When reviewing an anthology one enters quandarous territory as to the number of Stars that should be given since some stories are heavy and ponderous and others, such as those of Israel Zongwill, are witty and humerous (reminiscent of the works of Mark Twain) with an unsolvable mystery thrown in, which will defeat even the most astute of mystery novel readers until the final chapter and even then a final O. Henryish twist completes the engaging work by Mr. Zongwill filled with interesting characters, witty dialogue and a delve into the atmospheres of late 19th century London with its cast of characters of rival police detectives, reporters, unionists, landladies, ersatz poets and the myriad and sundry people and events of a time long gone by but still relevant to the modern world for, as is often said, "The more things change the more they stay the same" a sentiment to which one can have sympathy after reading these tales written in a gone by era, some of which, as I said, are a joy to read and others are of too heavy and ponderous a style for the modern reader but never-the-less the inclusion of which should not detract from a five Star rating that many of the finer stories have earned for the volume.
Now, if you have managed to read through the above 215 word sentence, you are ready for the style of many 19th century authors. Since many periodicals of the time paid by the line, (often only a penny a line) one can't fault the writers for sacrificing clarity and brevity for obfuscation and elongation in pursuit of pelf.
I have mentioned Mr. Zongwill's novella, "The Big Bow Mystery". It is a classic murder mystery of the type in which a man has been murdered in a room of which all the doors and windows have been locked from the inside. More that a good mystery, it is written in a tongue and cheek vein which is quite entertaining.
Most of the other short stories were of varying interest, some with intriguing mysteries and some without. The three stories by Charles Dickens were not all murder mysteries and even then were of of a rather simplistic type.
Of the two full length novels, I need say nothing concerning "The Hound of the Baskervilles" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. One can assume that most people would be familiar with that fine classic. The other included novel, "The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins is a masterpiece. The story of the theft (or was it just a misplacement?) of the fabled Moonstone diamond is told in the form of reports written by individuals who were party to the disappearance of the valuable gem. The reports are given in chronological order so the story flows well. It is interesting to see how the author alters the manner of writing for each individual. I'm sure the author had a fine time writing the report as given in the style Miss Drusilla Clack (spinster) a woman of high moral character who faced the world with a bag of tracts on morality and only awaited a chance to distribute them to people in need of enlightenment. To wit:
"I paid the cabman exactly his fare. He received it with an oath; upon which I instantly gave him a tract. If I had presented a pistol at his head, this abandoned wretch could hardly have exhibited greater consternation. He jumped up on his box, and, with profane exclamations of dismay, drove off furiously. Quite useless, I am happy to say! I sowed the good seed, in spite of him, by throwing a second tract in the window of his cab."
Good work, Miss Clack. Your entry alone gives this anthology a five star rating.