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Guilty Creatures

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I have read a lot of books released by the British Library Crime Classics. To the point that when I went to secondhand bookstores last month, I first picked all of them I found and only then weeded some out! Not all are of the same interest levels, but here I think the book gets progressively more interesting, with better stories further into the collection than in the beginning. I list them out briefly because if I ever want to recollect them, this will be easier.

I rated only what I thought of the mystery and how it made me feel. Almost all were consistently written in a style that I have always appreciated. I grew up on such writing and with some variation, the collection tends to stick to a certain method of introduction and narration. I would recommend this to readers of this genre, just to explore all the variety.

The Adventure of the Lion’s mane by Arthur Conan Doyle (1926)
This is one that I have previously read and not enjoyed too much. It is an interesting plot which bears all the hallmarks of a Holmes story, with him narrating his own adventure. A man is found dead near a beach with no explanation for the scars on him or how he died. There is at least one suspect, but Sherlock Holmes winds it all up quite neatly. – 3 stars (Not one of my favourites, does not feel too satisfying)

The Case of Janissary by Arthur Morisson (1897)
A not-so-honest man is at the centre of the plot. This makes the ultimate resolution a little harder to stomach. The mystery itself was interesting enough for me to keep reading. Unresolved death and bets are the clues that have one man setting a trap. What happens after forms the bulk of the narrative (3 stars)

The Sapient Monkey by Headon Hill (1892)
This felt very familiar, although the end result was new. There is a bank robbery, and a young man with a sterling reputation is the accused. The way the issue is resolved is different but provides no opportunity for the reader to make an educated guess. (2 stars)

The Green Parrakeet by F. Tennyson Jesse (1918)
This story went on a little longer than I expected it to. It lays out the foundation of the place and the people pretty well before even venturing into the possible plot. There is a strange couple looking after an even stranger girl whose only sole care is for a green Parakeet. A visitor to the neighbourhood gets attached to her and therefore ends up speeding up the end of the events. This last part was not satisfying to someone like me.(2 stars)

The Oracle of the dog by GK Chesterton (1923)
This is the point the stories change (or so I felt). Although the foundation of the story happens as a third person narrating it, it was quite fascinating. I liked finding out what the dog’s actions meant. I almost chuckled at that point. I am one of those people who tends to generalize with fewer examples than required, and felt this a good antidote to that kind of thinking.(4 stars)

The Man who hated Earthworms by Edgar Wallace (1921)
The anti-heroes in this story have a longer tale (which I found out thanks to the introduction), of which this is a small piece. Two men are hiding out and ensuring they are not caught by the law for things they have done for the greater good. During a random, ill-advised dinner, certain things come to light. Although the ending is not one I usually like, it felt like there was no other way things could have gone for the chapter to close. The enormity of the consequences also felt new in a story like this.(3 stars)

The Courtyard of the Fly by Vincent Cornier (1932)
The story here moves through several years before reaching a conclusion but going from start to finish felt engaging. A man loses jewellery stolen by an insect, or so he claims. These claims almost ruin his life, but he keeps moving on. I found the explanation more plausible than I would have imagined given how things had happened.(3 stars)

The Yellow Slugs by H.C.Bailey (1935)’
I saw one of the twists coming in this story, but the narrative made me wait for the reveal. It begins with two children being cared for when their backstory comes into play. There are many detours taken in this relatively short plot, but the route and the people are very vivid. It did not feel like such an old story at all – it could take its place with some of the more recent thrillers. (4 stars)

Pit of Screams by Garnett Radcliffe (1938/1958)
This was not a mystery. I did not see the ending coming, mostly because I kept waiting for something else to happen. The story is set in India with a crazy ruler behaving even crazier with his courtiers.The snakes are not as important as I would have otherwise thought (2 stars)

Hanging by a Hair by Clifford Witting (1950)
This was the most entertaining of the lot, for some reason. The characters in this are all unlikeable, but given the duration of the time we spend with them, it was quite surprising how easy it was to form opinions on what could have happened and what to think of the people themselves. A man is cheating on his wife quite brazenly, and his mistress is found dead after his visit. The cats are definitely important here.(5 stars)

The Man Who Shot Birds by Mary Fitt (1954)
There is a lot of building up to the moment in this one, with the past being described as well as the present. We have a man wanting to shoot Jackdaws for no reason whatsoever while a close-enough neighbour keeps an eye on his strange behaviour. I expected the twists, but overall was satisfied with the time I spent with it. (3 stars)

Death in a Cage by Josephine Bell (1958)
Given the ominous situation at the very beginning, I was quite sure about what events were set to occur. I was wrong about half of them. The death occurs in a zoo, and it is with extremely small chance encounters that the issue is resolved, but it feels possible for the reader to follow the logic without dwelling too much on it.(3 stars)

The Man who loved Animals by Penelope Wallace (1965)
I enjoyed the writing and the secrecy behind the narrating voice. A woman is chatting up a man who claims to have great skills with all animals. he seems like he is lonely and alone. I was, therefore, thrown by the ending, which felt almost unnecessary. I will not go any further into it because that twist is what drives the plot. (2 stars)

The Hornet’s Nest by Christianna Brand (1967)
This is a proper police procedural, with the entire family being introduced before dinner. Then a death occurs, and there are more suspects than the investigating officer (who was also present at the scene) would care for. the possibilities keep changing, to the point that I almost saw the ending coming, but the author sifted through all possibilities anyway so my guess had to be there somewhere!(4 stars)

I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the review si entirely based on my ownreading experience.
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Another excellent anthology from the British Library series, brilliantly edited by Martin Edwards. In this case the stories are linked by a connection to animals. This is a great collection to take with you on a journey, so you can dip in and out according to the time available. There is a good mixture of stories from well-known authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle and more hidden gems.
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An unusual collection of short mystery stories where animals figure in the plot. More uneven in quality than some of the other collections in this excellent series, it has several stories with great twists and complex puzzles.
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Martin Edwards is an excellent editor. He has curated many story collections for Poisoned Pen Press. Here he has put together another interesting group of stories.

As is noted in this title’s introduction, animals are an often overlooked element in mystery fiction. Well, no longer with this collection of fourteen stories. Here are Monkeys, Dogs, Parakeets, even Earthworms, and more.

Those who enjoy mystery stories and are looking for a slightly different focus will enjoy this title. Following the interesting and intelligent introduction, dive into this collection in any order. Each story is ably introduced by Mr. Edwards, beginning with the first entry by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for this title. All opinions are my own.
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This collection of slightly vintage mystery stories had something for everybody who is a fan of this genre.
Slow moving in some, fast paced in others, quiet characters, forward and pushy characters in others it ran the
full gamut of characters which added up to a very satisfying whole.
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Although a mixed collection in terms of likeable stories, it's good overall, and are centered around animals (yay). I read another collection of stories by this editor that I like a little better, but I'll be happy to read more.

I really appreciate the free ARC for review!!
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“Guilty Creatures: A Menagerie of Mysteries” is one of the latest offerings in the British Library Crime Classics series, edited and introduced by Martin Edwards, a superb set of books that brings out some lesser-known mysteries and thrillers from the gold age of mysteries.  This release is a collection of short stories, all having to do with animals in one form or another.  As is usual with these short story collections, we have a mix of known authors and unknown, interesting stories and some that may be better off forgotten.

What were some of the highlights/lowlights?  We start off with Sherlock Holmes, in one of lesser efforts.  “The Green Parrakeet” was an odd story, with an odd resolution.  I am still quite unsure about my feelings for Father Brown, and this entry didn’t make me feel much better about him.  “The Courtyard of the Fly” was an odd story as well, with mystery taking years to solve.  “Pit of Screams” was a short macabre morality tale.  “The Man Who Loved Animals” is another dark tale…. I guess most of these were a bit to odd/dark for my liking.  “The Hornet’s Nest”  ends the collection, another dark tale but really probably the most enjoyable story in this collection.

For some reason, I feel that this was the weakest collection so far – there were many of these stories that I had forgotten as soon as I turned the page, it was really only towards the end of the book that they became much more interesting.  Oh well, not every collection can be a winner.

I requested and received a free advanced electronic copy from Poisoned Pen Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
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In this latest collection of 14 Golden Age British mystery stories, the general theme that Edwards has used is the presence of animals or creatures of some type. As has been the case with others in this series of books, the results can be uneven at times. And here, in the animal realm, that uneven quality was more evident. But there are two stories that scored a 5 for me. The first is The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane which is written from Holmes’ point of view as it occurred after Holmes’ and Watson’s retirement. This adds an interesting tone to the narrative. My second 5* read was long enough to qualify as a novella, I believe. This is The Yellow Slug by H.C. Bailey. Interesting story with touches of psychology and interesting treatment of children.

There were several other strong stories too but a Father Brown story from Chesterton that was just too old and labored for me.

3.5 rounded to 3* but I believe that those who enjoy classic and Golden Age mystery stories will enjoy this book in spite of any unevenness. After all, enjoyment is always a personal thing.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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Guilty Creatures: A Menagerie of Mysteries is an anthology of classic crime fiction featuring animals in one way or another collected and curated by Martin Edwards. Released 7th June 2022 by Poisoned Pen Press as part of the British Library Crime Classics series, it's 320 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is another worthy anthology in a long-running collection of well- and lesser-known classics from the British crime fiction of yesteryear. These 14 stories, originally published between 1892 and 1967 are taken from the oeuvre of luminaries like Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle (The Lion's Mane), and G.K. Chesterton (The Oracle of the Dog) and others, possibly not as well known to most readers. All of the authors were previously familiar to me, but several of the stories included here were new to me in any form. It's a well rounded collection and all but the most stalwart and well read connoisseur will find stories they've never read. 

For me, one of the biggest draws of the books in the crime classics series are the erudite and always interesting introductions by editor Martin Edwards.  Mr. Edwards has a prodigious knowledge of the genre and writes engagingly and well.

Well written, this entry and the series as a whole are well worth seeking out. This would make a superlative selection for readers of the genre as well as an introduction to classic crime fiction from the golden age. It's so nice to see these being released for a new generation of fans.

Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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The books in this series are always a treat and made me discover some authors that are favorite now.
This one is a good anthology of stories featuring animals and it's a mixed bag. Some are quite good, some were not my cup of tea.
It's an interesting read as it's a way to discover some author and stories.
Recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Aptly-named Guilty Creatures is a delicious collection of fourteen short mysteries written by well-known and lesser-known authors mostly during the Golden Age of crime classics.  Martin Edwards does a splendid job of showcasing these authors, many of whom are familiar to me and some of whom I was happy to learn more about in his descriptions which preface each mystery.  Animals such as monkeys, horses, dogs and birds are highlighted and are victims, witnesses and detectives in these impossible crimes.  Far fetched?  You decide. 

Amongst my favourites are G. K. Chesterton's riveting The Oracle of the Dog, Penelope Wallace's The Man Who Loved Animals (the ending in particular) and Christianna Brand's The Hornet Nest.  The most memorable will always be the short but effective The Pit of Screams by Garnett Radcliffe.  Not exactly realistic but it need not be.  Each author has his/her unique writing style, some are more engaging than others, all fascinating.

It is not necessary to be an animal lover like myself to enjoy these stories.  They are pure joy to read.  Just get lost in them whether they are believable or not and be transported 

My sincere thank you to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this marvelous book!
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This book did not live up to my expectations, which may not be due to any shortcomings on its part. I had been expecting more classic  queen of crime type stories with more logical plots but that is apparently not compatible with the animal aspect.  Some of the stories worked. Some of them were pretty pulpy, and in particular the abysmal jingoistic  Pit of Screams should have stayed lost. I have a lot of respect for Martin Edwards, and others may find these stories,ore to their taste.
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The first in the this series that I am not that jazzed about - I don't know if the theme didn't gel or if the authors didn't resonate with me (I've never been a big fan of Chesterton, for example) but it was a struggle to finish this one. I wouldn't recommend as an entry point to the series but completists may want to dip a toe in.
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The involvement of animals in popular mystery fiction, as Martin Edwards notes in his excellent introduction to this collection, has been a large and lively part of the genre from its very inception. From what’s commonly acknowledged as the first detective story, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders In The Rue Morgue, to the plethora of modern day mysteries featuring helpful animal sidekicks, mystery writers have often inserted animal intelligence into their tales in such a way as to confound and delight their readers. Sometimes the animal is a sleuth, sometimes a murder weapon; sometimes a clue and at others an important metaphor for the crime at hand. With this compendium of fourteen classic British short stories, almost all of them from the fair play tradition, Mr Edwards finds a way to showcase each of these motifs, resulting in a terrific book that will satisfy any mystery lover who also loves, or is at least interested in, the animal kingdom.

The anthology opens with a contribution from perhaps the most famous author of mystery short stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, himself. While Sir Doyle was proud of the plot of The Adventure Of The Lion’s Mane, the denouement can seem rather obvious to anyone with a working knowledge of marine biology – still, this tale is no eye-roll-inducing The Speckled Band. That other great scribe of the mystery short story, G. K. Chesterton, is better represented here by The Oracle Of The Dog. This tale features his best known hero, the ordinarily mild-mannered Father Brown, who has an uncharacteristic outburst at the expense of a young man imparting the tale of a dog barking furiously at a suspect in the murder of a local rich man:

QUOTE
Father Brown sprang to his feet with a startling impatience.

“So the dog denounced him, did he?” he cried. “The oracle of the dog condemned him. Did you see what birds were flying, and are you sure whether they were on the right hand or the left? Did you consult the augurs about the sacrifices? Surely you didn’t omit to cut open the dog and examine his entrails. That is the sort of scientific test you heathen humanitarians seem to trust when you are thinking of taking away the life and honour of a man.”
END QUOTE

While his railing against pagans and atheists is perhaps misplaced – goodness knows that non-churchgoers have hardly cornered the market on superstition – the underlying sentiment that decries irrationality is certainly shared by the other detectives in this collection, hero and villain alike. I really enjoyed how varied the protagonists were here, from the obviously heroic Sherlock Holmes and the scientifically inclined Solange Fontaine of F Tennyson Jesse’s The Green Parrakeet, to the morally ambiguous unnamed narrator of Garnett Radcliffe’s Pit Of Screams, to the outright villainous Horace Dorrington of Arthur Morrison’s The Case Of Janissary, among many others.

But most of all, I greatly enjoyed how this theme allowed Mr Edwards to dig deeply into the annals of British crime fiction to present some truly excellent gems that may be little known to today’s reading public. What is it about animals that inspires so many to write so well? Is it the mystery engendered by humanity’s proximity to animalkind, without yet a means of transparent communication? Is it the knowledge that these creatures we often dismiss as amusing or harmless can yet inspire fear, merely by their primal natures? Nowhere is this last better captured than in Josephine Bell’s Death In A Cage, where the sentiments of a constable stationed near the London Zoo one foggy evening turn quickly from compassion to fear:

QUOTE
All his sympathy for suffering dumb animals, oppressed by alien fog, evaporated. He was frightened, and he resented it bitterly. Coming at him, as it had, in his isolated blindness, the fear was unreasonably strong. Suppose something was loose in there? A tiger, a bear, something of that sort. It would be likely to upset the monkeys; it might be after them. It might be anywhere. It might soon be after him!
END QUOTE

This anthology is a must-read for anyone with an appreciation of both mysteries and zoology. In addition to curating the ceaselessly entertaining stories themselves, Mr Edwards has also written for each a brief introduction to the author and, often, the provenance of the piece, giving readers a fascinating window into the history of British crime fiction, through the lens of animal involvement. Clever and varied, this is one of his best collections yet.
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"Guilty Creatures" is the latest vintage mystery short-story anthology from British Library Crime Classics/Poisoned Pen Press, edited by Martin Edwards. This outing is all about mysteries where an animal is a key component of the case. 

A few of the stories were familiar, but were welcome re-reads, like Doyle's "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane." I'd forgotten that Doyle did occasionally have Holmes self-narrate a tale, and it's interesting to see Holmes through his own eyes.

Some of the stories are weaker, mystery-wise, such as "The Man Who Shot Birds" by Mary Fitt, but the tale itself is so entertaining that that can be overlooked. 

"PIt of Screams" by Garnett Radcliffe is another one I'd read before, but I'd forgotten the trick ending, which is a very pleasing one.

You can't go wrong with Christianna Brand, whose Inspector Cockrill makes a welcome appearance in "The Hornet's Nest." This is another one I'd read before, but it's just so good and so unexpected that it's worth the time spent to read again.

The anthology is a mixed bag, but is well worth reading just for these gems. 

3.75/5 stars

I received an advance copy from Poisoned Pen Press via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.
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Another themed anthology from the British Library Crime Classics, this time, mysteries involving animals. As always with these, some are very good and some not. The Man Who Hated Earthworms was just plain daft, as was The Pit of Screams, though I did quite like the very end. My favourite was The Hornets Nest by Christianna Brand, and I would like to check out more of her work. I also enjoyed The Oracle of the Dog, a Father Brown mystery. I have been meaning to read some of these for ages. I also rather liked The Yellow Slugs.

Overall, I liked the collection, and I do think it's a great way of discovering new to me authors.
*Many thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for a review copy in exchange for an honest opinion.*
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"Guilty Creatures" is a collection of 14 short story mysteries written between the 1890s and 1960s. These stories either had an animal as the intended victim (a racehorse, etc.) or an animal provided a clue or was a part of committing the crime. In one case, an animal was simply the excuse for buying the poison. Most of the cases were simply a walk-through of the events with the solution at the end, but a few were clue-based puzzle-mysteries. In general, I enjoyed the stories, and I hadn't read any of them before. I will note, though, that I didn't like the India viper story. The vipers in that story didn't act like what little I know about vipers and snakes. First, snakes can climb (even slick metal). Also, it's not like they could eat a human, so why would they come out of hiding to attack a human? Anyway. There were only a few uses of bad language. There were no sex scenes. Overall, the stories were interesting and enjoyable.
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I was so pleasantly surprised by this anthology. To be honest, I usually favor full-length novels over short story collections, but I had a great time reading this. There was so much variety in tone and style, so it never felt redundant or repetitive. The story introductions by editor Martin Edwards also gave some great insight into each of the writers and their careers—thanks to this, my TBR list just got even longer!

As for the stories themselves, here were a few of my personal favorites:

The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane by Arthur Conan Doyle
What a nice surprise to find a Sherlock Holmes story that I’d never read right at the start of this book. I love this type of mystery where the crime seems completely inexplicable and bizarre at first, only for there to be one simple solution at the end that explains everything easily. 

The Man Who Hated Earthworms by Edgar Wallace
I absolutely loved this one. So bizarre and quirky, just the kind of tone I like in a classic. I really enjoyed the personalities of these characters, and the criminal that they manage to thwart was just hilarious.  

The Yellow Slugs by H.C. Bailey
This is a completely different tone than any of the others in the anthology. It almost has the atmosphere of an episode of Law and Order or House. I wasn’t sure if I really liked it at first, but it ended up being one of the most memorable in the collection for me. 

The Man Who Shot Birds by Mary Fitt
I love birds, especially corvids, so this endearing story about a jackdaw who plays a role in clearing up an unsolved crime was a nice surprise. The writing style was very readable as well. 

The Hornet’s Nest by Christianna Brand
A great whodunit mystery full of back-and-forth twists and red herrings, and a strong note to end the book on. 

Overall, I thought this collection was brilliant. I would highly recommend checking it out if crime classics are your cup of tea. And a huge thank-you to Poisoned Pen Press for granting me access to the ARC!
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The title of editor Martin Edwards’ latest anthology is a bit misleading: In each of the short stories included, it’s the HUMANS who are guilty, not the animals.

It’s a rare anthology that isn’t hit and miss; however, unlike Martin’s usual fare, Guilty Creatures contains as many duds and mehs as gems. I blame the paucity of detective/mystery stories with beasts rather than Edwards, an English solicitor and a mystery writer in his own right.

There are some real gems: H.C. Bailey’s “The Yellow Slugs” (1935) and Christianna Brand’s 1967 Inspector Cockrill short story “The Hornet’s Nest.” Readers will never see the shocking ending of Penelope Wallace’s 1965 “The Man Who Loved Animals” coming. Clifford Witting’s 1950 “Hanging by a Hair” and Josephine Bell’s 1958 “Death in a Cage” inspired me to check out the authors’ mystery novel series — no greater compliment!

“The Man Who Hated Earthworms” by Edgar Wallace (Pamela’s pa) is awful, Garnett Radcliffe’s 1938 “Pit of Screams” was simply unreadable, and the rest forgettable. That includes G.K. Chesterton’s “The Oracle of the Dog” (1923) and “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane” (1926), which is not up to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s usual standard (as is true of many of Conan Doyle’s later stories).

In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book from NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press in exchange for an honest review.
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I've enjoyed some other titles from this series and this one didn't disappoint. Great for fans of Golden Age mysteries. Thank you very much for the ARC, it was a pleasure reading it. Also, lovely cover!
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