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Best Detective Stories Paperback – January 1, 2001
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|Paperback, January 1, 2001||
The Amazon Book Review
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'Dazzlingly ingenious' -- The Sunday Times
'Neat, taut and sufficiently dipped in irony to give a sharp tang to the quirks of love and life' -- Glasgow Herald
About the Author
Cyril Hare was the pseudonym of Judge Gordon Clark. Born at Mickleham near Dorking in 1900, he was educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford. At the bar his practice was largely in the criminal courts. During the Second World War he was on the staff of the Director of Public Prosecutions; but later, as a County Court judge, his work concerned civil disputes only - and his sole connection with crime was through his fiction. He turned to writing detective stories at the age of thirty-six and some of his first short stories were published in Punch. Hare went on to write a series of detective novels. He died in 1958.
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Top Customer Reviews
In terms of structure, the majority of the stories in this collection fall into three main categories: 7 of them are Puzzle Stories which test readers' wits, 6 of them are "What If--" Premise Stories which have "punitive plots" (i.e., at the ending a wrong-doer has something bad happen to him, usually because he has outsmarted himself), and 15 of them are "What If--" Premise Stories which disclose a more or less ironic and surprising twist at their endings. The 30th story, perhaps the worst in the collection, is "Dropper's Delight," a rambling, disjointed, and unaffecting tale of a bank clerk's good luck (few readers will care either way what happens to anyone in this piece).
The best Puzzle Story, I think, is "Death of a Blackmailer," a sad and touching tale with a tragedy embedded in it; as with Ring Lardner's famous story "Haircut," readers are trusted to solve things that characters cannot. "The Death of Amy Robsart" is a very good Puzzle Story involving an American film actor, his French wife, and a British starlet who dies shortly after playing the part of Amy Robsart (the historical wife of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, supposedly the lover of Queen Elizabeth I), who died under suspicious circumstances in 1560. The least effective Puzzle Story is "The Rivals" (which was praised by Gilbert): probably it will not work for current-day readers because it requires specialized knowledge about an aspect of "old-tyme dances" (which the Internet does not clearly provide).
Of the Premise Stories with ironic Punitive Plots, perhaps the best is "'It Takes Two,'" about a diamond thief. "Sister Bessie or Your Old Leech" (which Gilbert briefly discusses) is unsavory and its ending easily foreseeable. Many of the stories in this category and the next are similar to stories by Roald Dahl, Saki, and Lord Dunsany.
Among the best Premise Stories with Disclosure Plots are "The Markhampton Miracle" about children's prayers, "Miss Burnside's Dilemma" about a vicar's wrongdoing, "The Ruling Passion" about an antique teapot, and "A Very Useful Relationship" about con artists. Some of the stories in this category are humorous, while others are rather nasty or unsavory in their final revelations. "The Tragedy of Young MacIntyre," a comic piece, is perhaps the weakest. "A Life for a Life" in my own view is not only the best story in this category but the best and most touching piece in this whole collection: it involves a stranger joining a barroom debate about capital punishment and telling how his own life was once saved under what seemed to be supernatural circumstances.