When acclaimed mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers first began compiling anthologies of the best crime stories in the 1920s and '30s, the genre was in the flush of its first golden age. While it is hard to imagine today - after every possible mystery plot has been told, retold, subverted, and played straight again by hundreds of writers over nearly a century - in Sayers's day there were still twists that had never been seen, and machinations of crime that would shock even jaded Jazz Age fans.
Now today's fans of mystery and crime can experience a handpicked collection of over thirty of the most outstanding stories from this era, originally chosen by Sayers and newly introduced by Otto Penzler, a leading expert and connoisseur in the field of mystery literature. As a prolific writer of the genre, Sayers understood the difficulty of putting together a mystery that was not only sufficiently challenging (so that the solution was not immediately obvious to the listener), but also solvable without forcing the writer to cheat. That balance between opacity and solvability remains the greatest challenge of writing great crime stories - and these are some of the greatest.
Authors appearing in this collection include:
Edgar Allen Poe
H. G. Wells
J. S. Le Fanu
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Yes, but the title "The Best Crime Stories Ever Told" is somewhat misleading. There is a question left I find not easily to be answered: Why did the title of that compilation evoke expectations of well written crime stories? It aroused my interest even more though, since Dorothy Sayers was the editor. One expects a compilation of witty and intelligent crime fiction from her. This expectation had been most of the time disappointed. Only a smaller part of that edition consists of so called "who done it" stories. Estimated two third of the book were "ghost" stories instead.
Cons concerning the quality of the stories and the reading:
At least one "crime story" was without a surprising/convincing end (a kind of "murder in a closed room story" - this time it was a "closed train story"). Some crime fiction tales could have easily be shortened or - even better - skipped. They might perhaps have been thrilling for the auditorium in the roaring 20th.
The E. A. Poe story was - concerning my taste - really over the edge. I must say - even it was presented in the already censured version it would be better left out. Perhaps one reason for my dislike is the narrator's treatment of the female person (Beatrice). He treates her merely as an object and in a most disgusting way.
One task for future readings could be fulfilled more properly: Please, do pronounce the Latin and French words/ citations in a way that they are understandable. F.i. the Latin citation at the beginning of Poe's short story was terribly massacred by the reader. Therefore it became a grotesk parody of the deeply and gravely meant sentences. Sorry, but you really gave me a hard time to even understand what words you had intended to say. It was just a pain in the ears. Finally a web research helped me. But the atmosphere was spoiled
About 3 "ghost" stories were hilarious and really outdated. They did not infatuate my emotions or interest at all. I listened to the audiobook until the end - despite the hurdles. Finally I did not regret it. Because the last story again gave me some reconciliation with my buying of that book.
Pros for my Ranking:
I give 3-4 stars in spite of my disillusion, because the stories indeed stem from the era of "the golden age of crime" (from the end of 19th till the beginning of the twentieth century). I like the sujet and the atmosphere as well as the places where they are settled in.
My thanks goes to the readers/speakers because they read the stories in a comforting, well understandable English - according to the respective situation. Most of the time I listened to the audiobook whilst walking or doing other stuff. One can hardly miss the clues of the predominantly simple stories. One exception might be Melville's short story. The reason for it seemed to be his relatively old fashioned and high standard use of the English language. I liked and enjoyed it very much but had to listen more carefully too.
What did I like most?
Last story. Plus Melville. And the compilation of the different authors. It mixed stories of not so well known writers with fiction of more famous ones. From some authors I am eager to read some more stories. I think, I am now enabled to decide, from whom of those novellists I would momentarily rather not like to read anything further.
If I had read the book by my own...
...it would not have ocurred to me, that Latin can be utterly mispronounced. BUT: I would have missed the different dialects the people speak in that stories, depending from their background. The readers do it very convincingly; I enjoyed it!
Book inspired me:
1. Reading more from Melville.
2. Being cautious with E.A. Poe stories. They seem to contain - at least for my taste (and at least momentarily) - much too a darkened view on life phenomena. I think - being involved professionally with those issues - the diseases "of the mind" were not really emphatically described. They were - of course - not as well understood or even classified in his era as they now are. Therefore they may have led E.A. Poe to obscure conclusions. Some people may fancy his speculations. I momentarily do not like it.
3. Trying audiobooks by Dorothy Sayers...perhaps I will find good/ intelligent crime fiction in her books.
4. Reading a selection of "fiction novels" from today not so well known authors of that era will be worth my time. I feel encouraged to do so now.
Useful to know:
Itis most of the time an easy going for non native speakers. It will give you an overview from whom of the authors you want definitely to read more...
My next book might be another compilation of short stories or crime fiction.
This was my first one.
Above already mentioned.
I suggest reading it. But do not aspect just crime stories. It mostly contains a lot of fiction, dealing with the "supernatural".