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

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

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 writer...

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

  • Susan

    This collection of classic crime fiction by forgotten authors, from 1850-1917, highlights some of the female authors of that period who were the forerunners of the great Golden Age crime authors – not only Agatha Christie, but Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham and others. Each of the featured authors is given a potted biography, putting them and their work in context, which is followed by a short story, which is representative of their writing.

    Some of these authors will be famili

    This collection of classic crime fiction by forgotten authors, from 1850-1917, highlights some of the female authors of that period who were the forerunners of the great Golden Age crime authors – not only Agatha Christie, but Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham and others. Each of the featured authors is given a potted biography, putting them and their work in context, which is followed by a short story, which is representative of their writing.

    Some of these authors will be familiar – such as Elizabeth Gaskell and Baroness Orzy. However, others are now out of print and largely forgotten. Likewise, some of the early ‘crime’ stories in this collection are not necessarily familiar in terms of what we think of crime fiction today. For example, “The Advocate’s Wedding Day,” by Catherine Crow (1900-1876) features a story set shortly after the French Revolution; involving a feud between two men – one a former member of the gentry, with the other a member of the lower classes. This involves a court case and has a more supernatural feel to it. Other stories though involve events that we associate with crime novels from the later period – crime foggy London streets, roving tramps, murder in fashionable hotels and stolen jewels.

    Overall, this is an interesting collection, which will appeal to anyone interested in the history of crime writing.

    The stories and authors contained in this collection are:

    The Advocate’s Wedding Day: Catherine Crowe

    The Squire’s Story: Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

    Traces of Crime: Mary Fortune

    Mr Furbush: Harriet Prescott Spofford

    Mrs Todhetley’s Earrings: Ellen Wood

    Catching a Burglar: Elizabeth Corbett

    The Ghost of Fountain Lane: C.L. Pirkis

    The Statement of Jared Johnson: Geraldine Bonner

    Point in Morals: Ellen Glasgow

    The Blood-Red Cross: L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace

    The Regents Park Murder: Baroness Orczy

    The Case of the Registered Letter: Augusta Groner

    The Winning Sequence: M.E. Braddon

    Missing: Page Thirteen: Anna Katherine Green

    The Adventures of the Clothes-Line: Carolyn Wells

    Jury of Her Peers: Susan Glaspell

  • Thebooktrail

    Every great crime writer and reader loves Agatha Christie - she is the Queen of Crime,and many writers today are still inspired by her.But what about the writers who came before her and helped her to be able to write as she did? The women who paved the way for MsChristie. Well, this was a lovely set of stories,a good collection of some cosy ones, police led ones, and a variety of crimes and victims too. I hadn't heard of all the writers in the book but that's the delight of a selection box of go

    Every great crime writer and reader loves Agatha Christie - she is the Queen of Crime,and many writers today are still inspired by her.But what about the writers who came before her and helped her to be able to write as she did? The women who paved the way for MsChristie. Well, this was a lovely set of stories,a good collection of some cosy ones, police led ones, and a variety of crimes and victims too. I hadn't heard of all the writers in the book but that's the delight of a selection box of goodies like this - some you know you're going to like and others you discover and now have more things to enjoy! a great idea to have just female writers and those who helped pave the way for Agatha and every (female) crime writer since. This would make a lovely present for all crime readers!

  • Annie

    A great book for the crime loving reader. The author gives an excellent introduction and mentions authors that I had not even heard of before, some I'd heard of but had never read any of their books. Klinger has put together an excellent compilation of crime stories, a book definitely worth reading.

    Many thanks to Netgalley for the advanced digital copy.

  • Marchpane

    Although this collection invokes the name of Agatha Christie (in big letters on the cover), the stories themselves do not adhere to the typical Christie structure and style. Many of them are not even 'mysteries', but quite journalistic accounts of invented crimes, with a straightforward reporting of what happened, who did it and how the authorities solved it. This in itself was very interesting - what was the appetite for these stories in crime magazines, that read as if they are factual newspap

    Although this collection invokes the name of Agatha Christie (in big letters on the cover), the stories themselves do not adhere to the typical Christie structure and style. Many of them are not even 'mysteries', but quite journalistic accounts of invented crimes, with a straightforward reporting of what happened, who did it and how the authorities solved it. This in itself was very interesting - what was the appetite for these stories in crime magazines, that read as if they are factual newspaper articles? Others are written to appear as if they are memoirs of a real-life detective or policeman, or extracts from a casebook.

    As the collection progresses, the stories evolve from this early realism into ever more varied and modern styles, with greater emphasis on detection. There's even a Sherlock Holmes fanfiction!

    The final story, Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell is in a class of its own, surprising and very moving. After finishing that one, I immediately had to go back and reread it.

    Great for a snapshot of early women crime writers, but probably not the thing if you're looking for a Christie readalike.

  • Yibbie

    Klinger has done a wonderful job of bringing together a collection of forgotten gems of early crime fiction. Before Agatha Christie there was Catherine Crowe, Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Mary Helena Fortune, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Ellen Wood, Mrs. George Corbett, Catherine Louisa Pirkis, Geraldine Bonner, Ellen Glasgow, Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith, Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozalia Maria Jozefa Borbala Orczy de Orci, Augusta Groner, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Anna Catherine Green, Carolyn Well

    Klinger has done a wonderful job of bringing together a collection of forgotten gems of early crime fiction. Before Agatha Christie there was Catherine Crowe, Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Mary Helena Fortune, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Ellen Wood, Mrs. George Corbett, Catherine Louisa Pirkis, Geraldine Bonner, Ellen Glasgow, Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith, Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozalia Maria Jozefa Borbala Orczy de Orci, Augusta Groner, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Anna Catherine Green, Carolyn Wells, and Susan Glaspell. Some of them were wonderful authors, some not so great, but all pioneers. This is a collection of their short stories.

    Even though it these are all crime stories, they vary quite a bit. The plots cover everything from fairly simple burglary stories to wildly complicated murder frames, and ghost stories. The styles vary from police procedurals to tales of suspense and even a farce. Even the settings are quite diverse, most are set in England and America, but others are set in Austria and Australia. Some of them would be considered classics, others pulp, but all are fun reads, all but that really tragic one.

    The introduction to the book gives a quick history of the crime fiction genre. Then each story is prefaced with a quick history of that particular author's writing career.

    I really appreciated how clean the stories are. I would recommend this collection to anyone.

    I received this as a free ARC through Net Galley and Pegasus Books. No favorable review was required. These are my honest opinions.

  • BookishSteph1

    I really enjoyed this collection and how varied the stories and themes are, as well as the variation of authors each with something new to offer with a growing ingenuity in the latter half of the book, particularly shown in one of my favourites, The Blood-Red Cross by L. T. Meade (with assistance from Robert Eustace, a doctor) which uses an excellent bit of science. Some of my other favourites include The Statement of Jared Johnson by Geraldine Bonner, The Regent’s Park Murder by Baroness Orczy

    I really enjoyed this collection and how varied the stories and themes are, as well as the variation of authors each with something new to offer with a growing ingenuity in the latter half of the book, particularly shown in one of my favourites, The Blood-Red Cross by L. T. Meade (with assistance from Robert Eustace, a doctor) which uses an excellent bit of science. Some of my other favourites include The Statement of Jared Johnson by Geraldine Bonner, The Regent’s Park Murder by Baroness Orczy and Missing: Page Thirteen by Anna Katharine Green. I also really liked the page of biographical information for each author as an introduction before each story. Very informative.

    It is unfortunate that these authors weren’t as popular as Agatha Christie, or didn’t retain their popularity, and I’m glad to have read this book and plan on reading more by my favourites from this collection, but I do have to say that Agatha Christie is still my Queen of Crime and unfortunately, for me, only a few of these stories came close to her writing and intricate plotting (see my favourites listed above).

    Well worth a read and it was great finding more female classic crime writers to read! .

  • Judy Lesley

    Thank you to NetGalley and Pegasus Books for a digital galley of this book.

    From the standpoint of learning about the roles women played in writing crime fiction published between 1850 and 1917 this book was interesting and successful. On a personal level the stories were not quite as engaging as a whole for me. I did not reach for pen and paper even once to jot down the name of an author I wanted to explore further. The premise of this book is to show that the successes of Agatha Christie have c

    Thank you to NetGalley and Pegasus Books for a digital galley of this book.

    From the standpoint of learning about the roles women played in writing crime fiction published between 1850 and 1917 this book was interesting and successful. On a personal level the stories were not quite as engaging as a whole for me. I did not reach for pen and paper even once to jot down the name of an author I wanted to explore further. The premise of this book is to show that the successes of Agatha Christie have cast the writings of the authors presented here into a shadowy area so their work isn't given as much attention and credit for advancing the female crime fiction writers efforts. In other words, Christie would not have been so successful without the efforts of those women whose work came before her. My take on this collection is that now I understand just how well the Christie books are written. Granted each Agatha Christie novel isn't a literary masterpiece, but taken as a whole I have no trouble settling myself down to read any of the Christie books again and again. All of this doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy some of the stories collected in this volume, because I did, just not as many as I would have expected.

    There is an Introduction by Leslie S. Klinger which provides background information for the state of crime fiction publication by women from 1850 through 1917. In this introduction many female authors are discussed, not just those who have a story presented in the collection. Each story has a brief biographical segment about the author, some historical information regarding her novel and story publication and usually a publication date for the featured story. So many of the women wrote their stories under one or more pseudonyms so that information is provided also. The following is a list of the author and their story included in this book:

    Catherine Crowe - The Advocate's Wedding Day

    Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell - The Squire's Story

    Mary Fortune - Traces of Crime

    Harriet Prescott Spofford - Mr. Furbush

    Ellen Wood - Mrs. Todhetley's Earrings

    Elizabeth Corbett - Catching A Burglar

    C. L. Pirkis - The Ghost of Fountain Lane

    Geraldine Bonner - The Statement of Jared Johnson

    Ellen Glasgow - Point in Morals

    L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace - The Blood-Red Cross

    Baroness Orczy - The Regent's Park Murder

    Augusta Groner - The Case of the Registered Letter

    M. E. Braddon - The Winning Sequence

    Anna Katherine Green - Missing: Page Thirteen

    Carolyn Wells - The Adventure of the Clothes-Line

    Susan Glaspell - Jury of Her Peers

    Sixteen stories are presented from authors you may not be familiar with. If you are interested in reading stories from female authors who made a difference in the history of crime fiction, this will be a great place to begin your exploration of that subject.

  • Melanie

    It is not often that I enjoy a foreword, but this book has probably one of the best forewords ever. Klinger clearly has researched the field of female crime fiction writers in great detail and is incredibly knowledgeable. Yet, overall, the book suffered from the anthology curse: It rises or falls with the weaker stories and there are quite a few week stories. Clearly not Klinger's fault, after all, the output of those ladies is not his responsibility and I think, he will have chosen the stories

    It is not often that I enjoy a foreword, but this book has probably one of the best forewords ever. Klinger clearly has researched the field of female crime fiction writers in great detail and is incredibly knowledgeable. Yet, overall, the book suffered from the anthology curse: It rises or falls with the weaker stories and there are quite a few week stories. Clearly not Klinger's fault, after all, the output of those ladies is not his responsibility and I think, he will have chosen the stories that are in his opinion the strongest. So all in all, an interesting journey, but the sights were so-so. I would love to read more on this topic though, so I hope he will continue publishing books about forgotten female writers.

  • Katherine

    An interesting collection of short stories.

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