Tag Archives: Josephine Bell

Book Corner – September 2019 (4)

Deep Waters: Mysteries on the Waves – edited by Martin Edwards

I am a fan of Martin Edwards’ archaeological efforts to resuscitate some of the better shorter stories from the so-called Golden Age of detective fiction. This is the thirteenth such themed anthology. Perhaps it’s a case of thirteen being unlucky for some as I found it the least satisfying of those that I had read.

I guess part of my dissatisfaction lies with the choice of theme. At first blush you would think that this will be a collection of mysteries and crimes set at sea but in order to get to sixteen stories and a satisfying length, Edwards has had to broaden his brief to include swimming pools, hardly depths or waves, methinks, and a couple of stories that are as recent as the 1960s and 70s. Ironically, though, H C Bailey’s story involving his medical detective, Reggie Fortune, called The Swimming Pool, is probably the best of the lot with an excellent twist to it. It will make you think twice before diving into a pool.

One of the most bonkers stories I have read is The Pool of Secrets which was written in 1935 by Gwyn Evans. It has an element of science fiction about it with a robot assisting the investigation and the use of a prototype of what we would now call a drone. The way the murder was committed also has a splash of ingenious eccentricity about it.

The collection starts off with a Conan Doyle story, and one featuring the greatest detective creation, Sherlock Holmes, to boot. It is the sleuth’s first case, The Adventure of the Gloria Scott, but in truth it is one of Doyle’s weakest. There is little in the way of detection or intellectual intuition that Holmes was famous for as the case was solved by a letter. I should have realised at this point that the collection was not going to reach the heights of some of the earlier collections.

That said, there are some gems and highlights along the way. C S Forester, he of the Hornblower series, makes an interesting contribution with The Turning of the Tide which tells of a well-planned murder which went wrong because of a failure to plan for all eventualities or, depending upon your point of view, a spot of bad luck. I found it gripping in more senses than one.

Nautical knowledge solves the mystery in The Thimble River Mystery by Josephine Bell and if seeing a murderer hoist by his own petard is your bag, you will enjoy Andrew Garve’s story, Seasprite. C St John Sprigg’s Four Friends and Death is an amusing and clever take on a poisoning which has gone wrong. Its only connection with the sea is that the poisoning took place on a boat. The most recent story dating to 1975 by Michael Innes, Death by Water, involves a fish out of water that turns a suspected suicide into a murder.

If you are prepared to give Edwards some latitude on his choice of theme and are prepared to navigate your way round some of the weaker contributions, I always approach a R Austin Freeman story with some dread and he rarely fails to disappoint, it is a book worth splashing out on. But if you are looking for an anthology to start out with, there are many better.