Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review: A Century of Detection by John Cullen Gruesser

✰✰✰✰ This collection of mystery short stories spans a century that defined the genre of detective fiction. A Century of Detection: Twenty Great Mystery Stories, 1841 - 1940 provides a thematic survey of detective fiction and the stories are presented chronologically. John Cullen Gruesser has included an introduction that explains each of the themes and a brief introduction is included for each author featured.

Gruesser's study of detective fiction begins appropriately with Edgar Allan Poe and continues with stories by well-known authors like Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Dashiell Hammett. However, what makes this collection unique is the inclusion of some lesser known authors that illustrate the development of the genre. Through the study of themes including "Gender, Sexuality, and Detection" as well as "Race and Detection," the reader is exposed to memorable stories by authors like Anna Katharine Green, Susan Glaspell, Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, and Chester Himes.

The Bottom Line: This collection of twenty mystery short stories is a fascinating study of how detective fiction developed over the course of one hundred years. It serves as an insightful study to both the academic scholar and the armchair detective. Additionally, this tome is simply enjoyable to read; there's something for everyone from well-known classic short stories to little known stories that are hard to find. Also, it's a must read for those interested in learning the craft of mystery writing. Highly recommended for both students and fans of detective fiction.

Details: A Century of Detection: Twenty Great Mystery Stories: 1841 - 1940 by John Cullen Gruesser. Paperback published by McFarland in 2010. 378 p. ISBN: 9780786446506 Note: I received a complimentary copy from McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.