One of the finest writers of short mystery stories is Robert Barnard, who recently published Rogue’s Gallery, the third collection of his short stories to have appeared over the years. Single-author story collections are rare, and it’s a real tribute to both author and publisher (Allison & Busby) that this enjoyable gathering has made it into hard covers.
In these stories, Bob pokes fun at some of his favourite targets – Tory politicians, members of the Royal Family (with special reference here to the marriage of Charles and Diana) and religion. “Sins of Scarlet”, a story set in the Vatican, won the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2006, a source of particular pleasure to me, as it had originally featured in a CWA anthology that I edited.
A couple of the other stories here also featured in CWA collections, although Bob’s most recent story, “Just Popped In”, which appears in Guilty Consciences, was not available. One of the most interesting stories, “The New Slavery”, deals with an important yet under-discussed topic – the way grandparents may be exploited as no-cost child-minders by their own children. It’s clear from the story what Bob’s own views are.
I’m a long-time admirer of Bob Barnard’s work, and a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting him, and his wife Louise, at their home in Armley, Leeds. One of the outcomes will be an article about his career for the US magazine “Mystery Scene”. He’s one of the wittiest of writers, and if you are a Christie fan, I can also recommend his excellent study of the Queen of Crime, A Talent to Deceive.