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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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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