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.