As we begin a new year of (we hope) fictional murder and mayhem, perhaps a good way to begin would be by saluting the common and uncommon police detective. A lot of policemen get something of a raw deal from mystery authors; many early fictional police detectives were inserted into the plot by their authors merely for the Brilliant Amateur Detective to dismiss as clearly incompetent. Think of Sherlock Holmes's foils such as Lestrade or Gregson, for example, or some of the not-too-bright policemen who express contempt for Hercule Poirot. No, it's high time to recognize another group of fictional police detectives, the ones whose detection skills and observation techniques are more than a match for the hapless criminals they encounter. You'll find several of them in a brand new anthology called The Long Arm of the Law, edited by mystery historian and author, Martin Edwards. It's the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
The Long Arm of the Law comes to us from Poisoned Pen Press, the U.S. publisher of the British Library Crime Classics series, who provided me with an advance copy of the book for this review; it is scheduled to be published in the U.S. this week. Martin Edwards has selected fifteen short stories, originally published between 1908 and 1966, each of which highlights some very smart detective work by the police. Most, though not all, involve murder. There are well-known authors, such as Edgar Wallace, Christianna Brand, Nicholas Blake and Freeman Wills Crofts. There are also authors whose names are new to me, such as Laurence W. Meynell, Gerald Verner and Leonard R. Gribble. As usual with these British Library editions, Martin Edwards has provided an introduction which examines this sub-genre; he also introduces each of the stories, offering some insights into the authors and their work. If you'd like more details about each of the fifteen stories in this collection, please click on the link to the podcast to listen to my summary. The Long Arm of the Law is a first-rate anthology.