Still having trouble concentrating long enough to read a full novel? Well here are a couple of great anthologies, containing short stories from some of the greats, as well as a riveting podcast from the U.K.
Murder on the Railways contains stories from Agatha Christie, Elmore Leonard, Leslie Charteris, Ken Follett, Maeve Binchy, Roald Dahl, Ruth Rendell, and many more. For railway buffs, it doesn’t get better than this, and for the general mystery lover, you’ve hit the jackpot here!
The Television Detectives’ Omnibus brings us stories from the likes of Orson Welles, Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, Margery Allingham, Colin Dexter, Dorothy L. Sayers, and more. Each story is a gem in itself, bringing to life, so succinctly, some of our favorite sleuths.
I’ve been listening to a podcast called SHEDUNNIT (shedunnitshow.com) recently and find it very interesting. Caroline Crampton, the creator of the series, discusses the golden age of detective fiction. Each new installment deals with a different topic, whether it be a particular author, themes in detective fiction, or the reconstruction of a real life crime.
There are at least a couple of stories in each of the anthologies that earn 5 daggers. The SHEDUNNIT podcast is a definite 5 daggers!
Also published as A Holiday for Murder and Murder for Christmas.
Simeon Lee, a cantankerous old and shrivelled man has sent word to his children scattered hither and yon, that he wants them all home for Christmas at Gorston Hall. None of them are under any illusion that the reunion is going to be a “let bygones be bygones” gathering or a celebration of “happy families”. No sooner have they set foot inside the stately home than Lee baits them with his announcement that he has made preparations after Christmas to change his will. The die is cast and it’s later that evening, Christmas Eve, that Simeon Lee is found murdered in his locked room.
When Colonel Johnson, Chief Constable of Middleshire, is notified of the murder, he’s entertaining his good friend, Hercule Poirot. Poirot gladly agrees to accompany Johnson to Gorston Hall when Johnson admits that Superintendent Sugden who has answered the first call, though a “good man”, is not “an imaginative chap”.
Upon viewing the crime scene and talking to the household, Poirot decides that the way to the truth is through the victim himself. He must understand the psychology of Simeon Lee – “the character of the dead man”.
And in saying that, Poirot conducts a detailed and comprehensive psychological examination of Simeon Lee, leading to a solution that is just short of brilliant.
No wonder Agatha Christie is considered the Queen of Crime!
Agatha Christie published this book in 1938. But the story is timeless. Other than a brief mention of events in another part of the world, one could easily assume that this was a contemporary novel.
Simeon Lee, the patriarch of a family of four, insists that each of his children come home for Christmas. But don’t think that he plans on playing “happy families”. His intentions are the complete opposite. He does everything to goad each of his children by insulting them and denying their petty grievances and long-held grudges. Before the first Christmas cracker is even pulled, he’s found bludgeoned to death in his locked bedroom.
When the Chief Constable of Middleshire receives a call about the murder, he asks Poirot, who is spending Christmas with him, to come along while he investigates. Poirot’s ability to stand back, observe and listen is his forte. It’s not his “little grey cells” (who aren’t even mentioned), that allow him to understand the “human condition”, but his powers of observation. And it’s always that one word, or gesture, or look that, when observed by Poirot, seals the fate of the murderer.
A more clever mystery you won’t find. There’s a reason that Agatha Christie is known as “The Queen of Crime” and this novel says it all.