cover image The Big Book of Victorian Mysteries

The Big Book of Victorian Mysteries

Edited by Otto Penzler. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, $27 trade paper (640p) ISBN

Edgar winner Penzler (The Big Book of Espionage Stories) draws on his encyclopedic knowledge to cast a wide net in this superior anthology of 49 stories published between 1838 and 1900. The usual suspects—Poe, Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins—are represented, but the joy for the genre lover is the chance to meet more obscure authors such as Headon Hill, who in “The Divination of the Zagury Capsules” offers an unusual armchair detective, “an Indian mystic confined to a small room in which he spends his days chewing on betel nuts and playing with his cobras.” Penzler also includes tales from writers known for other kinds of fiction, including Leo Tolstoy, Oscar Wilde, and L. Frank Baum. The real treasure trove is the section featuring non–Anglo-American entries, from Spain, France, Russia, Germany, and Italy. A standout is German author Dietrich Theden’s “Well-Woven Evidence,” in which a police chief must figure out why the robbers who looted a safe of thousands of marks also stole “a large package of lace curtains.” This doorstop volume will provide hours of pleasure reading for fans of traditional mystery fiction. (Oct.)