Available on iTunes Classic Crime Short Stories offers up ten short stories narrated by Patrick Malahide and Jack Shepherd. Of course, I’ll focus on Mr. Malahide’s stories.
Also, if you are familiar with Overdrive, a program that partners with many local libraries (USA, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, and Singapore are listed as search options) to provide digital media for a week or so, you can download these stories and listen to them on your mp3 player. The files are only usable for the period of time that you have borrowed them. You’ll need a library card and pin number/password (your local library will see that) and the Overdrive software or app. Here is a link to the Overdrive information on Classic Crime Short Stories And, if you enjoy it, you can always purchase the iTunes version linked above 🙂
Loopy by Ruth Rendell: (A sample, courtesy of Overdrive, can be found by clicking this link. )This is my favorite of the short stories. It is the story of Colin, a middle-aged man who lives with is his mother an old Victorian house. In his spare time, he takes part in the local amateur theatre. When he gets the part of the Big Bad Wolf in their production of Little Red Riding Hood, he finds that he is more comfortable and at ease with himself in his wolf costume, or his ‘wolf skin’ as he prefers to call it. The story is very unsettling and extremely creepy. Malahide’s straight forward style of narrating Colin and his bizarre situation is fantastic and adds to the psychological tension. I particularly enjoyed his description of the costume. You can sense the pride Colin has for his mother’s (who sewed it) talent as well as his unhealthy fixation with it.
- Insufficient Evidence by Francis Hegarty: Following the creepy weirdness of Loopy, Insufficient Evidence brings the tone back to reality. It is a bleak story about a woman whose daughter was severely injured for life by a hit and run. The police, however, could not make an arrest because of ‘insufficient evidence’, so she chooses to take the law into her own hands. Malahide conveys her strained emotions, taken to the breaking point with grief over her daughter’s suffering and anger at a system she believes failed them.
- The Case for the Defense by Graham Greene: This story is told from the point of view of a crime reporter covering a criminal trial known as “The Peckham Murder”. The story is a fairly simple tale with a neat twist. What I love best about it is the perfect voice and characterization Malahide uses for the reporter. He sounds like someone who comes from humble beginnings and worked hard to achieve what he has. I rather imagine this man’s voice has been made husky and dry from knowing his way around a bottle of whiskey. Because of his career, he has seen a lot of the ugly side of humanity, perhaps too much. I absolutely would love to see this reporter, or one very similar, brought to life by Patrick Malahide on television or film.
- Three is a Lucky Number or Bluebeard’s Bathtub by Margery Allingham: The story of a serial wife killer! It is an excellent story with plenty of tension. Allingham’s words and Malahide’s narration bring to life a truly vile husband/murderer and will have you eager to know how it all ends.
- Nine Points of the Law by E. W. Hornung: This is a Raffles story! Neat fact: E. W. Hornung was Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law. AJ Raffles the Amateur Cracksman, a gentleman thief, is accompanied by his Watson-esque old school chum Harry “Bunny” Manders. However, Bunny is not quite as proficient as Watson (or at least the Watson of the books and as portrayed by Edward Hardwick; the Nigel Bruce Watson was pretty daffy), but is always eager to lend a hand.
The Raffles story deviates from the tales above in that it is quite frothy and light. Raffles typically stole from egotistical rich people in order to help the poor. The poor being Raffles and Bunny! 🙂 It takes money to cover a lifestyle of doing little other than playing cricket and spending every evening at the gentlemen’s clubs.
Anyway, in Nine Points of the Law, Raffles answers a strange advertisement. The purpose of the ad is to find someone willing to steal back a painting which had been unlawfully purchased by jumped-up Australian success story. Despite being rather charmed by the outlandish Australian, Raffles does not hesitate to relieve him of his prized treasure.
I am a Raffles fan, both Hornung’s stories and the 1970s television series starring Anthony Valentine and Christopher Strauli, so their voices are clear in my head. Malahide gives Raffles a deliciously posh voice with a thoughtfully crafty undertone. It is terribly attractive and very much suits the gentleman thief (or any gentleman thief for that matter). 😉 His voice is perhaps a bit raspy and masculine for the most aptly named Bunny, who is a very innocent and easily confused character. The often beguiled Bunny would have made a wonderful member of the Pickwickian Society had he been more independently wealthy and born about 60 years earlier 🙂
But, the minor Bunny issue aside, I really enjoyed this story. It is a welcome respite from the darker stories and is genuinely funny and exciting.
I found a little clip of Valentine (Raffles) and Strauli (Bunny) on YouTube and have embedded it because I like them 🙂