This is precisely the sort of collection any classic mystery lover should have. Editor Leslie S. Klinger is working under the premise that Agatha Christie’s immense success (to this day) was due in part to a cadre of the female mystery writers who preceded her. Their work both carved out the hallmarks of the genre and created an environment where a woman writing about murder and crime could be taken seriously.
… the sluice gates were finally open for women crime writers.
Women who followed them … would not have thrived without the bold, fearless work of their predecessors, and the genre would be much poorer for their absence. Today, women are an irremovable part of the tapestry of mystery fiction. So while Agatha Christie may still reign as the “Queen of Crime,” it is important to remember that she did not ascend that throne except on the shoulders of women who came before her, too many of whom have been lost in her shadow. ~ Pg. xx
The stories in the collection range from police procedurals to inheritance scandals to locked-room puzzles. A reader will visit the outback of Australia, the English countryside, the American Midwest, and Victorian-era Vienna. While some are predictably serious, a few are unexpectedly cheeky.
I chuckled a number of times at “Mrs. Todhetley’s Earrings” by Ellen Wood. The eponymous protagonist reminded me quite a bit of the daft Miss Clack in The Moonstone. It is narrated by her young son which added another layer of wit. He clearly finds this to be the most exciting thing that’s ever happened in his young life.
We went off without delay, caught a passing train and were soon at Worcester and at the police station. The Squire asked for Sergeant Cripp: who came to him, and prepared to listen to his tale. He began it in his impulsive way; saying outright that the earring had been stolen by a gipsy-tramp. I tried to say that it might have only been lost but the pater scoffed at that, and told me to hold my tongue. ~Pg. 67
“Mr. Furbush” by Harriet Prescott Spofford, on the other hand, is a lush, stylish story, with a bit of a heart-breaking reveal. It’s also notable for its use of photography, a fairly new process, in the solving of the case.
One starlit night Mr. Furbush, pursuing some scent of other affairs along the princely avenue with its rows of palaces, took in, as was his wont, with every wink, a whole scene to its last details. He saw a beggar on these steps shrink into shadow, the housemaid in that area listening to the beguiling voice of the footman-three-doors-off no longer keeping his distance; he saw, there, the gay scene offered by the bright balcony casement with its rich curtains still unclosed; he saw, yet beyond, the light streaming from between open doors down the shining steps at whose foot the carriage waited, while a gentleman at its door hurried, with a pleasant word, the stately woman who came down to enter beside him. ~Pg. 54
While I had read Green, Gaskell and Braddon before, there we many authors in this volume I was unaware of. There’s a great deal to be enjoyed by these writers and can’t wait to further investigate their work.
“The Advocate’s Wedding Day” by Catherine Crowe
“The Squire’s Story” by Elizabeth Gaskell
“Traces of Crime” by Mary Fortune
“Mr. Furbush” by Harriet Prescott Spofford
“Mrs. Todhetley’s Earrings” by Ellen Wood
“Catching a Burglar” by Elizabeth Corbett
“The Ghost of Fountain Lane” by C. L. Pirkis
“The Statement of Jared Johnson” by Geraldine Bonner
“A Point in Morals” by Ellen Glasgow
“The Blood-Red Cross” by L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace
“The Regent’s Park Murder” by Baroness Orczy
“The Case of the Registered Letter” by Augusta Groner
“The Winning Sequence” by M. E. Braddon
“Missing: Page Thirteen” by Anna Katherine Green
“The Adventure of the Clothes-line” by Carolyn Wells
“A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell
My thanks to Iris and Bowen at Pegasus Books for the review copy.
In the Shadow of Agatha Christie
Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers: 1850-1917
by Leslie S. Klinger
Hardcover: 356 pages
Publisher: Pegasus Books (January 2, 2018)
Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches