Country House Murders

by Thomas Godfrey (Editor)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I bought this book (in hard cover!) many years ago. I read The Usual Suspects, but couldn’t get into the authors that had fallen into obscurity. I’m now an enthusiastic Golden Age mystery reader, so I thought I’d give these stories another try.

The Adventure of Abbey Grange by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Not every story in this book is Golden Age – and what collection of mysteries would be complete without a Sherlock Holmes! This isn’t one of Doyle’s best, but it certainly gives some interesting insights into Holmes’ character and his relationship with the faithful Dr Watson! 3★

A Marriage Tragedy by Wilkie Collins. I tried (& failed) to read The Moonstone many years ago. Maybe I would be more open to it now. I was definitely intrigued enough to finish to find out what had happened to husband from Hell, James Smith. This is by far the longest selection in this book (most of the others are less than 20 pages) and it did drag in a couple of places and the ending was somewhat gloomy. 3.5★

Lord Chizelrigg’s Missing Fortune by Robert Barr. Entertaining but very improbable. Lord Valmont is like an early version of Hercule Poirot! 3★

The Fordwych Castle Mystery by Baroness Orczy. Looks like it wasn’t just the obscure writers I was disappointed by! Silly, improbable, melodramatic and didn’t make much sense. I was really disappointed as Lady Molly was one of the first female detectives. 2★

The Blue Scarab by R. Austin Freeman. Competent mystery with workmanlike writing. Similar in style to Conan Doyle, but less engaging. 3★

The Doom of the Darnaways by G.K. Chesterton. Now this was very engaging writing with a cleverly constructed mystery. The clues are there for you – you just need to know where to look! 4★

The Shadow on the Glass by Agatha Christie. I read this last year in The Mysterious Mr. Quin I thought this was one of the slighter stories in that collection. I still think that 3★

The Queen’s Square by Dorothy L. Sayers. This was just too short to carry all the ideas & potential this mystery had. Bit of a shame. 3.5 ★

Death on the Air by Ngaio Marsh. Dame Ngaio didn’t write many short stories & (if this is representative of her skill with them) that is a pity because this one is ingenious & puts her normal snobbishness (which normally drives me crazy!) to good use. Unusually for Marsh this one shows a contempt for young female servants – in this case, insensitive & heartless. Still 4★

The Same to Us by Margery Allingham. Witty & entertaining, with a sly dig at some racist assumptions. My favourite so far. 4.5★

The Hunt Ball by Freeman Wills Crofts. A very fine example of what Thomas Godfrey (the editor of this collection) calls an “inverted” mystery where the reader knows who commits the crime & waits for the story to play out. 4★

The Incautious Burglar by John Dickson Carr. A satisfying mystery even though there were very few suspects. 5★

The Long Shot by Nicholas Blake Well written, but a bit improbable. 4★

Jeeves and the Stolen Venus by P.G. Wodehouse Funny (Of course – it’s Wodehouse!) But I was confused. 3.5★

Death in the Sun by Michael Innes Just too improbable for me! 3★

An Unlocked Window by Ethel Lina White. Yes I did guess where it was going but the journey was wonderfully thrilling! 5★

The-Wood-For-The-Trees by Philip MacDonald. I have been looking for The Rasp for quite some time, as I know reviewers who really love it. This short story made me want to look even harder. I’m quite sure I’ve read it before, a few too many characters, & if I hadn’t read it before I did a very good job of guessing everything that was going to happen! 4.5★

The Man on the Roof by Christianna Brand. Not so this one, although I normally like Brand’s work. Occasionally witty, but a confused/confusing mish-mash. I’m wondering if I should read again, but provisionally 2.5★

The death of Amy Robsart by Cyril Hare. In case you are wondering if this Golden Age author wrote a historical murder mystery – he didn’t. Very entertaining murder mystery with a film setting. There is a plot hole but I enjoyed this very much. 4★

Fen Hall by Ruth Rendell. The first thing I have read by Rendell. Well written but another plot hole & this one isn’t a whodunnit! Still very well written & I now want to read some more Rendell. 3.5★

A very Desirable Residence by P.D. James Well written but improbable. I found the end quite satisfying though! 3.5★

The Worcestershire Enigma by James Miles. “Who?” You might well ask! I couldn’t find any other trace of this author who uses another author’s creations (Conan Doyle’s) & a real life person. (I won’t spoil this for you) very badly. It isn’t quite as bad as the Orczy one but I am still giving this 2★

So, as always with short story collections, a very mixed bag! I would still recommend reading if you want a ‘taster’ of some of the less well known writers. Most of them I want to read some of their full length books!

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