The Penguin Book of Murder Mysteries
December 8, 2023

Book Review

The Penguin Book of Murder Mysteries

reviewed by Erin Clemence

The Penguin Book of Murder Mysteries by Michael Sims is an anthology of crime stories, most featuring a crime-fighting detective, with a dead body (or two) and a murderer on the loose. Most of the novels featured in Mysteries are from the nineteenth century, and all of the stories in the collection had authors who were relatively unknown to me.

There were thirteen stories in all, with male and female authors from England, Scotland, Ireland, the USA, and Canada, and Sims does an excellent job collecting and organizing them. Some of the stories are selected for obvious reasons (such as The Red Room by Canadian author Mary Fortune, being the first story featuring a female detective written by a female, and The Sheriff’s Children by American Charles W. Chestnutt, being the only novel in the collection written by a Black writer, for example), but all of them have a few things in common – they are creative, engaging, and entertaining!

Mysteries features fiction stories, obviously, but to ensure due diligence, Sims includes a blurb to introduce each story with details on the author, country of origin, and any relevant facts about the author, the publications, or the story itself, which were extremely helpful in providing important background. The stories themselves are short, making them easy to read in one sitting!

Sims brings to light authors who have since vanished into history, and I appreciate his careful re-introduction. Some of the authors were inspired by Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and some were inspirations for the literary greats that are now household names.

Each story begins with a murder and, on average, features someone who has been unjustly charged for the crime. A detective, male or female, comes on the scene and tries to deduce the true murderer, and the story is generally (and satisfyingly) resolved within a handful of pages. The stories were similar in theme and in writing style, but they were unique enough to be identified as having different writers, and it was obvious why Sims picked this particular collection of writers as they play very well together.

The Penguin Book of Murder Mysteries is perfect for fans of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, and for readers who enjoy the historical component of the nineteenth century. The stories are witty and ahead of their time, and I loved each of Sims’ carefully collated selections. This is one novel that a crime reader will not want to miss.

The Penguin Book of Murder Mysteries is available at:

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