9 October 2018

Review: IN THE SHADOW OF AGATHA CHRISTIE: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers: 1850-1917, Leslie S. Klinger (edit)

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3741 KB
  • Print Length: 323 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1681776308
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books (January 2, 2018)
  • Publication Date: January 2, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B074D4M6WR
Synopsis  (Amazon)

Before Agatha Christie became the world’s Queen of Crime, she stood on the talented shoulders of the female crime authors who came before her. This splendid new anthology by Leslie S. Klinger brings these exceptional writers out of Christie’s shadow and back into the spotlight they deserve.

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.

Featuring: Mary Fortune, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Ellen Wood, Elizabeth Corbett, C. L. Pirkis, Geraldine Bonner, Ellen Glasgow, L. T. Meade, Baroness Orczy, Augusta Gro├čer, M. E. Graddon, Anna Katherine Green, Carolyn Wells, Susan Glashell

My Take

The thing that struck me as I read the small biographies for each of these pre-Golden Age female crime fiction writers was how prolific they were, how many novels each one of them had written, how much choice late Victorian readers would have had.

Most of them were British, and from a 21st century perspective, many of them were Victorian and rather wordy even cumbersome in style. Agatha Christie would have felt like a breath of fresh air. I don't think I had realised how different readers in 1920 would have found THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES.

But these writers paved the way for crime fiction by female writers as an acceptable, if not quite literary, genre.

An interesting and educative anthology.

My rating: 4.3

About the author
Leslie S. Klinger is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Sherlock Holmes. He is the editor of the three-volume The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes. The first two volumes, The Complete Short Stories, won the Edgar for “Best Critical/Biographical” work. He is also the editor of the hugely successful The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft. Klinger is a member of the Baker Street Irregulars and lives in Malibu, California.

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