>As part of the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge I have tried to read some stories that are a bit out of my usual diet. Here are three old stories from Denmark, all from “The Most Interesting Stories of All Nations”, ed. Julian Hawthorne, a free Gutenberg E-text in English.
Jørgen Vilhelm Bergsøe (1835-1911), The Amputated Arms
“I was studying at the University, and being coached in anatomy by my old friend Solling.”
An anatomy teacher and some of his students lose the arms of their skeletons. Is this simple theft, a prank or a sinister ghost story? The main character, young Simsen, goes to the local cemetery in the middle of the night to find a new arm so they can continue their studies.
But of course he shouldn´t have! This may not be the most brilliant crime story, but I found it entertaining and well worth reading.
Bernhard Severin Ingemann (1789-1862), The Sealed Room.
Interestingly, I know Ingemann as the writer of several beautiful hymns and had no idea he also dabbled in crime fiction. The story is set in Kiel where an old widow lives in a mysterious house with a secret room, “a corner room on the main floor” which “had not been opened for generations”.
When her daughter Elizabeth marries, they need the large hall next to the secret room for the ball, however. Late in the night the guests dance, drink and wind each other up, until the bridegroom challenges Elizabeth´s unpleasant cousin, Lieutenant Wolff, to stay right outside the sealed room for the rest of the night.
This story is well-written and fairly interesting with a sinister atmosphere that would probably appeal to Stephen King fans.
Steen Steensen Blicher (1782-1848), The Rector of Veilbye.
This story is probably the most famous of the three, and while “What the Forest Lake Hid” from 1903 may be called the first Danish crime novel, this one is regarded as the first crime story.
The story begins with the diary of the local District Judge Erik Sørensen who explains how the father of his betrothed Mette Quist, the temperamental rector of Veilby, gets into trouble when he hits a lazy servant with a spade. The rector assures his son-in-law that the servant got up and ran away, but soon after several witnesses come forward, claiming Quist buried the dead man in his own garden.
“A venerable man of God – the father of my betrothed – is in prison!
The story is a tragic account of a murder, based at least in part on a true story, but despite the surprising ending, the story does not include much of the detection modern readers would expect in a crime story.
Read for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge.