I’m not big on short stories, mysteries excepted. Unfortionately, this anthology includes a selection of “mystery” stories that are more like horror, or fairy-tales gone amok; so I can’t recommend the whole batch of 50. That said, there are too many stories for one review: this is review 5 of 6, the (more than ten) short stories that are truly great.
• The Purloined Letter, by Edgar Allen Poe, C. Auguste Dupin, 1841. The very first mystery short story, and believed to be the founder of the genre of mystery in general. Exceptional writing, clever (if well-known) premise. Pay attention to the way things are phrased, as many clichés arise from this story even though the method of writing makes them, in this case, sublime.
• The Disappearance of Mrs. Leigh Gordon, Agatha Christie, Tuppence and Tommy. A humourous Detective farce, sibling detectives play Sherlock Holmes while trying to find a missing fiancé. Finally, a good Agatha Christie short story! She’s quite good at the ironic twist bits.
• A Matter of Taste, by Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter Wimsey. A well known detective is charged with obtaining a special formula by an old scientist, but two Lord Wimseys introduce themselves to at the mansion. Can’t say anything else about this one ‘cause that would give it away, but sufficient to say, its my second favorite story in the whole book (after “The Purloined Letter”), and superior to some of the Holmes stories as well.
• The Avenging Chance, by Anthony Berkeley, Roger Sheringham. A box of chocolates sent to a promineant businessman are full of arsenic; two people are poisoned; a lady is dead, and the culprit is the talk of London. I inheritly dislike this kind of tale (ie, this kind of cliché murderer I’ve already complained about), but the clever mechanisms of the detective make it notable.
• The Problem of Cell 13, by Jacques Futrelle, The Thinking Machine. Not so much a mystery as a philosophical mind-bender. The Thinking Machine is an old man so sure that thinking can solve every problem he’s willing to try the ultimate test: a week in a prison cell, which he must escape using only his wits. The escape mechanism is brilliant political commentary even for today. A must-read.
• The Lenton Croft Robberies, by Arthur Morrison, Martin Hewitt. Not novel today, but this idea is so well presented it must have preceeded the cliché. Many pieces of jewelery have gone missing at Lenton Croft Lodge over the last few years, but the latest one send the owner over the edge and Mr. Croft is off to fetch Mr. Hewitt for some first-rate detecting.
• A Man Called Spade, by Dashiell Hammett, Sam Spade. A man is found dead is his apartment, surrounded by people who hated his brutish ways. The maid is annoying, but everyone else in the story plays their part to the perfect pitch, until each’s secret is found out by Spade in turn. A classic case of whodunit with all the requisite twists and a few new ones.
• The Resurrection of Chin Lee, by T.S. Stribling, Professor Poggioli. Not wholely original, but it says something about the state of immigration in America then and now (my politicial plug of the month: lets ditch the immigrant quotias and just let the qualified people in, okay? This overcrowding idea with keeping refugees out is as unbiblical as it is impractical).
• The Dublin Mystery, by Baroness Orczy, The Old Man in the Corner. A novel idea by one of my favorite old-time writers; a detective who solves mysteries from his table in a high-class London club. Two brothers are to share their weathy father’s riches teased out in rich detail.
• The Crime In Nobody’s Room, by Carter Dickson, Colonel March. A twist on the usual whodunit: an eccentric builder, apartments that look just alike, a newspaper picture that looks just like the original only in sepia, and three neighbors who all had reason to want in on the sceme.
The crème de la crème of fifty detective stories. Need I say more?