Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some light holiday reading

The best used bookstore I know of in my parents' hometown is Goodwill; one of the locations even has a little coffeeshop attached, and if you buy a book you get $1 off pastries. Not bad, not bad.

I picked this title up for a mere 79 cents the other day -- from the clearance rack at Goodwill. That bodes well, right?
"Whodunnit" is right up there with "cyber" on my list of words I hate

But! I am pleased to report that this was a good buy. The book contains a variety of short mystery stories featuring detectives in different periods of history. Many of the stories are republished from Ellery Queen but a few were written for this anthology. As the cover suggests, some of the sleuths are the stars of series, so if you like their stories this collection can be a jumping-off point. To this end, there's a little bibliography suggesting specific books according to their setting. The editor has obviously put a lot of work in and these aren't just public-domain stories collected up to make a quick buck. The bibliography and the introductions to each story make it clear that there is a real human opinion at work behind the selections, which I think makes the whole thing more enjoyable.

Unsurprisingly, given my well-known Roman history obsession, I liked the story starring Decius Metellus best, and I want to read one of the full-length books at some point, whenever I get time. I was really surprised by the number of different time periods represented though. So far I've read stories set in ancient Egypt, Golden Age Athens, republican Rome, imperial Rome, Justinian Byzantium, ancient China, and early medieval Ireland. Some are, I think, a little more "historical" than others, in that some stories seem more interested in exploring the limitations and methods of pre-modern "investigation" than others, which more or less transpose the standard format. It's interesting to see how different authors set about their stories, and the beauty of short stories is that you're never far off from something different.

I'm still plugging away at The Two Towers but this book makes for nice vacation reading. It's like that tray of cookies you can't stop nibbling at, even though you know you ought to be eating up the leftovers from your Christmas party's raw veggie tray.

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