Murder in the Falling Snow, edited by Cecily Gayford – Review
By Sarah Morgan
Band Aid once claimed “It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid.”
Clearly they had no idea just how many crime writers set their work during that period. They can be so nerve-wracking, they make readers want to batten down the hatches and not peek outside until March.
Collections of such tales featuring authors from the Golden Age of Crime are not uncommon. The British Library’s Crime Classics series includes a variety of novels as well as a couple of short story collections edited by Martin Edwards. Renowned editor, literary researcher and anthologist Richard Dalby also released his take on the genre with 1991’s Crime for Christmas.
Murder in the Falling Snow covers the same ground. It’s edited by Cecily Gayford and is the latest in a series from Profile Books featuring chilly tales in which the freezing conditions play an integral part.
This tome contains 10 titles by some great names. I’m particularly pleased to see Edgar Wallace among them. Although a massive, bestselling author at one point, with a series of 47 rather good B movies adapted from his books between 1960 and 1965, he’s since fallen out of favour.
Wallace’s contribution is ‘The Chopham Affair’, an intriguing account of a con-man’s demise. I hope readers unfamiliar with his work will be inspired to check out some of his back catalogue after reading it – I recommend ‘The Valley of Ghosts’, which is set in Beverley.
Other famous folk popping up here include Dorothy L Sayers, Julian Symons, Arthur Conan Doyle (yes, it’s a Holmes and Watson story, ‘The Adventure of the Abbey Grange’) and GK Chesterton.
There isn’t actually a bum note in the entire collection. While some are better than others (I particularly enjoyed the aforementioned Wallace as well as Chesterton’s ‘The Sign of the Broken Sword’ having, shamefully, never having previously read any of his Father Brown cases), there isn’t a single one you could skip through and not miss it – which is quite some feat.
Unlike with the British Library books, there are no short profiles of each author here which, although I do find those interesting, I didn’t particularly miss. I would, however, have liked to have known when each tale was originally published, which seems like a simple thing to have been added.
But that’s a small niggle in what is an impressive tome. To paraphrase Nick Cook’s famous Crimewatch sign off, just don’t have nightmares after reading it.
‘Murder in the Falling Snow’, edited by Cecily Gayford is published by Profile Books, £8.99 paperback