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Sacred Space

Joseph Campbell said: "Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again." This is my sacred space, in the midst of a jumble of books of no particular denomination in a cavernous dimly-lit library hall, whiling my time away among the musty pages while the world busy destroying itself outside. You are welcome, fellow reader, to share this space.

Currently reading

Italian Folktales
Italo Calvino
Marilynne Robinson
A Fanatic Heart: Selected Stories
In The Teeth Of The Evidence - Dorothy L. Sayers A good mystery story is like a magic trick. We all try to find out what the secret is, but we are happy if we are defeated, and a trifle disappointed if we win. The only difference is that the mystery writer reveals her trick at the end, while the magician does not.

If a full length mystery novel is a grand illusion with all the props, the detective short is a parlour trick. The illusion is cumbersome to set up and execute, but when properly done, very effective and hard to see through: the parlour trick, on the other hand, depends entirely on the speed of the magician's hand, and there is a greater chance of failure and embarrassment as the cards come slipping out of the sleeve.

Which is why, I think, that there are very few "great" detective short stories compared to novels by the great authors. Dorothy Sayers is no exception.

The present collection, even though enjoyable, fails to present us with any "great stories" (except one - Suspicion - which is excellently spine-chilling). The first two stories, featuring the famous Lord Peter Wimsey, are only average: in fact, the mystery in the first can be solved by any discerning reader immediately. The next five, featuring the travelling salesman Montague Egg, are only interesting with regard to their unusual sleuth - the stories are rather pedestrian. The remaining tales are all stand-alone stories, with two or three humorous ones where a dire secret is promised only to end in a comic whimper. While this is enjoyable once or twice, it does become stale when repeated too often.

The last two stories do not belong to the conventional mystery canon. The penultimate one straddles reality and fantasy: the last one is an out-and-out horror story. They are interesting, but nothing to write home about.

Overall verdict: a nice book to curl up with at the end of a tiring day.