#997: “Actors never betray themselves…” – Final Acts: Theatrical Mysteries [ss] (2022) ed. Martin Edwards

I tend to read multi-author anthologies over — if I’m honest — a couple of months, to better ameliorate the often wild changes in style and content of each tale. In recent times I’ve sped this process up, so that I’m able to review the annual Bodies from the Library (2018-present) collections on this very blog, so let’s see how I fare doing the same for the latest Martin Edwards-edited collection in the British Library Crime Classics range, eh?

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#996: The Nine Wrong Answers (1952) by John Dickson Carr

Nine Wrong Answers

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In order to read the full text of The Nine Wrong Answers (1952) by John Dickson Carr you must read the first edition hardcover, as all paperback printings having been reduced by what Carr’s biographer Douglas Greene estimates to be about 15%. And, having now read the condensed text, it’s difficult not to feel that the book could actually be shortened by about another 30% since, in expanding this up from his radio play ‘Will You Make a Bet with Death?’ (1942), Carr has stretched a thin premise now too thin. A lot of the distractions here are simply that: distractions, and the core excellence of the plot is rendered tedious at times when trying to support so many circumlocutions.

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#993: Crook o’ Lune, a.k.a. Shepherd’s Crook (1953) by E.C.R. Lorac

Crook O'Lune

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I’ve enjoyed mixed fortunes with the work of E.C.R. Lorac, from the high of The Devil and the C.I.D. (1938) to the low of Murder by Matchlight (1945), and a return to her work has always been on the cards. And so, with the British Library kind enough to send me a review copy of Crook o’ Lune (1953), the eleventh title by Lorac to be reprinted in their august Crime Classics series, we return. There can be no denying that Lorac has been a huge success for the BL, undoubtedly allowing the taking of a risk on some more obscure titles elsewhere, so I knew that there were plenty of others in print for me to read if I enjoyed this one.

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#990: Payment Deferred (1926) by C.S. Forester

Payment Deferred

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It seems almost indecent that someone should have the inspiration to write a book like Payment Deferred (1926) before Anthony Berkeley had conceived of his Francis Iles nom de plume and written Malice Aforethought (1931). And yet there’s something unformed about C.S. Forester’s tale of ill-gotten money, murder, and general moral decay that speaks to the callowness of the undertaking. Land sakes, don’t read this if you’re having a bad week — its unrelenting grimness and domestic horror would dent even the sunniest of dispositions — and avoid it, too, if you want a tight criminous plot with even a sniff of Iles-brand irony. This is dark stuff, unleavened at any stage.

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