Capital Crimes - edited by Martin Edwards

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A wonderfully eclectic collection of 17 London-based crime stories from past-masters

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‘The Case Of Lady Sannox’ : Arthur Conan Doyle
‘A Mystery of the Undeground’ : John Oxenham
‘The Finchley Puzzle’  : Richard Marsh
‘The Magic Casket’  : R. Austin Freeman
‘The Holloway Flat Tragedy’  : Ernest Bramah
‘The Magician of Cannon Street’  : J. S. Fletcher
‘The Stealer of Marble’  : Edgar Wallace
‘The Tea Leaf’  : Robert Eustace and Edgar Jefferson
‘The Hands of Mr Ottermole’  : Thomas Burke
‘The Little House’  : H. C. Bailey
‘The Silver Mask’  : Hugh Walpole
‘Wind in the East’  : Henry Wade
‘The Avenging Chance’  : Anthony Berkeley
‘They Don’t wear Labels’  : E. M. Delafield
‘The Unseen Door’  : Margery Allingham
‘Cheese’  : Ethel Lina White
‘You Can’t Hang Twice’  : Anthony Gilbert

‘The Case Of Lady Sannox' : Arthur Conan Doyle

THE relations between Douglas Stone and the notorious Lady Sannox were very well known both among the fashionable circles of which she was a brilliant member, and the scientific bodies which numbered him among their most illustrious ‘confreres’. There was naturally, therefore, a very widespread interest when it was announced one morning that the lady had absolutely and forever taken the veil, and that the world would see her no more. When, at the very tail of this rumour, there came the assurance that the celebrated operating surgeon, the man of steel nerves, had been found in the morning by his valet, seated on one side of his bed, smiling pleasantly upon the universe, with both legs jammed into one side of his breeches, and his great brain about as valuable as a cup of porridge, the matter was strong enough to give quite a thrill of interest to folk who had never hoped that their jaded nerves were capable of such a sensation.
    Douglas Stone in his prime was one of the most remarkable men in England. Indeed, he could hardly be said to have reached his prime, for he was but nine-and-thirty at the time of this little incident. Those who knew him best were aware that, famous as he was as a surgeon, he might have succeeded with even greater rapidity in any of a dozen lines of life. He could have cut his way to fame as a soldier, struggled to it as an explorer, bullied for it in the courts, or built it out of stone and iron as an engineer. He was born to be great, for he could plan what another man dare not do, and he could do what another man dare not plan. In surgery none could follow him. His nerve, his judgment, his intuition, were things apart. Again and again his knife cut away death, but grazed the very springs of life in doing it, until his assistants were as white as the patient. His energy, his audacity, his full-blooded self-confidence – does not the memory of them still linger to the south of Marylebone Road and the north of Oxford Street?
    And his vices were as magnificent as his virtues, and infinitely more picturesque. Large as was his income, and it was the third largest of all professional men in London, it was far beneath the luxury of his living. Deep in his complex nature lay a rich vein of sensualism, at the sport of which he placed all the prizes of his life. The eye, the ear, the touch, the palate, all were his masters. The bouquet of old vintages, the scent of rare exotics, the curves and tints of the daintiest potteries of Europe, it was to these that the quick-running stream of gold was transformed. And then there came his sudden mad passion for Lady Sannox, when a single interview with two challenging glimpses and a whispered word set him ablaze. She was the loveliest woman in London and the only one to him. He was one of the handsomest men in London, but not the only one to her.

Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) created, in Sherlock Holmes, the most famous of all fictional detectives, but the colossal success of the Holmes and Watson stories frustrated him, because he took more pride in some of his other work, especially his historical fiction. Authors may not be the best judges of their own achievements, but it is certainly true that some of Conan Doyle’s tales of terror, such as ‘Lot No.249’ and ‘The Leather Funnel’ are masterly.
This short, snappy story of a horrifying crime is another example of the power and economy of his best writing. Note how skilfully the key revelation is clued. The eponymous Lady Sannox is the loveliest woman in the capital, and the city’s cosmopolitan nature, even at the time of publication in 1893, was such that it is entirely credible that Douglas Stone should receive an urgent summons from Hamil Ali from Smyrna. What happens next is unforgettable.

Copyright © 'Arthur Conan Doyle' - Martin Edwards 2015