#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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#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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#969: The Chocolate Cobweb (1948) by Charlotte Armstrong

Chocolate Cobweb

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There really is no accounting for taste. When I read The New Sonia Wayward (1960) by Michael Innes following a rave review from Aidan, I found it rather wanting; now that I’ve read The Chocolate Cobweb (1948) by Charlotte Armstrong following a rave review from Aidan, I wonder if he praised it enough, because it’s very probably the best novel of pure domestic suspense that I’ve ever encountered. We can add this to the likes of The Voice of the Corpse (1948) by Max Murray on the list of Books I Should Not Like Yet Absolutely Loved, an experience so enjoyable that it stalled my reading for about a week since I had no idea what I could possibly follow it up with.

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