In the Shadow of Agatha Christie: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers 1850 - 1917 by Leslie S. Klinger (Amazon Link)
Rating: Very Good
Description: 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 Großer, M. E. Graddon, Anna Katherine Green, Carolyn Wells, Susan Glashell
Genre: Mystery - Short Stories
Why I Picked This Book: I’m a big fan of the women authors from The Golden Age of Mysteries so I couldn’t resist some of the stories that came before them which likely influenced some of my favorite mysteries.
My Impression: I was really surprised to see the 1850 start date. I kind of had in my head that detective fiction was a 20th century addition yet here are a number of stories all as clean and detail oriented as Christie at her best and all written long before Hercule Poirot started putting his famous little grey cells to work.
The forward by Leslie S. Linger is a fascinating lesson on the origins of the detective story and women authors in general. He provides context for the more unknown authors both in history and in influence and inspiration to the writers who came after them.
Each of the mysteries is very good full of deception, secrets, and murder. They are clean and exquisitely plotted even though at times the language can feel a little heavy and dated. The good thing about these being short stories is the few times I did start to grow restless the mystery came to a conclusion and I was starting a new mystery by a new author. Proceeding each story is a few short paragraphs regarding the author with a little biographical information as well as mentions of their best know writings. Each story was a delight and completely unique and I’m so glad I read some of the stories that influenced my favorite authors - Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Ngaio Marsh.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Absolutely! I’d love to read more from Klinger and many of the authors I discovered in this book - especially Elizabeth Gaskell.
Would I Recommend this Book? Definitely! If you’re a fan of the British Mystery collections from The Poison Pen Press you’d really enjoy this book.