The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards – Review
By Karl Hornsey
There can be few people in the country who know more about crime fiction than Martin Edwards, author and President of the Detection Club, and that shines through on every page of this collection. Edwards has brought together brief reviews and synopses of 100 crime novels from the first half of the 20th century, ranging from the well known through to some lost classics and hidden gems.
The stories have been split into 24 short themed chapters, with Edwards introducing each section to inform the reader of how each novel was received at the time, how they fitted into society and culture, and also how the authors’ works have been remembered – or not in many cases.
This is certainly a very random and eclectic mix, including many that I, even with my interest in the fictional crime genre, had never even heard of. By its very nature, this collection is a starting point that piques one’s interest in a particular author or style of writing and makes you want to find out more, with the author highlighting whether the novels have been turned into films or TV productions as well.
What I particularly like about the stories chosen is that no greater credence or preference is given to the most famous of writers, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, than to authors whose works have, for whatever reason, become distant memories or forgotten altogether.
Edwards isn’t afraid to be critical where he sees fit, whether that be some of the doyens of the genre getting a little lazy with their output, or with authors more famed in other areas who tried to dip their toes into the crime genre, with little success
“Treasure trove of trivia”
A genuine sadness shines through that some of the authors haven’t remained in the spotlight, or that their outstanding works have been overshadowed by those of lesser quality, and there are interesting insights into the work of the Detection Club, and how the crime-writing community operates.
Completing this treasure trove of trivia, are a number of fascinating pictures of the front covers of a number of selected books, and of maps and picture clues used by the authors to allow the readers a fair chance of deduction.
For anyone with even a passing interest in crime fiction, this is the sort of book that should on your shelves, proving engaging to the enthusiast as well as providing a snapshot of life in the early part of the last century.
‘The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books’ by Martin Edwards is published by The British Library, £25 hardback