I believe I've now read all of the Detective-Inspector Appleby mysteries, faithfully following Innes's best-known character as he worked his way up through the ranks of the Metropolitan Police (New Scotland Yard) and retired with a 'K.' Some of his best novels I've read more than once, but "Appleby Talking" (1954 - also known as "Dead Man's Shoes") is not one of them. Michael Innes never seemed to put his heart into his Appleby short stories, and his lead character strikes one as prissy rather than ironic, pompous rather than discriminatingly donnish. All of the color seems to have been leached from Innes's short-story characters, and the settings are hardly mentioned. Appleby even resorts to bombastic tall tales, whereas in the novels he is admirably reticent and never resorts to braggadocio.
The last and longest story in "Appleby Talking" is actually a forty-nine-page novelette. "Dead Man's Shoes" is a spy story involving a man who is supposedly seen on a train wearing one black shoe and one brown shoe. When a murder victim is discovered, also wearing one black shoe and one brown shoe, the chase is on.
"Appleby's First Case" is the lead-off story and takes place when Innes's serial detective was a solemn but preternaturally observant child of fourteen. It involves a false beard, as do at least a couple of his other stories (see "The Weight of the Evidence.")
The twenty-one stories in between are a mixed lot--mildly pleasurable reading, but for die-hard Appleby fans only. If you'd like to get started with this most literate of detectives (with perhaps the exception of Edmund Crispin's Professor Gervase Fen) don't begin with one of his short story collections. Try "Lament for a Maker" (1938) or "Hamlet, Revenge!" (1937)--in my opinion, two of the best crime novels from the British Golden Age of Mystery.