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the murder book of j g reeder

This is a quaint collection of short crime stories highlighting the criminal mind of the affable Mr J G Reeder, a detective at the Public Prosecutor’s office. His USP, as he keeps reminding his boss, is that he has a criminal bent of mind and views everything from that perspective, allowing him to second-guess and anticipate the actions of the criminal fraternity.

The stories themselves are fairly straightforward, with the denouement often nicely crafted. The first set of this collection is better than the second set, with the endings in the latter relying on coincidences that are only borderline believable. Nevertheless this is a good collection of short crime stories for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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When I was buying this book, the list of authors who’s stories are in this collection didn’t look very impressive, most of them are authors who are no longer well known today. But given the praise from Ruskin Bond in his introductory note for both the stories and their authors, I decided to take a chance. After all, it is a collection of short crime stories so how wrong could it go? But my opinion changed after reading the very first story and then it was just a matter of a few hours before I had finished all of them. The stories in this collection are excellent – the crimes are devious and very cleverly conceived. The first story – Death At The Wicket – will appeal to lovers of cricket – its an ingeniously engineered murder of a batsman. Query describes the agony of a man wrongly accused and jailed of murder, but its the manner in which he proves his point that makes this story interesting. In A Considerable Murder everyone has a reason to kill the old codger, but who’s successful in the end? These and other stories, including a nice one by Ruskin Bond himself, make up this wonderful selection.

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This book brings together the top crime short stories submitted to a competition run in 1981 as part of the Third Crime Writers’ International Conference, held at Stockholm. The top 3 award winners are the first three stories in this collection, which also includes another 15 judged to be the best of the 400+ entries apparently received. The collection, edited by Desmond Bagley, includes stories by a number of well-known names and some not-so-famous ones too. Short stories in any genre are difficult enough, but especially so in crime where the crime, the plot & the subsequent unravelling have all got to be compressed into the 7500 words’ limit. I found this collection extremely enjoyable. Amongst the ones that I enjoyed in the set is a story with a different take on the classic Romeo-and-Juliet tale, how a juvenile arsonist is outwitted, a Tony Hillerman tale set in the Indian reservations and a couple of murder stories with refreshingly unexpected endings. Good stuff.

 

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This is a very good collection of short stories by some well-known authors, including Graham Green & Robert Barr. I feel short crime stories are a difficult genre. In this collection, we have such gems as The Case For the Defence by Graham Greene, which is a powerfully written tale that ends with what seems to be a case of divine justice being enacted but still leaving a loose end open. A Retrieved Reformation by O Henry is a popular heartwarming crime story – the day I read it in this collection, I also happened to spot it in my nephew’s school text book. There’s The Lost Special by Arthur Conan Doyle which refers in a roundabout way to his famous creation Mr Holmes without directly naming him, but which in itself is a very good tale of a locomotive that mysteriously vanishes. Finally, I liked An Alpine Divorce by Robert Barr where a wife pays the ultimate price to get one-up over the husband she hates. There are other stories too and by not naming them I don’t imply they are any less effective in presenting the thrill of the chase.

 

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