101 Years’ Entertainment, Edited by Ellery Queen (Part 6 of 6)


101 Years' Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories of Over A Century

Part 6 of 6

I’m not big on short stories, mysteries excepted. After reading this book, my horizons have been broadened, and I’m going to go find some more fun short stories to check out. Unfortunately, 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 6 of 6, the (more than ten) short stories which are clearly NOT mysteries; with few exceptions, horror stories.
• The Clock, by A.E.W. Mason
• The Silver Mask, by High Walpole
• Suspicion, by Dorothy L. Sayers
• Treasure Trove, by F. Tennyson Jesse
• Philomel Cottage, by Agatha Christie, p. 2
• The Mad Tea Party, by Ellery Queen, p. 4
• The S. S., M.P. Shiel, Prince Zaleski.
• The Two Bottles of Relish, by Lord Dunsay, Mr. Linely
• The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell
• Faith, Hope, and Charity, by Irvin S. Cobb

I’m not bothering to recap these, because they are, by and large, that type of horror story that makes you shiver but is so stupid that, the second your brain kicks in, you start shaking with uncontrollable laughter. Three were reviewed in other sections anyway. And with that we wrap up a review of 101 Year’s Entertainment. I didn’t like it overall, but there were some good things to recommend, and an interesting lesson in history to be drawn.

The volume as a whole has several strengths. First, the historical aspect of each story is mentioned in some way, either in the story itself (set during 1800s England or what have you) or the editorial comments. The different genres within detective stories and mysteries are all given their turn, and the eras of each are evident by the context. Also, the different writing styles create a genre-within-a genre effect; the colorful language of the 1920s contrasting vividly with the refined philosophy of the 1840s. Most interesting of all, variety. There are all kinds of stories here, from the philosophical (The Problem of Cell 13) to the probing (The Criminologists’ Club) and the downright problematic (The Mad Tea Party).

It’s the problematic variety (mainly the stories above) that get to you after a couple hundred pages. Yes, there are some fine stories, and they are interesting to read in comparison to the other stories. Really, though, what is entertaining about justified mass murder (The S.S.), or torturous deaths (The Silver Mask and, more variously but still equally gruesome, Faith, Hope, and Charity)? Can’t we have variety and quality? The editor obviously thought so, but then, the editor’s taste leans toward the macabre (note, his own story gets into the “Criminals Win” and “Non-Mystery” categories); and therein lies the biggest problem with an anthology like this. Its totally up to the editor’s tastes as to what does and does not get included. And this editor, sadly, falls into his own category of “Doyle-imitators”; a mystery writer wannabe whose style is not entirely without merit, yet also without talent (and often without even that first qualifier, “mystery.”)

I don’t recommend the book, though if variety is the spice you want in your reading life, some of the short stories mentioned hereto would be a good place to start (I suggest parts 2, 3, or 5 of this review for a list: the stories above are, as I mentioned, more in the realm of terrifying stupidity than of stupefying mystery). Overall, however, the idea behind the book has led me to broaden my horizons in the short story realm. That bit of wisdom, however, can be easily shared without having to trudge through (all) the above. 🙂

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