Serpents in Eden : Countryside Crimes

Title: Serpents in Eden

Writer: Various, edited by Martin Edwards

Publishing House: British Library Crime Classics

Date of Publication: March 1st 2016 

Rating: 5 stars

‘’It was a day of cloud, and the very air over the moors was grey, and the long waves of heather were dark as the black earth, the distant woodland had no colour, the form of the chalk hills to northward was vague and dim. Mr. Fortune stopped the car and looked about him. Some grey smoke hung in a hollow from unseen houses. As far as he could see there was no man nor any of the works of man. The moor carried no cattle, There was no sign of life but the hum of bees and the chirp of grasshoppers and the flies and butterflies in the heavy air. ‘’

The countryside can hide a multitude of secrets in its serenity and isolation. How easy it is to sweep a little adultery, a little fraud, a little extortion, a little murder under the expensive carpet of a country manor…And yet, how freely gossip circulates within a teeny-tiny rural community where everyone knows everyone, where proximity brings about all kinds of problems, feuds and passions…Thirteen stories of crimes committed within the heart of the British countryside in a delightful instalment of the amazing British Library Crime Classics series.

The Black Doctor (Arthur Conan Doyle): A rather haunting mystery and a spectacular depiction of a murder trial by one of the greats of Literature.

Murder by Proxy (M. McDonnell Bodkin): A powerful member of the community is murdered. Caught in the web of a feud or victim of the poachers’ vengeance? The suspect seems to be ready for immediate arrest but the wonderful Paul Beck has other ideas…

The Fad of the Fisherman (G.K. Chesterton): A politician obsessed with fishing is found dead and war is looming…This is quite an unusual, albeit delightful, mystery.

The Genuine Tabard (E.C.Bentley): A mystery of forgery and burglaries with a quality sprinkle of History, set in a serene village.

The Gylston Slander (Herbert Jenkins): Set in a vicarage in Hampshire, this story makes excellent use of the poison pen letters and the result is perfection.

The Long Barrow (H.C.Bailey): A town’s superstitions threaten the archaeological research near Stoke Abbas. However, Reggie Fortune will do some digging of his own to unearth dark secrets and evil ambitions. 

The Naturalist at Law (R.Austin Freeman): What initially seems a suicide and a rather ‘’open-and-shut’’ case become a mystery to which Nature holds the key.

A Proper Mystery (Margery Allingham): A little Essex countryside mystery set on Midsummer’s Eve.

Direct Evidence (Anthony Berkeley): Roger Sheringham demonstrates in the clearest way possible that direct evidence can be monstrously deceiving…

Inquest (Leonora Woodhouse): An inquest exposes the sneaky machinations in a sleepy town. And where there’s a will, there’s a way…

The Scarecrow (Ethel Lina White): A young woman sees a past nightmare return when her attacker escapes from prison. Living in an isolated farmhouse, she has to find a way to defend herself in a story that is atmospheric, tense and eerie.

Clue in the Mustard (Leo Bruce): When good old mustard triggers an epiphany…

Our Pageant (Gladys Mitchell): Morris dancers and danger…

As always, marvellous Introduction and Notes on each story by Martin Edwards.

‘’You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty…I look at them, and the only thought that comes to me is a feeling of their isolation and of the impunity with which crime may be committed there…’’

  Sherlock Holmes