[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.
I’m a fan of Victor Canning’s work. I mostly read his novels, but now I’ll have to buy this short story collection after reading your fine review. I’ve read a few of Canning’s DEPARTMENT OF PATTERNS stories and enjoyed them.
Very enjoyable indeed.
Oh, how wonderful that C&L have brought this book into existence! I thought I was a rare bird to remember Canning’s work with fondness, but obviously there are others out there! Canning (like Desmond Bagley) was a staple of the Companion Book Club when I was a teen and for the first time could buy hardbacks with My Very Own Saved-Up Money: he, and others like him, set a standard that I still look for in thrillers and adventure novels.
I don’t think I bought a hardcover until I was in my 30s, it was always paperbacks for me, in the SFF section, and the mystery section, of Crown Books, or BookStar, or B&N or for mysteries an independent near me.
The (reprint) book club’s prices were comparable with those for paperbacks, back then. Not long after, I discovered remainder bookshops (and that Woolworths sold remainders), so I was buying hardbacks for not much more than pennies.
I am also a fan of Victor Canning. I have a copy of this short story book but I have not read any of the stories yet. You have reminded me to get to them sometime this year.
This is a slender volume you’ll race right through, Tracy. Don’t put it off!
Man, I can’t believe it is 10 years since I read this one. I had totally forgotten its existence until reading the review. I checked and it is still on the shelf with most of the other Crippen & Landru books. I used to pick up Victor Canning paperbacks all the time in England, but only read a few of them. Thanks for reminding me of this. If the day ever comes that I am looking for short stories, I will try and remember this.
I knew you’d read this, probably when it was first published. I read it not long after as well, which is why this is an old review updated for this post.