[note: this is a slightly revised review from The Broken Bullhorn]
The Minerva Club by Victor Canning, collection © 2009, stories selected and edited by John Higgins, Crippen & Landru, 2009 hardcover
This mystery short story collection includes three sets of stories: of The Minerva Club, of The Department of Patterns and of Dr. Kang
This is the 27th offering in Crippen & Landru’s Lost Classics series of new collections by great writers of traditional mysteries.
If the cover looks familiar, it’s because I’m not the first member of the Friday Forgotten Books group to have featured it. Maybe that means it’s not really forgotten, but it certainly won’t hurt to add a little more awareness about what is an excellent collection of fun – and different – mystery short stories.
Victor Canning (1911-1986) created three unique series chronicling some of the most original characters in detective fiction. This collection of 24 stories begins with the misadventures of the Minerva Club, an exclusive club comprised of England’s criminals. Whether trying to break into a prison to retrieve a stash of diamonds stowed during a previous incarceration, resolve a faux kidnapping gone wrong, or figure out a way to heist all of the materials needed for a wedding, the Minerva Club always manages to achieve their goal…often in the most surprising of ways.
Also we have the enigmatic cases of the Department of Patterns, a French police agency who look for clues and connections between seemingly irrelevant events. Under the guidance of the jovial and hard nosed Papa Grand, new recruits are taught to see patterns in even the most obscure of places.
Finally, follow the journeys of Dr. Kang who finds mystery in his travels around the world. Never one to hide from trouble, Dr. Kang proves his talent for attracting death is surpassed only by his talent for avoiding it.
My favorites here were the seven Department of Patterns stores, followed by the Dr. Kang stories. I wish there had been more of both of those series. The Minerva Club stories are fun, clever and display humor, but it was the others that really made this nice collection shine for me.