First published in July 2015.
The eye-catching British Library Crime Classics publications now have a short story collection in their midst. Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries has been edited by Martin Edwards, and presents a ‘collection of vintage mysteries’, all of which centre upon the theme of holidays.
In his introduction, Edwards writes that Resorting to Murder ‘shows the enjoyable and unexpected ways in which crime writers have used summer holidays as a theme’. The tales have a wide range across the Golden Age of British crime fiction, encompassing both ‘stellar names from the past’ and uncovering ‘hidden gems’. Edwards believes that some of the stories which he has selected for publication within the volume are ‘obscure’ and ‘rare’, and have ‘seldom been reprinted’. Well-known authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Arnold Bennett and G.K. Chesterton thus sit alongside the lesser-known likes of Basil Thomson, Leo Bruce and Gerald Findler.
Only British writers have been focused upon here, but the settings which they use as their backdrops are rather diverse. We visit Conan Doyle’s Cornwall, E.W. Hornung’s Switzerland, and stop off at golf courses, secluded resorts and walking tours conducted in France along the way.
Edwards’ aim was to present ‘vintage stories written over the span of roughly half a century, and which have the backdrop of a holiday’, whether at home or abroad. ‘This straightforward unifying theme,’ he tells us, ‘is counterpointed by the stories’ sheer diversity’. The differing perspectives and shifts with regard to time periods and settings works marvellously, and ensures that the collection can be read all in one go by the greedy traveller, or dipped in and out of by the more relaxed reader. Diversity exists between the detectives themselves, too; there are shrewd man-of-the-moment types who go out of their way to appear in charge of the situation, and those who are quite unsuspected by others until the pivotal moment at which all is revealed.
It is a nice touch that each story within Resorting to Murder has been introduced with biographical details of each author, as well as the ‘background to their writing’. The only unfortunate detail which is missing is that nowhere does it specify which year each story was written or published in. Chronologically ordered they may be, but one cannot help but feel that this small yet important element would have been useful in a collection which purports to show the progression of crime stories.
Resorting to Murder is engaging and filled with aspects of interest. As is often the case with anthologies, particularly thematic ones, some tales are far stronger than others, but there is definitely something for everyone within its pages. Resorting to Murder is a wonderful choice for summer escapism, as well as the perfect book for the discerning armchair traveller.