First up, The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett. This is my book six for Carl's Once Upon a Time VIII and my book sixteen for Bev's Mount TBR challenge.
The wizards at the Unseen University are searching for Rincewind but he's not in his room. What is there is a portal to another place, just outside the window, and they step through to have a look. It's a tropical island but when the university's female house-keeper comes through after them and accidently closes the window, thus closing the portal, they're stranded. Meanwhile, Rincewind is striding across the bush on the Last Continent which may or may not be Australia. Things are not quite right here. Rincewind sees a talking kangaroo which seems to be following him but which is also able to disappear at will. The kangaroo gives him to understand that he has a mission for him to undertake to save The Last Continent but Rincewind is not good at heroic missions, he's much better at running away. What he doesn't realise is that he's running in the direction the kangaroo wants him to go - albeit with a few detours along the way. Meanwhile those wizards are still stranded and are not alone...
As always, this is a Terry Pratchett that's clever and entertaining. I loved the constant banter between the wizards on the island, in fact it was my favourite bit... hilarious on the subject of sex for instance. The trouble is, I did find this a trifle hard to follow in places. Muddled. Possibly I wasn't paying close enough attention. Rincewind is not my favourite character (though he has grown on me) so that didn't help. Luckily, there was enough of Terry's trademark humour and extreme cleverness with words to keep me entertained. But not my favourite Discworld book I'm afraid.
Next, Detective Stories from The Strand Magazine, edited by Jack Adrian.
The Strand Magazine was published from 1891 to 1950 and specialised in crime stories and fantastic tales. A list of the authors who had stories in the magazine reads like a roll call of the most famous authors Britain has produced. Arthur Conan Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes short story, A Scandal in Bohemia, was published in The Strand (he'd had two novels published previous to that). H.G. Wells, E. Nesbit, Rudyard Kipling, P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers... all had fiction in The Strand Magazine. What we have in Detective Stories from the Strand Magazine is, obviously, a selection of the best detective fiction.
The selection is divided into various categories: The Great Detectives, Legal Niceties, The Twist, Mostly Murder etc. The editor has included some very famous authors and thus starts with a terrific story, The Vampire of the Village by G.K. Chesterton and continues with an Agatha Christie, The Dream, a very good Poirot story that I'd not read before. He then finishes the section with three unknown authors to me, The Ginger King by A.E.W. Mason, The Ministering Angel by E.C. Bentley and Today of the Comet Year by H. Warner Allen. All three of these were beautifully written, absorbing stories. I particularly liked the E.C. Bentley and discovered the main character in this story, Philip Trent, has had several books written about him and I even managed to download one to my Kindle. Somerset Maughan and Aldous Huxley also have good stories in the volume but really it was the more obscure authors I enjoyed the most - Private Water by A.J. Alan, a smuggling tale, By Kind Permission of the Murdered Man by Hylton Cleaver, about a man who wants to be murdered and Inquest by Loel Yeo (no one knows who this author is but this rather good story was the only thing he/she ever had published). The collection ends with a four part section on Sherlock Holmes. Three were by Conan Doyle, one of which I'd already read, The Adventure of the Creeping Man (but had no objection to reading again) and two I hadn't - The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton and The Adventure of the Lion's Mane. The latter, was quite a surprise as it was a 'retired Holmes' story, written by him rather than Dr. Watson, and very good it was too. The last in this section, The Adventure of the First Class Carriage, was a Holmes story not written by Conan Doyle but by Ronald Knox. It wasn't bad but I prefer the real deal to be honest.
All in all this really was a terrifically good volume of vintage crime short stories. One or two weren't to my taste but in a collection of around twenty five stories 'one or two' is not bad at all. Without exception the quality of the writing was excellent. I liked the fact that they were 'of their time' and transported me nicely to a different era. It was also nice to find a few new authors to investigate but also to be reminded how good some of the best known crime writers are and why they're so popular.
I read this book for Bev's Vintage Mystery challenge and it covers the category, 'A Short Story Collection'. It's also my book seventeen for Bev's Mount TBR challenge.