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Wednesday 14 July 2021

‘Guilty Creatures’ A Menagerie of Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

Published by British Library Crime Classics,
10 June 2021.
ISBN: 978-0-71235344-1 (PB)

This latest collection from the British Library focuses on crimes where an animal’s involved. The fourteen short stories are given in the order they were written, and range from the 1920s – yes, Conan Doyle was still writing Sherlock Holmes stories then! – up to the 1960s. Each story is preceded by a brief sketch of the author and details of where their work can be found, should the reader wish for more – and every story does leave you wanting to read more by that author. Some are well known, like Conan Doyle, G K Chesterton, Edgar Wallace, H C Bailey and Christianna Brand; others, like F Tennyson Jesse, are better known for their factual crime, and still others, like Mary Fitt, are less well known than they deserve. Agatha Christie is missing because, as Edwards explained in his introduction, she turned her best short story featuring an animal (a dog) into a full length novel, Dumb Witness. There are cerebral detectives like Holmes, atmosphere-sensitive detectives like F Tennyson Jesse’s Solange, enquiry agents like Headon Hill’s Zambra, worldly-wise police officers like Clifford Witton’s Charlton, clever amateurs like Bailey’s drawlin’ Reggie Rortune and Chesternon’s gentle priest, Father Brown, and a singularly unpleasant sleuth, Arthur Morrison’s manipulative, unscrupulous Dorrington.

As for the creatures, well, there’s a racehorse, a parakeet, a monkey, a dog, earthworms, hornets, snakes, a jackdaw, a gorilla, a jellyfish... and who’d ever have thought a yellow slug could provide the proof that nailed a murderer?

The writing’s atmospheric, the characters effectively sketched, and each story is cleverly plotted, fairly clued and satisfyingly solved – in short, this is a cracking collection of top-class vintage crime. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

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. For more information visit:

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  

Click on the title to read a review of her recent book Death From a Sheland Cliff

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