“English Country House Murders, edited by Thomas Godfrey, is a collection of 22 short stories by celebrated mystery, crime and detective fiction authors.
The introduction explains 14 basic rules a mystery must follow to be classified as an authentic English Country House Mystery:
1. Must be written by an authentic English writer.
2. Must include a crime.
3. Multiple crimes may be included, gory or violent details may not.
4. Poison is the preferred murder method, or a blow to the head.
5. The crime must be puzzling, the perpetrator must be unknown, and the solution must require reasoning.
6. The crime must be solved by a detective, either professional or amateur.
7. The detective is in attendance or on the scene shortly after the crime is committed.
8. The crime takes place in the house or on the grounds.
9. Police need not be involved.
10. Loose ends are tidied up rapidly after the solution is deduced.
11. Characters need not be well-developed, just easily distinguished.
12. The puzzle must be paramount. The reader does not feel emotional ties to the victim, suspects or perpetrator.
13. An English Country House Murder is not a platform to expose social injustice.
14. The crime must take place in a proper English Country House (the editor gives 11 criteria).
Each story has unique style and impact, so the book is probably best enjoyed in "small sips" over time. A brief biographical sketch of the author prefaces each story.
My two favorite stories are An Unlocked Window by Ethel Lina White, which adds Gothic thriller elements to the English Country House Murder, and the final story, The Worcester Enigma by James Miles, with a clever plot involving classical music. ”