I know I said I wasn’t going to review them, but I couldn’t resist writing something about them, if only to say which ones I would recommend.
- "The Two Brothers" by unknown (Ancient Egypt, written down about 1400 B.C.), from Great Short Stories of the World. Did you think the short story was a recent phenomenon? Well, apparently, it’s not. This narrative has all the crucial elements of a short story, while also being a mythological text that tells a story of human destiny and heavenly justice. In fact, parts of the story remind me of the Biblical story of Potiphar's wife, and they probably have a common root. For me, it is mostly interesting because I am interested in Egyptian mythology – I wouldn’t recommend it as pleasure reading. I have a gripe with the translation - not that I read Ancient Egyptian, but the 19th century translator not only used 17th century Biblical language, but also appears to have attempted to use some of the original writing style, resulting in strange sentences, some of which even a native speaker of English would stumble over in casual reading. Henry James would have been proud.
- "Rumpole and the Man of God" by John Mortimer, from The Trials of Rumpole. I somehow managed to miss most of the Rumpole series when it was shown on TV, but I saw enough episodes to develop a fondness for the old guy and made an effort to get my hands on the books, of which I have three. I quickly discovered that Mortimer was a master of dry English humour and good at thinking up plausible comic situations and sketching, in a few sentences, characters that seem to jump off the page fully formed. In this one Rumpole has to do some convoluted thinking to get an otherworldly clergyman out of trouble. Recommended.
- "Parris Green" by Carole Nelson Douglas. Malice Domestic is a series of books of themed short crime stories that revolve around the home and family in some way. I have already read several of the stories and picked up the book after a long break to continue where I left off. The story features Irene Adler – the same one who outwitted Sherlock Holmes in "A Scandal in Bohemia" – as the sleuth, and the story is told by Miss Huxleigh, who appears to be her Watson. It is a darkly gothic tale of an obsessed artist, and features Oscar Wilde as a side character. It intrigued me enough to make me want to check out the Irene Adler novels, so it gets the "recommended" stamp.
- "The Last Crop" by Elizabeth Jolley, from Wayward Girls and Wicked Women. Another "recommend", this time for the wicked sense of humour in the story. A teenage girl tells the story of how her mother was able to have her cake and eat it too. I want to try to get my hands on the original collection it came from, Jolley's Woman in a Lampshade.
- "Dead man‘s Mirror" by Agatha Christie. From Masterpieces of Mystery. This is a Hercule Poirot story, and I must confess that I have never particularly liked him as a character, although it hasn‘t stopped me from reading most of the Poirot novels. The story was okay, but nothing I would recommend to non-fans.