Reviews

‘A marvellous entry in this excellent series, one of those books that  you have to keep reading but hate to finish. Highly recommended.’ [Stage Fright]

- MYSTERY WOMEN

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books

34136879I was delighted when a review copy of The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards came through the letter box. Of course I immediately rifled through it to see what his choice had been and if he had included any of my old favourites – or left them out! And yes, Christianna Brand’s Green for Danger is there – Margery Allingham’s The Tiger in the Smoke isn’t. To be fair virtually all of my favourite books are mentioned, even if they don’t figure as one of the 100. The introductions to each section refer to hundreds more – including an honourable mention of The Tiger in the Smoke. And then there was also the question of how many of the 100 I had read: quite a few, but equally there were plenty I’d never heard of.

However, as the author points out in the introduction, this isn’t a list of favourite or ‘best’ novels but ‘reflects a wish to represent the genre’s development in an accessible, informative, and engaging way.’ In all these aims he certainly succeeds and what a rich field he reveals it to be. Crime fiction has sometimes been regarded as a conservative genre, but the works assembled here show that this was by no means always the case, with plenty of left-wing writers and books that challenged the status quo. And this was also true of form as well as content. It seems that between the wars pretty much everything that could be done in crime fiction was done. It could be experimental in the extreme. To give just one example, Richard Hull wrote a novel, Last First (1947) which was dedicated to those who read the end of a detective novel first: it opens with the final chapter. The Story of Classic Crime is full of such gems. I love knowing that the first Perry Mason novel, The Tale of the Velvet Claws (1933) was published in a jigsaw edition, as was J. S. Fletcher’s Murder of the Only Witness (1933): the books were accompanied by jigsaw puzzle that provided a clue to the mystery, a concept surely ripe for revival.

I found many old friends here, but also fascinating writers and books new to me. It was a great pleasure reading it and I know I’ll be hunting out some of the books described here for years to come. The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books deserves a home on the shelf of every aficionado of golden age crime.

 

8 Comments

  1. Margot Kinberg
    July 29, 2017

    Very glad you enjoyed this as much as you did, Christine. Edwards is such a skilled writer, and with such a thorough knowledge of classic crime. I think he was a natural choice to do this project.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      July 29, 2017

      It was so full of fascinating and quirky details, Margot. You’re right: a natural choice.

      Reply
  2. Ann Oxford
    July 30, 2017

    How fortunate to get a “first look” at this book. I am very interested and will look for it as soon as it’s available. Thanks for telling us about it.

    Reply
  3. moira@clothesinbooks
    July 30, 2017

    I am reading this at the moment, and forcing myself to do it slowly, make the joy last. I am enjoying it so much…

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      July 31, 2017

      I feel just the same about it – it is just stuffed full of wonderful things.

      Reply
  4. Amandarainger
    August 16, 2017

    Thank you for the heads up. Sounds a must.

    Reply

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