A woman traveling with her daughter takes ill and disappears from her hotel room.
A swimmer leaves a pile of his clothes on a deserted beach and vanishes.
A mountaineering chemist and his assistant are caught in a rock slide.
These are three of the fourteen stories collected in Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards for the British Library Crime Classics Series newly released in the United States by Poisoned Pen Press. Edwards has chosen work both from well-known authors like Arthur Conan Doyle and G. K. Chesterton and lesser knowns like Gerald Findler and M. MacDonnell Bodkin all presumably dealing with events that take place while the characters are on holiday. Stories are set abroad on the continent, at the sea shore, and out in the countryside, providing something close to an exotic locale. He introduces each story with a short passage giving some basic information about the author which is especially helpful when the author in question is relatively unknown today.
The stories themselves are an uneven bunch. There are some excellent tales and there are some clinkers. A mediocre Sherlock Holmes story, “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot,” opens the anthology. Of course, to the true Baker Street Irregulars, there is no such thing as mediocre when it comes to Holmes, still this is not one of Conan Doyle’s finest. Later the reader is treated to a pale Holmes imitation Dr. John Thorndyke, in R. Austin Freeman’s “A Mystery of the Sand-Hills.” G. K. Chesterton’s “The Finger of Stone” serves as a tame vehicle for his religious ideas.
The best stories in the collection were those that played havoc with the genre. Arnold Bennett’s “Murder!” is a gem that turns the brilliant detective genre on its head. It is post-modern irony before there was such a thing, the kind of story that will send appreciative readers back to The Old Wives Tale. The other jewel in the collection is Helen Simpson’s hilarious send-up “A Posteriori,” one of only two stories by women. The other is Phyllis Bentley’s more conventional “Where is Mr. Manetot?,” a tale with a nice surprise ending.
Considering the dominance of British women crime writers over the years, the fact that Edwards could only come up to two stories is strange. Especially since he found room for duds like Findler’s “The House of Screams” and H. C. Bailey’s awkwardly told “The Hazel Ice.”
Certainly for readers interested in the history and development of the crime genre and willing to put up with the occasional groaner, Resorting to Murder is worth your time. For the more casual reader, you’d probably be better served elsewhere.
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