cover image The Penguin Book of Murder Mysteries

The Penguin Book of Murder Mysteries

Edited by Michael Sims. Penguin, $18 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-143137-53-5

Anthologist Sims (The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime) looks well beyond the usual suspects in this stellar collection of 13 classic stories from lesser-known authors. The standout is “The Case of the Pool of Blood in the Pastor’s Study” by Auguste Groner (1850–1929), who published her detective fiction under a male pseudonym. In it, Groner’s regular sleuth, Joseph Muller of the Imperial Austrian Police, is consulted after a giant bloodstain is found at a rectory in the Carpathian Mountains. The amount of blood signals that someone—probably the rectory’s missing pastor—was murdered, but no body is found, and there are no signs that a corpse has been removed. Another standout is “Negative Evidence” by Irish writer Richard Dowling (1846–1898), set in England and believed to be the first mystery story to use a photograph as a clue. Throughout, Sims’s choices, which showcase his encyclopedic knowledge of mystery fiction, range from good to great, and place welcome focus on the historic contributions of women to the genre. Even the most well-read mystery fans have good reason to check this out. (Nov.)