The Sleuth of Baghdad by Charles B. Child [C. Vernon Frost], Crippen & Landru, 2002 hardcover, mystery, short stories, Inspector Chafik
“The desert was an ocean of gravel and gray dust which lapped the struggling outskirts of the City of Baghdad. Spewed from the sullen waves of dead earth were hovels built of dried mud. The sky was the open door of a furnace stoked by the Iraqi sun.”
This was the third in the Crippen & Landru Lost Classics series. Of the 15 stories here all but one was published in Colliers magazine between 1947 and 1956, the final story was published in EQMM in 1969. From the beginning, I found Inspector Chafik J. Chafik to be an engaging character, and the stories entertaining. Each story is a murder case and Chafik employs his unique methods to arrive at a solution. He uses the analogy of weaving the threads of the case – the clues, personalities, specifics of the location, time of day, even the behavior of the dogs and birds – together into the whole cloth of the solution. He talks to himself, often out loud, and observes that a thread is broken or missing or perhaps misleading. In the end the weave is complete and the case is solved. I liked this so much that I was sorry when I finished the last story in the book, wishing C&L had been able to provide a larger collection. According to the forward, Fred Dannay lamented 45 years ago that no one had published a collection of these stories. I’m very glad that Crippen & Landru has done so, I only wish there were more.
I haven’t read (or heard of) Charles B. Child but now I want to read THE SLEUTH OF BAGHDAD. I’m a big fan of Crippen & Landru, too. Nice review!
I agree with you, Rick. I’d never heard of Childs before but I really liked the book a lot and wished it was longer. I think I’ve read every Crippen & Landru collection and this was definitely one of the finds. He did a great job setting the scene and making you feel the place.
I need to proofread – Child, not Childs.
I’ve not heard nor read this one or this author
George, you won’t be sorry, these stories are great.
Yes, Jeff, these are really a lot of fun to read.
Jeff, proofread? Huh? Nevr herd of that bforee.. 🙂
Richard, I have read a few stories in Colliers magazine but nothing by Charles B. Child. I might have read some of the earlier editions.
Prashant, if you find any of the issues with one of these stories, I’d love to her about it, even get a scan of the cover and any inner ills.
I really have to wonder how short stories so thoroughly fell out of the popular literary diet in the latter 1950s. It sounds like a very solid book, indeed.
Todd, for some reason many readers just stopped reading anything shorter than novel length. Perhaps the market steered them that way, as short stories were more often genre fiction.
It’s been a weird week, Richard, so I’m late to comment. I used to read The Charles B. Child stories in EQMM and enjoyed them greatly. (This was around the same time they were printing Lawrence G. Blochman’s Dr. Coffee stories, another good series.) I remember one of clearly one of the things Chafik J. Chafik said: Alway be suspicious of coincidence. A great attitude for a detective.
This is one of my favorite C&L Lost Classics collections, Jerry. This is my second reading, and it’s a book I’m glad I have.