The Life of Crime

Detecting the History of Mysteries and their Creators

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Pub Date 16 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 22 Nov 2022
Harper 360, Collins Crime Club

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Description

In the first major history of crime fiction in fifty years, The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and their Creators traces the evolution of the genre from the eighteenth century to the present, offering brand-new perspective on the world’s most popular form of fiction.

Author Martin Edwards is a multi-award-winning crime novelist, the President of the Detection Club, archivist of the Crime Writers’ Association and series consultant to the British Library’s highly successful series of crime classics, and therefore uniquely qualified to write this book. He has been a widely respected genre commentator for more than thirty years, winning the CWA Diamond Dagger for making a significant contribution to crime writing in 2020, when he also compiled and published Howdunit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of the Detection Club and the novel Mortmain Hall. His critically acclaimed The Golden Age of Murder (Collins Crime Club, 2015) was a landmark study of Detective Fiction between the wars.

The Life of Crime is the result of a lifetime of reading and enjoying all types of crime fiction, old and new, from around the world. In what will surely be regarded as his magnum opus, Martin Edwards has thrown himself undaunted into the breadth and complexity of the genre to write an authoritative – and readable – study of its development and evolution. With crime fiction being read more widely than ever around the world, and with individual authors increasingly the subject of extensive academic study, his expert distillation of more than two centuries of extraordinary books and authors – from the tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann to the novels of Patricia Cornwell – into one coherent history is an extraordinary feat and makes for compelling reading.

In the first major history of crime fiction in fifty years, The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and their Creators traces the evolution of the genre from the...


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Featured Reviews

The Life of Crime from Martin Edwards is that wonderful combination of a book you can enjoy reading as well as one you want to keep around for reference.

I think the main thing that will bring most readers to the book is the reference book aspect. Anyone who reads in any of the genres and subgenres under the broad umbrella covered here will want to know about what influenced their favorite genre or their favorite writer. This book certainly satisfies that desire, in short and engaging chapters that can be read quickly (including the notes, which you don't want to skip, they are often as interesting as the text).

For those who like the reference aspect but intend from the beginning to read the entire book, you will be very happy with how the book is written. The facts are interwoven with wonderful anecdotes all presented in concise chapters. This will reward either standard method for reading such a book. If you want to read it quickly the chapters offer many stopping points so you don't feel like you have to commit to an extremely long chapter if you just want to read for another few minutes. If you want to read this one or two chapters at a time (how I often read collections of short stories or essays) you can fit in a chapter in a relatively brief window of opportunity. By the way, for those who mostly want it for reference, I would suggest at least using this second method to work through the book, you might be surprised just how good this is as a read as well as a reference.

This is as comprehensive as I imagine a single volume can be. Substitutions might have been made, though I am certainly not qualified to say what could have been substituted for what, but simply adding more would have been a little redundant as far as explaining the history and definitely have made the book unwieldy. I think the decisions for inclusion are excellent and answered many of the questions I had and even more I didn't know I had.

In addition to the various styles and genres/subgenres, what most interested me was the inclusion of influence, both into and from the crime fiction. Whether what went into the earliest examples or how recent works have reached into other genres, the reader gets a truly big picture view.

Reading the book itself will probably give you many new titles to read, and likely make you want to reread some you love. If your interest is in reading even more about the authors and genres, the bibliography is a rich source of information. I was happy to even see a couple of theory books, though if theory isn't your thing, don't worry, there aren't many.

While this is ideal for anyone with an interest in crime fiction (broadly speaking), I think it would also be of interest to those who simply enjoy literary history.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

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In addition to being one of the world's foremost authorities on all things mystery—an effortlessly encyclopedic knowledge of the genre—Martin Edwards is also a wonderfully entertaining writer. The Life of Crime builds on both of these qualities: tremendously informative, wonderfully told. The short chapters are focused nicely on various aspects of the history of mystery—working forward through various themes, trends, and specific authors. As a teacher, I'm certain to keep this handy as a key resource, but as a reader as well, I'm just happy to be able to enjoy all that Edwards has to offer. A milestone book.

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An absolute gem for fans of crime fiction. A recommended purchase for collections where the genre and writing craft titles are popular.

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Fans of crime fiction will be thrilled to check out The Life of Crime. Martin Edwards explores the history of the crime fiction genre with his in-depth knowledge. The chapters are short and engaging. It is clear that a great deal of research and time went into this book. If you are a fan of the genre or need a resource on the mystery genre, this is the one for you. Be sure to check out The Life of Crime today!

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I love the introductions written by this author for the golden age mysteries published by British Library Crime Classics, but they always leave me wanting more. This book, The Life of Crime, includes all the details and backstories I have been wanting on famous, and not so famous, mystery writers.

The Life of Crime is a witty and comprehensive look at every type of mystery from Sherlock to spies to American police fiction. It also spans the globe from Asia through Scandinavia. Each chapter is clearly labeled so the reader can find what interests them. There are also three indices, if needed.

What can I say that would adequately describe this epic 800-page book? None seem sufficient so I’ll just say that it is perfect for mystery fans and those interested in the writing craft. 5 stars and a favorite!

Thanks to Collins Crime Club and NetGalley for a digital review copy of the book.

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I find it hard to criticize this one. It certainly covers a lot of ground, and it provides lots of great analysis and examples of crime stories and authors. Recommended.

I really appreciate the free ARC for review!!

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The Life of Crime Detecting the History of Mysteries and Their Creators by Martin Edwards

599 Pages
Publisher: Harper 360, Collins Crime Club
Release Date: August 16, 2022

Nonfiction, Biographies, Memoirs, Historical Events, Famous People Authors

The book is divided into the following parts.


Revolution
Mystery and Imagination
Guilty Secrets
Detective Fever
Poacher Turned Gamekeeper
The Great Detective
Rogues’ Gallery
The Nature of Evil
Plot Minds
The Science of Detection
Had-I-But-Known
Ware and Peace
Treacherous Impulses
The Mistress of Deception
American Tragedy
Superfluous Women
Challenging the Reader
Locked Rooms
The Long Arm of the Law
Blood-Simple
Murder and its Motives
Twists of Fate
The Sound of Mystery
In Lonely Rooms
Brothers in Crime
Cracks in the Wall
Sensation in Court
California Dreaming
Carnival of Crime
Waking Nightmares
Dagger of the Mind
Whose Body?
Private Wounds
Out of this World
Perfect Murders
Mind Games
Deep Water
Forking Paths
Bloody Murder
People with Ghosts
Killing Jokes
Literary Agents
Nerve
Outsider in Amsterdam
Whodunwhat?
Black and Blue
Home Discomforts
Mystery Games
Early Graves
A Suitable Job for a Woman
A Feeling for Snow
Fatal Inversions
Dark Places
Long Shadows
A Taste for Death

What can I say about this book? It is immense, well researched, and thorough. I learned so much about my favorite authors and found new authors I want to read. There seemed to be a common thread through their lives, sadness, and misfortune caused by drugs, alcohol, suicide, mental illness, etc.

The author covers topics that I had not even considered as a crime or mystery novel. As always, I love anything about Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Maurice LeBlanc, George Simenon, and Patricia Highsmith. I thought it was interesting that several writers had similar ideas for books like Strangers on a Train. Also, the fact that Jim Thompson, an American writer, said he thought he would become famous ten years after his death. His prediction came true with his novel “The Grifters” which was made into a movie in 1990. If you are a mystery buff and/or enjoy biographies and memoirs, this is a definite must read for you.

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This is a crime-lover’s dream - a comprehensive treatment of crime fiction by a master of the genre, presented in a readable and fascinating way. It took me awhile to finish this as this is the kind of book I dip in and out of, reading a chapter here and there. And reading a chapter isn’t as easy as it sounds, because I found I had to keep a notebook handy to write down all the authors and books I haven’t read, but which Edwards presents in various forms.

This will appeal to readers of crime fiction and probably not many others, so it’s a niche buy. I’d recommend for large library collections.

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Perfect book to add to lovers of crime fiction.A treasure trove of information perfect for mystery lovers libraries.A book to dip in and out of .So well written so interesting highly recommend.

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Lately I’ve felt few hardcovers are actually worth owning, but there are always exceptions. I’m sure many of us have our collections – all of Agatha Christie or Michael Connelly or Sue Grafton, for example – but Martin Edwards’ new reference book, The Life of Crime, is the exception to the rule. First of all, it’s beautiful. The paper is smooth and creamy; the jacket is simple and elegant; and the endpapers – a collection of classic crime covers – are to die for. But while the cover draws you in, it’s what’s between them that’s the point.

Edwards, in an exhaustive, thorough fashion has documented the crime novel from its inception – he bookmarks William Godwin’s 1795 tome, The Adventures of Caleb Williams. Who among us, other than the erudite Edwards, has read this novel? But he usefully traces it to contemporary and more familiar books, who can trace their origins back to 1795. His list includes John Buchan, Frederick Forsyth and Lee Child as children of this long ago adventure novel.

He continues to trace the crime novel forward. In his chapter on Conan Doyle and Sherlock, he cites one of the most (to me) influential developments in mystery fiction: the creation of the series detective. The series detective is the reason the detective in these novels is often beloved. That long form relationship with the reader cannot be matched.

In a chapter on transition from the golden age to the present (Private Wounds), Edwards says “The depressing truth is that it is exceptionally difficult to be entirely original.” This instance was occasioned by the similarities between Nicholas Blake’s A Penknife in my Heart (1958), and Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train (1950). Blake had even cited Highsmith as an influence on his own work. The two books are very different, though with a similar premise.

To me the joy and interest of the mystery novel is found right there. It’s a form with certain parameters, but within that form and those parameters, there are endless variations. Martin Edwards is saying nothing radical here (to crime fiction fans, at least), he’s making a case for the longevity, importance, and lasting nature of crime fiction. There’s a reason a book written by Doyle in 1887, A Study in Scarlet, is still being read today.

The careful Edwards follows the threads of mysterious history in many, many directions. Scandinavian crime, Simenon and European crime writing, American police novels, female private eyes, the “Had I But Known” school – he illuminates all of them in this 600 plus page book, heavily footnoted and indexed. You can dip in and out – enjoy a chapter, think about it, put it down, return.

I don’t think it was in his purview to write about crime fiction that’s being read and created at the moment, though he includes authors like Michael Connelly, Val McDermid, Charles Todd and Attica Locke. That will fall to another researcher in the future. He ends his book with a wonderful chapter on P.D. James, a favorite author of mine (and obviously, of Edwards’), whose first Dalgleish novel, Cover Her Face (1962), was a bridge from the golden age of the past to the darker, more psychologically minded present.

And finally, this stuck with me: “More wisdom is contained in the best crime fiction than in philosophy” (Ludwig Wittgenstein). And Edwards’ tome, and the wisdom within it, has a permanent place on my bookshelf where I can refer to it again and again, as with any great reference book. Kudos to Mr. Edwards for what I am sure was years of hard work on a genre that he loves.

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First-class job of research, beautifully related and organized. It’s a reference for mystery writers everywhere to keep at hand.
—G.M. Malliet

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The Life of Crime
Detecting the History of Mysteries and their Creators
by Martin Edwards
Pub Date 16 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 22 Nov 2022
Harper 360, Collins Crime Club
Biographies & Memoirs | Nonfiction (Adult)


I am reviewing a copy of The Life of Crime through Harper 360, Collins Crime Club and Netgalley:

The Life of Crime is the first major history of Crime fiction in half a century.

Martin Edwards is a multi award winning crime novelist as well as the President of of the Detection Club, archivist of the Crime Writers’ Association and series consultant to the British Library’s highly successful series of crime classics, and therefore uniquely qualified to write this book.


Martin Edwards has been a widely respected genre commentator for more than thirty years, winning the CWA Diamond Dagger for making a significant contribution to crime writing in 2020, when he also compiled and published Howdunit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of the Detection Club and the novel Mortmain Hall. His critically acclaimed The Golden Age of Murder (Collins Crime Club, 2015) was a landmark study of Detective Fiction between the wars.


The Life of Crime comes from a lifetime of reading and enjoying all types of crime fiction, old and new, from around the world. In what will surely be regarded as his magnum opus, he has thrown himself undaunted into the breadth and complexity of the genre to write an authoritative as well as a readable study of its development and evolution of crime fiction.



I give The Life of Crime five out of five stars!


Happy Reading!

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