The Best American Mystery Stories of the 19th Century

Edited by Otto Penzler. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 (624p) ISBN 978-0-544-30222-8
The 32 selections in Penzler’s rich compendium of early American mystery stories feature a wide range of criminal activities. Organized chronologically, the volume opens with Washington Irving’s “Story of the Young Robber,” a gripping tale of jealousy, passion, and murder told by an obsessive teenager who joins a band of kidnappers that targets his ex-lover. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Mr. Higgenbotham’s Catastrophe,” Dominicus Pike, a gossipy tobacco seller, meets a stranger in the woods and hears of the death of a noted businessman under “ambiguous circumstances.” Abraham Lincoln’s “Remarkable Case of Arrest for Murder,” a true crime account first published in 1846, tells of three sinister brothers whom he defended in an unsolved “strange affair” in Illinois. Poe is represented with his groundbreaking “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter,” which introduced C. Auguste Dupin, the “first eccentric genius detective.” Readers will also savor works by such luminaries as Daniel Webster, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, and Jack London, as well as by a number of forgotten, if no less deserving, names. Penzler (Kwik Krimes and more than 50 other anthologies) draws on his vast knowledge of the genre for his cogent introduction and commentary on individual entries. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/04/2014
Release date: 10/07/2014
Genre: Fiction
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