Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries

Not long ago I described a new series for “Bookin’ with Sunny” readers. Poisoned Pen Press is offering British Library Crime Classics like Charles Kingston’s Murder in Piccadilly to American enthusiasts. Now I’ve read another such publication, a collection of short stories titled Resorting to Murder. Martin Edwards, who also edited Murder in Piccadilly, has pulled together a set of mystery excursions featuring familiar British detectives like Sherlock Holmes plus some lesser lights who definitely deserve our recognition. Each of these masters of ratiocination is on holiday when a crime is committed nearby. Combining their wits with their prior experiences as solvers of crimes, these detectives soon point their fingers at the appropriate guilty parties. Once each case is solved, each vacation can then continue unabated.

The format allows these authors opportunities to show off their detectives’ skills in exotic locales. The stories take place in Switzerland and France, around the Lake Country, on several different golf links, near various coastal venues such as Northerley-on-Sea, and at diverse British and continental resorts. The format also allows the authors to position their detectives as outsiders, more observant than their fellow vacationers, more perceptive than the local citizenry, and more logical than the constabulary trying to solve a particular crime. Finally, the short story format dictates a brisk pacing and precise brush strokes of words. A wonderful collection of bedtime reading, for sure.

Short story collections often are uneven, however, and Resorting to Murder is no different. The best ones in this collection are excellent, but I found myself skim-reading one or two. At least there is variety. Some of the authors, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and G. K. Chesterton, are well-known to mystery readers; others, like Basil Thomson and Gerald Findler, are more obscure. Some of the stories are quite short, only a few pages; others are longer and much more detailed. Most of the stories, sadly, are written by men. My guess is that writers like Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers were too expensive to include, but I suggest that only two female authors don’t really balance the twelve males.

So far, the books I’ve read in the new British Library Crime Classics /Poisoned Pen series are smart, leisurely, somewhat archaic but thoroughly delightful. As I wrote in my review of Murder in Piccadilly, “I do believe that a love for classic British mysteries is an acquired taste. Or perhaps some of us are born with a literary palate that relishes the unhurried hunt for justice, the back and forth of repartee, the slow unraveling of plot.” I concluded, in fact, that Kingston’s novel moves at a “soporific speed.” But I enjoyed it. Ditto, Resorting to Murder. – Ann Ronald

Also available by Martin Edwards: The Coffin Trail; The Cipher Garden; The Arsenic Labyrinth; The Serpent Pool; The Frozen Shroud; The Hanging Wood; Dancing for the Hangman; Eve of Destruction; The Devil in Disguise; The Lazarus Widow; Where Do You Find Your Ideas; Take my Breath Away; Waterloo Sunset; First Cut is the Deepest; Urge to Kill, How Police Take Homicide from Case to Court; Suspicious Minds; Yesterday’s Papers; I Remember You; Sweet Secrets; Mind to Kill.

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