This is a nice little book, full of enjoyable bite-sized detective stories. TDetective Stories, edited by Peter Washington, reviewed by Charles Harrishere are many good stories, recent and older, including pieces by Ruth Rendell, Ian Rankin and Sara Paretsky. And there are some absolute stand-outs.

I enjoyed the Earl Stanley Gardner, the Chandler and the Christie – those last too, admirable as they are, tend to be more tolerable in small doses. These books are useful too for introducing you to writers you’ve always been meaning to get around to – and so it was nice meeting the intelligence of G.K. Chesterton and the energy of Dashiell Hammett. I feel almost ashamed to admit to not getting round to them before.

But quality will out and Simenon’s ‘Mlle Berthe and Her Lover’ has Maigret in top form as he is roused from his retirement to save a possibly innocent man from being arrested for murder. The story will keep you guessing to the end. What is so special, though, as ever with Simenon, is his rare feel for people. Few crime writers can create characters with such truthfulness and honesty.

Where most writers of detective stories create criminals, victims and detectives who feel tailor-made for their stories, Simenon somehow brings you ordinary, believable people, whichever side they are on, who feel as if they’ve wandered in off the street. And none more believable, or full of life, than Maigret himself.

Borges is also excellent here, learned and thought-provoking as ever. ‘Death and the Compass’ covers murder, the Kabbalah, equilateral triangles and a strangely symmetrical French villa.

But my favourite of all the detective stories has to be Bret Harte’s bullseye parody of the genius amateur detective genre – ‘The Stolen Cigar Case’ – cheekily placed after an Arthur Conan Doyle:

‘It is raining,’ he said, without lifting his head… ‘I see that your umbrella is wet, and that your overcoat has drops of water on it.’
‘I sat aghast at his penetration.’

Loads of fun. Recommended.

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