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Friday 11 May 2018

‘The Long Arm of the Law: Classic Police Stories’ Edited by Martin Edwards

Published by The British Library,
August 2017.
ISBN: 978-0712356879

The Long Arm of the Law is a fascinating collection of fifteen short stories published mainly during the first half of the twentieth century.  Works by Edgar Wallace, Freeman Wills Croft and John Creasy appear alongside lesser-known authors from the period, and as the title suggests, the book focuses mainly on detectives working within the police force. 

The collection begins with a 1908 offering from Alice and Claude Askew, The Mystery of Chenholt, in which PC Reggie Vane M.A. requests the help of his fiancée, Violet, also a police officer to solve a case.  In so doing he puts her life in jeopardy.  Edgar Wallace’s The Silence of PC Hurley (1909) explores silence as an effective interview technique.  The well-known Road Hill House murder provides the inspiration for The Mystery of a Midsummer Night by George R. Sims and is followed by Lawrence W. Meynell’s The Cleverest Clue, in which ex-Inspector Joseph Morton is called in to solve the case of a missing professor who has been working on a top secret anti-aircraft device.  In The Undoing of Mr Dawes, by Gerald Verner, an unorthodox Superintendent Budd manages to solve a very clever robbery by thinking laterally.  The tale is followed by a 1936, work by Roy Vickers which tells the story about The Man Who Married Too Often.

The Case of Jacob Heylyn, by Leonard G. Gribble, describes how Scotland Yard detective Anthony Slade sees through what appears to be a suicide but which actually proves to be a fiendishly clever murder. In Fingerprints (1952), Freeman Wills Croft presents the reader with the identity of the murderer, before describing how the victim was killed!  The next tale, from 1950, is Remember to Ring Twice by Edith Caroline Rivett.  When PC Tom Brandon overhears a conversation whilst enjoying a drink in the Jolly Sailor pub, he little realises it will enable him to find a killer.  In Cotton Wool and Cutlets, by Henry Wade, an eagle-eyed new detective, John Bragg, employs his useful motto Notice and Rememberand makes a good impression on his new boss, Detective Inspector Hurst.  Christianna Brand’s After the Event, reveals tensions between the leading ladies in a family run theatre company, Dragon Productions, during an ill-fated tour of Othello.  It is followed by, Sometimes the Blindwhose author, Nicholas Blake, outlines an interesting case that didnt make it to court due to lack of evidence.  John Creasy, creator of the famous George Gideon, contributes The Chief Witness in which Police Officer Roger West investigates a case of domestic disharmony and murder.  Old Mr Martin is a shopkeeper who dies following a road traffic collision.  Patrick Petrella initially treats the case as a hit and run, but that changes after the deceaseds cleaner discovers something unpleasant in the cellar of his sweet shop.  Gil North’s, 1966 The Moorlanders, is the final tale in the collection.  Constable Barkers motorcycle skidded off a treacherous road on the moors and he lies seriously injured in hospital - but was it an accident or something more sinister.  The officers of Gunnarshaw return to the scene to find out. 

Martin Edwardsentertaining introduction to this collection provides the reader with an overview of crime writing during the period spanned by the works, and he helpfully precedes each tale with a short biography of the author, and interesting facts relating to their literary output.  This is a super book of bite sized crime and part of the British Library Crime Classics series.
Reviewer: Dorothy Marshall-Gent

Martin Edwards was born 7 July 1955 at Knutsford, Cheshire and educated in Northwich and at Balliol College, Oxford University, taking a first-class honours degree in law. He trained as a solicitor in Leeds and moved to Liverpool on qualifying in 1980. He published his first legal article at the age of 25 and his first book, about legal aspects of buying a business computer at 27, before spending just over 30 years as a partner of a law firm, where he is now a consultant. He is married to Helena with two children (Jonathan and Catherine) and lives in Lymm. A member of the Murder Squad a collective of crime writers. In 2007 he was appointed the Archivist of the Crime Writers Association and in 2011 he was appointed the Archivist of the Detection Club. Martin is currently chair of the CWA. For more information visit:

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.  

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