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The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories Paperback – December 20, 2011
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About the Author
Michael Sims is the author of acclaimed nonfiction books such as The Story of Charlotte's Web, Apollo's Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination, and Adam's Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form. His anthologies include The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime and Dracula's Guest: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories. He lives in western Pennsylvania.
Top Customer Reviews
Here, none of the authors can really be counted as "new" as most of them wrote back in the time of Queen Victoria. Of course we have the seminal Victorian detective (in fact, perhaps The Great Detective), Sherlock Holmes, but we also have Dupin, Mark Twain, and other favorites.
Of course, every editor has a slant- and here Michael Sims wants to show us that women also wrote mysteries and there were also plenty of tales back then of woman detectives, something many of us weren't familiar. Of course, when you introduce lesser known writers, sometimes the writer isn't up to par (but then, who can really compare to Mark Twain and A. Conan Doyle). Still, I enjoyed many of these stories quite a bit. "The Murder at Troyte's Hill" by Catherine Louisa Pirkis was quite interesting as it featured a woman as a known respected PROFESSIONAL detective.
It starts out with the editors own well written intro to detective fiction, especially the history of said stories:
"In the long view of history, detectives are a recent phenomenon. Crime is not. As archaeologists often demonstrate, deception, theft, and violence haunted society even before we left caves or invented agriculture.Read more ›
And so the whole is greater than the parts - even though the parts are quite fascinating in themselves.
The stories include many firsts: first fictional detective, first locked-room mystery, first known detective story written by a woman, first woman detective. The selections date from 1837 through 1915 (when the Victorian sensibility was still very much alive). So we really get a feeling of a rich and evolving literary tradition. We who read detective stories for the sheer fun of it can now feel smart about our addiction!
Sims presents us with a wonderful array of detectives arising from the Victorian imagination (or the Victorian influence) - a clever seamstress determined to find the murderer of her friend, the puffed up Frenchman who probably inspired Poirot, a blind consulting detective with hyperacute senses, a Canadian half-native backwoods guide with Holmes-like deductive powers, a young socialite who hides her keen intellect beneath a flow of frivolous chatter - and many others.
Pivotal selections from Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle are also included. I had read both long ago but really enjoyed a more observant second reading following Sims's analysis.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The cover and the pages show some folds, which I think are done by accident. but overall, a good bargain!Published on October 8, 2013 by CY
Exceeded my expectations of the book. Great introductions for each author that set the stage for each story. Definitely worth your money.Published on September 9, 2013 by Rachel McDonald
This book is a good resource for anyone who enjoys the genre of detective mysteries. The author prefaces every story and excerpt with historical information about the author and... Read morePublished on August 18, 2012 by Bookie