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Wanda's Book Reviews

I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles.  (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).

In the Shadow of Agatha Christie / compiled by L. Klinger

In the Shadow of Agatha Christie: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers: 1850-1917 - Leslie S. Klinger

Agatha Christie is undoubtedly the world’s best-selling mystery author, hailed as the “Queen of Crime,” with worldwide sales in the billions. Christie burst onto the literary scene in 1920, with The Mysterious Affair at Styles; her last novel was published in 1976, a career longer than even Conan Doyle’s forty-year span.

The truth is that it was due to the success of writers like Anna Katherine Green in America; L. T. Meade, C. L. Pirkis, the Baroness Orczy, and Elizabeth Corbett in England; and Mary Fortune in Australia that the doors were finally opened for women crime-writers. Authors who followed them, such as Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy Sayers, and, of course, Agatha Christie would not have thrived without the bold, fearless work of their predecessors—and the genre would be much poorer for their absence. So while Agatha Christie may still reign supreme, it is important to remember that she did not ascend that throne except on the shoulders of the women who came before her—and inspired her—and who are now removed from her shadow once and for all by this superb new anthology by Leslie S. Klinger.

 

A historically interesting collection of short stories by women in the crime/mystery genre. They are products of their time, published before the likes of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Don’t go into this volume expecting the quality of those two talented women writers!

These are the roots of women writing in this genre from the late 1800’s into the early 20th century. If you’ve read books like Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho or Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, you will have a fairly clear idea of what you are getting in this collection. The best part is that these are short works—there is no need to wade through the pages and pages of description that the reader encounters in the two novels reference above. You can sample and decide if there are authors whose work you wish to pursue further.

I put a hold on this book in my public library, believing that I would get more contemporaries of Ms. Christie, those who were writing “in her shadow,” so it wasn’t quite what I was anticipating. Still, it made an excellent book for coffee breaks, allowing me to read a whole story before having to set the book down & return to business.