secluded part of their college. Life is quiet until a series of strange occurrences begin to take place on campus.
The story is dramatic with moments of tense and atmospheric action. There is also the traditional element of an unbeliever finding the truth thrust upon him.
Yes, to the modern reader the plot may feel familiar and obvious but for the first mummy story of its kind I can imagine this was something of a spine chiller back in the day.
It is as well written as we have come to expect from a Conan Doyle story and I found it to be a fun, quick read. Being a Little Black Classic this was short but sweet and well worth the investment of £1 to discover a new (to me) Conan Doyle horror and one of the best of his that I’ve read in this genre so far.
Northanger Abbey is infused with Jane Austen’s usual wit and charm; but unlike her other works Northanger Abbey is also a delightful tongue in cheek satire of the early gothic novels. The book begins by pointing out how unsuited the young heroine Catherine Moreland is for the role by her failing to be possessed of either the appearance or the distressed circumstances required of a literary heroine.
Catherine’s over active imagination fuelled by the reading of gothic novels leads her astray and she eventually begins to understand that fiction and reality can be worlds apart.
Of course there are also the usual Austen themes of romance and marriage market scheming. If I have one criticism of this book it’s that Catherine’s innocent naivety towards certain characters is pushed to the point of disbelief. I found myself wondering how she could be so fooled for so long. Perhaps that’s because I’m viewing the book from a cynical 21st century standpoint but I did find Catherine’s total naivety a little unbelievable; but then some of the male characters are apparently just as foolish.
Today I’d like to introduce you to John Silence Psychic investigator the creation of Algernon Blackwood. It’s almost impossible in describing John Silence to avoid allusions to Sherlock Holmes but he is something of a psychic Sherlock. He uses reason and logic and combines them with his psychic training to help people suffering from psychic afflictions. In the sense that he is curing maladies rather than solving crimes he might be better compared to Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s lesser known Dr Martin Hesselius whose cases feature in the collection’ In A Glass Darkly’ . Continue reading →
When talking about ghost stories the writers whose names get bandied about a lot by myself and other fans of the genre are usually male. I was pleased to find this volume on Amazon The Lady Chillers – The story introductions are by Mark Hankin. so I thought it would be a perfect start to broadening my experience of these talented ladies. With that thought in mind I invested the heady sum of 99p and set about reading. I actually discovered during the course of reading this book that I had in fact read a couple before as part of various anthologies. You know how it is though, you read a story think ‘that was good’ and then can’t for the life of you find it again to re-read it because you’ve no idea what it was called! Anyway all the stories in this book are very worthy in their own right. Some were creepier than others; some not altogether satisfactory but that’s all subjective. This post is basically a chance for me to share with you a couple of my favourites. I may even get around to finding some more works by the ladies in question so here are my personal favourites:
The Open Door by Charlotte Riddell- Not so much a locked room mystery as an open door mystery! I really like this one; it’s got a touch of humour, suspicious deaths, missing wills, strange nocturnal visitors and a door that wont stay closed, despite the best efforts of many people.
The Shadow In The Corner by Mary Elizabeth Braddon – A good old fashioned haunted room story, complete with innocent young girl, cynical servants and sceptical master and family disgrace. Good and spooky this one.
The Old Nurse’s Story by Elizabeth Gaskell (of Cranford fame) – Guilt, immorality, shame, snow storms, a haunted organ and a ghostly child. Oh and it’s Christmas!
Of course these are just three of the 15 stories in the book, I enjoyed reading all of these stories, though you could probably skip the first couple of pages of the haunted organist or Hurly Burly by Rosa Mulholland. Personally I found the opening dragged a bit. I thought it detracted from an otherwise pretty spooky story. Anyway I’d recommend a look at this book if ghost stories are your thing. I’m not sure that there is a physical version of this book but I’m sure if you haven’t got a Kindle you can find the stories in other anthologies.