Monday, May 28, 2018
TALES OF MYSTERY AND CRIME by William Wallace
This was a gift from some friends who went on vacation in London. And damn, that cover!
William Wallace is credited as "Sometime Undersheriff and Deputy Coroner for the County of Leicestershire" and very little else is given out about him. There's a forward by George Pleydell Bancroft, and I think that dates this book to the late 30s or 40s, as no publishing date is given. Plus, the overall look of the thing is very early 20th century.
So how is it?
Well, Wallace was not a gripping writer. At his worst, he's turgid and melodramatic. His first story, "The Manley Mystery," is a bit of a slog as dissects a rather unintereating crime, the murder of a former soldier in the 1860s. It's got a framing story of a doctor reading an old manuscript at Christmastime, but the framing story serves no purpose and adds nothing to it. It's followed by "The Monk of Millford Abbey" which is a pure fiction about a monk who seeks to avenge the dissolution of his abbey by getting close to the king and assassinating him. It inspired the cover but it drags a lot, and it has a horrible "it-was-all-a-dream" ending that infuriated me.
"The Mystery of Melton Wood" is another slog, this time the murder of a young woman, complicated by the execution of an innocent man. The last story, "The Ghost of York Minster," is the best, largely because it's the shortest, and it has a genuinely macabre resolution in its story of a haunted choir loft in an old church. Again, this isn't brilliant, but an amiable read on a slow winter afternoon.
So....great cover....so-so execution.