Published by the British Library
Publication date – 10 August 2021
Source – review copy
A bookish puzzle threatens an eagerly awaited inheritance; a submission to a publisher recounts a murder that seems increasingly to be a work of nonfiction; an irate novelist puts a grisly end to the source of his writer’s block.
There is no better hiding place for clues – or red herrings – than inside the pages of a book. But in this world of resentful ghost writers, indiscreet playwrights and unscrupulous book collectors, literary prowess is often a prologue to disaster.
With Martin Edwards as librarian and guide, delve into an irresistible stack of tales perfect for every book-lover and armchair sleuth, featuring much-loved Golden Age detectives such as Nigel Strange ways, Philip Trent and Detective Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn. But readers should be warned that the most riveting tales often conceal the deadliest of secrets….
Now I love stories that revolve around books. So a collection of short stories, all crime stories to boot, that feature books, authors, publishers and such like was music to my ears. Murder by the Book didn’t disappoint. There are thefts of books, hidden secrets in tomes and malicious manuscripts abound.
Some authors will be familiar to crime fiction fans, others may be newer. As with all collections of this type it contains some stories that are stronger than others, some are longer and more in depth, others only a few pages long.
As always it’s difficult to go into too much details as to which stories were great and why, as to explain them could give too much away. Suffice it to say that there are some clever plot devices at play.
There is the author who gets to know what the crimes he writes about actually feel like. There murderers who are revealed within the first few lines, a reversed narrative where it’s a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit. There are authors who appear to be at risk themselves of really being bumped off, or are likely to bump someone off in real life and not just in the pages of the novels they write.
The skill with a great short story is to not leave the reader feeling short-changed. The Golden Age crime writers were adept at writing stories that drew the reader in and held their attention for a short amount of time but which did not feel like the story was rushed through.
A great collection to dip in and out of and a lovely addition to the British Library Crime Classics series. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
*I was kindly invited by Kate Jackson over at Cross Examining Crime to take part in the Reprint of the Year Awards. The awards look at the vintage crime fiction republished during 2021. Nominations have to be works of fiction and reprinted this year, if it’s the first time it’s been published then unfortunately it can’t count. 12 bloggers nominate two books each. Once those nominations are in, the vote goes to blog readers, with the winner announced on 30 December.
You can read more about it here, where you will also find links to other bloggers and reviews of their nominations for the Awards.*