cover image Murderous Schemes: An Anthology of Classic Detective Stories

Murderous Schemes: An Anthology of Classic Detective Stories

. Oxford University Press, $30 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-19-510321-2

""What is this drug anyway?"" Westlake asks about the timeless attraction of detective stories. This anthology answers by breaking the genre into eight types, each illustrated by four splendid examples. In subgenres such as Locked Rooms, Armchair Detectives and Brilliant Schemes Gone Wrong, Westlake showcases outstanding writers of the last 100 years. In ""The Blue Geranium,"" Agatha Christie's Miss Marple solves a murder with only the clues of dinner conversation. Ellery Queen is represented, as is Edward D. Hoch, the leading current contributor to Queen's namesake magazine. In Hoch's ""The Leopold Locked Room,"" police captain Leopold is found in a closed room with his murdered ex-wife. Ballistics results show that Leopold's gun fired the fatal shot, but Leopold and readers know he's not the killer. Every bit of the solution is cleverly foreshadowed. ""Someday I'll Plant More Walnut Trees"" initially seems to be a predictable tract on spousal abuse, but the author is Lawrence Block, who turns the reader's expectations inside out with two clever twists. Other contributors include Raymond Chandler, Shirley Jackson, Chester Himes and Roald Dahl. Westlake provides sensible analyses, even if he does sound a bit guilty for thinking too much about the pure pleasure of it all. (Jan.)