Book Review: Murder by the Book, Edited by Martin Edwards (2021)

Welcome to another review of one of the British Library Crime Classics series: Murder by the Book, edited by Martin Edwards.

Murder by the Book is an anthology of sixteen short stories meticulously selected by Martin Edwards around the theme of books; there’s stories from 1890-1960 about writers, booksellers, and readers from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, which were out of print or forgotten that have been brought to a new generation of readers.

This anthology of “Bibliomysteries” features stories from Golden Age giants such as Ngaio Marsh’s “Chapter and Verse,” which features her famed detective Roderick Alleyn in a twisted family inheritance case that leads to murder (of course!) and shocking revelations.

Neither well-known author John Creasey’s “The Baron nor “The Toff” make appearances rather “The Book of Honour,” a moralist tale of a bookseller’s rise, fall, and rise again in India.

One of the most surprising stories is “Malice Domestic” by Philip MacDonald, which chronicles the unhappy marriage of Carl Boden, which is full of suspicion and hurt feelings; when Carl begins having stomach pains, his doctor suspects poisoning. The twist ending will surely surprise you, and “Malice Domestic” is one of the best stories in the anthology.

One of my favorite stories was “A Lesson in Crime” by a husband a wife writing duo G.D.H and Margaret Cole, where a famous author is met by a critical “fan” and killed on a train ride. The motive is beyond ridiculous, but I really loved the writing style, tone, and derision for mystery writers. I liked it so much that I picked up another British Library Crime Classics publication, The Brooklyn Murderers, by the two authors.

The other stand-out story in the anthology is “Dear Mr. Editor” by Christianna Brand, where the reader thinks they are reading about the murder of one character until the twist at the end and they realize the mad-woman narrator has been duped. Christianna Brand always has a fresh voice and unique point of view which makes her stories superb.

With excellent stories written by A. A. Milne and literary critic Julian Symons, you can really see the depth of research and love Martin Edwards has for the genre and his dedication to bringing good stories from writers across the literary world. Each level is given an insightful introduction by Martin Edwards which encapsulates the writer and situates the story in the broader literary narrative. Martin Edwards’s introductions are never dull and reveal delightful tidbits to the reader, rendering them as pleasant as the stories themselves.

This is the first anthology I have read in a while where every one of the sixteen stories was a delight. Of course, some were more to my taste, but none were poorly written or uninteresting. A really excellent collection, thoughtfully curated by the genuinely gifted editor, Martin Edwards. I highly recommend Murder by the Book. You can get a copy of it from Amazon here.


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