Why do so-called “Golden Age” mysteries–written by a handful of British authors in the 1920s and 30s–appeal so strongly? Considering that they flourished specifically in the post-World War I era, it could be argued that these highly-crafted, ingenious puzzle-stories gave their first readers a sense of control after the horror and chaos of a senseless conflict. In these tales, good clearly triumphs over evil; evil is usually confined to a single murder (or perhaps a few related ones); and the good detectives (with whom the reader identifies) seldom die. It’s a comfortingly controlled world. One that, despite the dastardly deeds committed therein, still offers us a welcome respite from the messiness of real life.
Unfortunately, as you may have discovered, the oeuvre is somewhat limited. But if you think you’ve devoured every last crumb of classic mystery fare available, from Agatha Christie to Dorothy Sayers to Margery Allingham, don’t despair! Here’s your clue to discovering more delights. Republished under the auspices of the renowned British Library, the eight anthologies of short mystery fiction available on hoopla offer you tales from the era that have been out of print since before World War II. Herein, you’ll find bite-sized pleasures from familiar authors like G. K. Chesterton and new-to-our era writers like J. Jefferson Farjeon. Occasionally, you’ll even chance upon something from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his contemporaries a generation earlier.
Edited and introduced by scholar Martin Edwards, each title in this set of British Library Crime Classics presents an array of stories sharing some familiar plot elements. Everything from the favorite country house murder to the not-so-bucolic countryside/village crime to the slightly grittier London mystery is well-represented in the series. And if it’s full-length tales you’re after, you can devour a pair of them from the largely-forgotten writer John Bude republished together just this year: Death in White Pajamas & Death Knows No Calendar.
So if you need a half-hour’s calm amid the present storms, dip into one or all of these classics, select a story at will, and settle in for a slice of pitch-perfect whodunit heaven.