Thursday, January 11, 2018

In the Shadow of Agatha Christie - Mystery Short Story Review

Rating:  Very Good
Source: NetGalley

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

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.


  1. That sounds like a great book. And I really like the cover. I'm a shallow book buyer. A good cover really makes me want to buy a book.
    P.S - I love your blog name!

  2. Sounds like a really awesome book. I do love Christie, so it would be intriguing to see some stories from other female authors around the same time period.


  3. I want to read this one! I'm not a big short story reader, but the Christie connection and the ease of moving from one story to the next has sold me. Thanks for highlighting this one. The Poisoned Pen and Martin Edwards have done a great job with the British Classic Mystery collection, haven't they?

  4. This sounds fun. A great way to discover forgotten authors for sure. And really, it feels like it was put together with your interests in mind!!! :)

  5. This would be fascinating! I had no idea detective fiction had started that early either, and the little notes before each story would be fun to read, to see the backgrounds of each author.

  6. This sounds like such a great collection. I do think that I would enjoy this group of stories and it sounds really well put together.

  7. I don't have a good track record with short stories collections but you've made this sound accessible and well, good. Thanks for sharing about it.

  8. Wow! I had made the same assumption you had. This sounds really good, Katherine. I will definitely have to keep an eye out for this one. I think I would enjoy it--and I love history it reveals.