The Long Arm of the Law: Classic Police Stories [Edited by Martin Edwards]

Before I started my vintage crime book per month project this year, the only Vintage Crime Classics I had read were Sherlock Holmes books. I remember thinking back when I was reading them how utterly helpless Inspector Lestrade would have been without the help of Holmes he received from time to time in solving crimes. Inspector Lestrade lacked imagination, although he was a famous detective of Scotland Yard and I dreaded to imagine competence of the rest of the detectives at Scotland Yard.

But there was a time in crime fiction when stories didn’t revolve around eccentric amateur sleuths, with police officers there to provide comic relief. As Martin Edwards, the series consultant for British Library Crime Classics puts “many notable detectives of yesteryear sprang from the ranks of the official police.” So The Long Arm of the Law is a collection of classic stories that celebrates these unsung heroes.

The Long Arm of the Law has fifteen short stories in it. Even though a couple of stories didn’t hit the mark, the collection had three stories that I absolutely loved! The Undoing of Mr. Dawnes by Gerald Verner involves Holmes-like imagination deployed by detective Mr. Budd. It was delightful to read how Mr. Budd, aka “Rosebud,” wove a web of lies for Mr. Dawnes to walk right into. According to Martin Edward’s insightful introduction at the beginning of The Chief Witness by John Creasey, Roger West; the police officer involved in the story is considered one of the most handsome detectives in classic crimes. However, in this domestic murder case, it is the story’s chief witness who stole my heart! Old Mr. Martin by Michael Gilbert, which looks into the hit and run of a lovely sweet seller is the story that surprised me the most with its devious twist!

Other than these favorites, there are few praiseworthy stories here. In the anthology’s opening story; The Mystery of Chenholt by Alice and Claude Askew, the butler to the Darrells suspects his master of slowly poisoning his wife and Reggie, the constable in-charge of the local police station sends his fiancee, who is also a police detective to do some undercover work at Darrell’s house. In The Mystery of a Midsummer Night by George R. Sims, the youngest son of West Country’s Squire goes missing, and detective Chance comes upon the clue which would help them close the case while chatting about at the village alehouse, but tying it to the suspect brings some unforeseen difficulties.

The Long Arm of the Law is a fine collection any vintage crime fiction lover would enjoy. British Library Crime Classics series has already published books by some of the authors who appear in this anthology, so now I want to read all of them, and check out the rest of anthologies!