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Friday, 26 July 2019

‘Deep Waters: Mysteries on the Waves’, edited by Martin Edwards

Published by British Library Crime Classic,
10 June 2019.

ISBN: 978-0-71235288-8 (PB)

Deep Waters is an absorbing collection of sixteen short stories published between 1893 and 1975.  A watery theme connects the diverse selection of tales which emanated from the pens of now canonical authors like Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle to those mainly forgotten in the present day, such as Kem Bennett whose 1955 “Queer Fish” was adapted into a 1956 film Doublecross. 

The adventure of the Gloria Scott (1893) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle launches the anthology with Holmes’s first case.  The famous sleuth’s formidable skills of observation and logic uncover a shocking truth related to the sinking of the Gloria Scott many years previously.  This is followed by an 1897 mystery The Eight-Mile Lock in which L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace swap the high seas for the River Thames, a houseboat party, and the seemingly impossible theft of a precious bracelet.  E.W. Hornung’s The Gift of the Emperor published a year later, sees gentleman thief A.J. Raffles reunited with Harry Bunny Manders.  With his customary panache, Raffles masterminds the theft of a priceless pearl as it is transported by steamship to its intended recipient - Queen Victoria.  The next criminal caper Bullion! (1911) by William Hope Hodgson reveals how, along with two inexplicable deaths, a cargo of gold bullion is ‘spirited’ from the secure hold of a ship sailing from Melbourne to London.

R. Austin Freeman’s The Echo of a Mutiny (1912) is an “inverted mystery”.  First the story describes how and by whom its victim is killed, and then narrates how Dr John Evelyn Thorndike employs his medical and forensic skills to uncover the evidence that will condemn the perpetrator.  1935 publications provide the next two stories.  Gwyn Evans writes about an ethereal Silver Bride who haunts the lake at Cheriton Hall with horrific consequences in The Pool of Secrets, before Four Friends and Death by Christopher St John Sprigg, explores what happens to apparently close friends as their boat party of four reduces to three when one of their number is murdered! 

C.S. Forester temporarily abandons Horatio Hornblower to compose The Turning of the Tide (1936), which analyses the mind of a murderer as he plans and executes the perfect crime – almost!  The Swimming Pool by H.C. Bailey sees Detective Reggie Fortune, running into all sorts of bother with a curious swimming pool, a mysterious nurse and a headless corpse! 

“A month or so ago, one Thursday afternoon, I stopped a murder.”  With such an intriguing opening, Phyllis Bentley’s 1946 A Question of Timing simply has to be read.  The next story, Thimble River Mystery by Josephine Bell requires her fictional sleuth, Dr David Wintringham, to assist a friend suspected of slaying a yacht-owning eccentric.

Man Overboard (1954) by Edmund Crispin describes how letters hoarded by a professional blackmailer lead the police to solve an historic murder.  Kem Bennet’s The Queer Fish, again involves blackmail along with salmon poaching, suicide, and an issue of national security.  In The Man who was Drowned by James Pattinson, a man is reported to have fallen, or jumped, from the M.V. Southern Star, but when lawman Barton Rice investigates, he discovers some interesting anomalies that entice him to dig deeper.  “Seasprite” is a boat that so preoccupies its owner, Guy Lunt, that he fails to appreciate the danger he is sailing towards in this 1963 tale by Andrew Garve. 

Michael Innes’s Death by Water (1975) is the final story in the collection.  Detective Sir John Appleby is concerned about his old friend, Charles Vandervell, who is cash-strapped and depressed.  Then local widow Mrs Mountmorris arrives, takes charge, and revives Vandervell’s spirits.  Appleby’s relief, however, is soon overtaken by tragedy..

Deep Waters
is the latest of the British Library Crime Classics series.  Martin Edwards, the series consultant, has selected a tantalizing selection of stories which explore the theme suggested by the title, and his introduction, as always, provides an enlightening and entertaining prelude to the treasure trove of tales that follow.  The result is a thoroughly enjoyable collection that I highly recommend.

Reviewer: Dorothy Marshal-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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