Detective Stories Chosen by Philip Pullman

Detective Stories
Philip Pullman
First published 1998, Kingfisher
ISBN: 0753451468
222 pages
Score: 3/5
Cover illustration by Mark Edwards
Illustrations by Nick Hardcastle

This is a 1998 anthology, but only two of the stories were published after my self-imposed end date on 1987 so I’m going to go ahead and review it.

The cross-hatch illustrations by Nick Hardcastle flag this up as a young adult title, but it’s still a good collection. Pullman did a great job – most of these stories and many of the authors were completely new to me.

The collection kicks off with Conan Doyle’s ‘The Speckled Band’ and then Ellery Queen’s ‘Cold Money’, a breezy tale of revenge with a solution that hinges on a clean shave.

There are three Golden Age shorts. Agatha Christie gives us an Egyptian
tale from back when there were ‘devoted native servants’ – ‘The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb’. ‘The Inspiration of Mr Budd’ is a Dorothy L. Sayers, and ‘The Little Mystery’ an E.C. Bentley.

I read Emil and the Detectives at primary school, and it was great to encounter an excerpt here.

From Leslie Charteris, we have the Saint conning a conman in ‘The Newdick Helicopter’.

A left-field bit of true crime comes in the form of ‘Fingerprinting a Ghost’, an account of Manchester Police’s involvement in a psychic investigation.

A nice YA touch is the inclusion of some logic puzzles ‘From the Files of Inspector Craig’ by Raymond Smullyan.

Only the final story, Stephen Leacock’s ‘Maddened by Mystery’ strikes a bum note. I dislike parodies and this is heavy handed in the extreme.

There were a couple of revelations:

  • Damon Runyon, who until now for some reason I’d thought was sort of like George Eliot, but who turns out to write immortal wiseguy sentences such as: ‘I hear that many citizens of Brooklyn will be very glad indeed to see Harry the Horse, Little Isadore, and Spanish John move away from here, as they are always doing something that is considered a knock to the community, such as robbing people or maybe shooting or stabbing them, and throwing pineapples, and carrying on generally.’
  • Italo Calvino’s ‘The One Handed Murderer’, a truly odd folk tale of obsession and revenge.

Final destination: Green Metropolis. Note that due to a printer’s error, the Michael Underwood story in my edition is missing except for the first and last pages.

By the way, this anthology has been reissued as Whodunit?, with a livelier cover reminiscent of a Chris Brookmyre.

Reviewed by Rich

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
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1 Response to Detective Stories Chosen by Philip Pullman

  1. Pingback: Cyril Hare: Best Detective Stories | Past Offences

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