Mystery

The Measure of Malice: Scientific Detection Stories

#BritishCrimeClassicsChallenge

I rarely (if ever) review the individual stories in a collection of short stories but given the fact that my varying reactions to the several I encountered in this book, I had to split it up to give a more accurate picture of the book itself. It is a collection of stories where the detectives use ‘scientific methods’ to come to their conclusions. In some cases, the thought process is not as apparent as in some others.

  1. The Boscombe Valley Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle [1891]

    I have read this one before, and it was never one of the more intriguing ones (to my mind). It is a case of a man being found dead just after he has a quarrel with his son. Within a span of a few minutes, multiple things happen. Sherlock Holmes and Watson visit the place, and Sherlock analyzes the facts. It is a very swift analysis in comparison with some other narrations, and once you know or remember the solution, it does not hold the same thrill. (3 stars)

  2. The Horror of the Studley Grange – L.T.Meade & Clifford Halifax [1894]

    Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith and Edgar Beaumont are the names of the authors. It had an engaging narrative style, but the plot was very clear from the very beginning with the usage of certain words repeatedly. Dr Halifax is called to visit a woman’s husband who she says will not see anyone for some strange thing plaguing him while the situation does not turn out to be that clear. I did not dislike the story only because of how the sequence of events rolled out. (3 Stars)

  3. The Tragedy of a Third Smoker by C.J.Cutcliffe Hyne [1989]

    The title is slightly misleading, but the overall story was surprising. The analysis that brings the story to light was also unexpected. A man is found dead in a compartment with a head wound, and the only other man (or was he?) in the compartment was seen leaving in a daze. The legal team required to build the case actually ends up confirming his role in the events that occurred. It was surprisingly simple and straightforward. Not all short stories end up this way. (4 stars)

  4. The Man Who Disappeared by L.T.Meade & Robert Eustace [1901]

    There is a Spanish woman with an English Step-daughter who wants a house for rent with precise specifications. This is handed to her when a new player is brought into the scene with information that might prove valuable. This was also pretty straightforward, but the resolution was not as satisfactory because it seemed too out of the blue. This, of course, is a very personal reaction to the solution. (2 stars)

  5. The Cyprian Bees by Anthony Wayne [1924]

    Dr Hailey is brought a bee a story to go with it, this leads to a set of conclusions which in turn leads to action being taken. That is the format of the narrative, and it involved a lot more questioning than the previous stories. The plot was not surprising, but the steady method of analysis had me reading it to the end. (3 stars)

  6. The English Filter by C.E.Bechhofer Roberts[1926]

    This story with the lead character who is named ABC Hawkes and is informed about scientific research that might interest him. What he finds instead is a sort of character study and the struggle to maintain power by an old man. I found the resolution and the idea behind it intriguing. If the concept genuinely existed, it would have made the world of mystery fiction more complicated. I did not guess the direction the story might take, and it had me curious till the very end. (3 Stars)

  7. The Contents of a Mare’s next by R.Austin Freeman [1927]

    Half-way into the book, I started liking the author’s narrative styles more, they seemed more along the lines of the stories I am used to typically enjoying. This was also an entertaining story. It is shown from the perspective of an Insurance man and a claim for a death. This then follows the chain of events following a death, certificates and such. I got my guess partially wrong, but the writing and the story itself was worth the read. (4 stars)

  8. After Death the Doctor by J.J.Connington [1934]

    Alfred Walter Stewart is the author’s real name, and this story was about the death of a man at his table. There is a specific cast of possible suspects and innumerous reasons that people did not like the dead man. This cast is painstakingly examined, but the final revelation happens due to a chance occurrence which took away some of the zeal for me.  (3 stars)

  9. The Broken Toad by H.C.Bailey [1935]

    This started in a very different manner than the story actually went. It begins as a chance remark at a party and the story behind the comment is mentioned. The ending surprised me entirely because I was starting to settle into a know-it-all position about the resolution, and things did not turn out the way I thought they would! A policeman is found dead, and the circumstances are very odd. By a lucky chance, the oddity is further tracked and analyzed. (4 stars)

  10. In the Teeth of Evidence by Dorothy L.Sayers [1939]This particular story was the best of the lot for me. I have a feeling I should do my best to lookup more of the author’s works because I have only read one so far. This has Sir Peter Wimsey going to a dentist’s appointment and then tagging along to help identify a burnt body. Although I guessed the way the story was going to go, the short format not leaving much to speculation but it was still a lot of fun. (5stars)

11. The Case of the Chemist in the Cupboard by Ernest Dudley [1943]

Authors name: Vivian Ernest Coltman-Allen

This was an odd story, and a little abrupt but the characters introduced to us in the telling of it were fun. We have a grumpy boss with exacting standards who is scaring his assistant into submission when she finds a body and then loses it shortly after. The cracking of the case was not as startling because of the lack of numbers of people introduced to us, but the narration itself was the highlight. (4 Stars)

12. The Purple Line by John Rhode[1950]

This felt like a very swift story. There is a surprise discovery of a woman in a water butt, and the suspect is the husband, but he has a solid alibi. The tale then picks up from there and here too an odd random incident precipitates the revelation, but it was still entertaining (4stars)

13. Blood Sport by Edmund Crispin [1954]

Author’s name: Robert Bruce Montgomery.

Although I did not measure the stories, I think this was the shortest of the lot. I was done before I knew it and knowing I had missed something I had to read it twice to see where that twist lay. When I did spot it, I found it highly entertaining, even though we are speaking of murder and murderers. (4stars)

14. The New Cement by Freeman Wills Croft [1955]

This final story was pretty straightforward. It jumps right into sabotage and then from there it is all about tracing the origins of the plot. (3 Stars)

Total Approx: 4 Stars

Sometimes it was the story, occasionally the writing and very few times it was the mystery plot itself that caught my attention. I am glad I gave it a shot, but for most of these authors, I think I might prefer their longer stories.

 

I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

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