Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Big Book of Female Detectives

The Big Book of Female Detectives is an encyclopedic anthology of detective fiction featuring female characters (and a fair number are actually written by women). Released 16th Oct 2018, by Knopf/Doubleday on their Vintage Crime/Black Lizard imprint it's a mind boggling 1136 pages and available in ebook and paperback formats.

Editor Otto Penzler has done another astounding job of collecting these stories together and providing insightful background and history as well as context. There are more than a dozen other 'Big Book' anthologies curated by Mr. Penzler, and this one really delivers.

The book's introduction is a capsule survey of the representations of women in detective fiction from the late 19th century to today. Penzler writes well and with deep knowledge of his subject. There is also a short introduction to each story which gives interesting background and some publishing history for each of the entries.

The stories themselves are a mixed bag (including some with female antagonists, or at least anti-heroes). They're arranged in sections grouped roughly into time periods starting with the Victorians and Edwardians, and continuing through Pre-WWI, the Pulps, Golden Age, Mid-Century, and the Modern Era.

This is a really worthwhile collection and is honestly valuable just for the historical information about the origins and development of detective fiction along with the comprehensive acknowledgements and publishing info at the end. Along with the stories, the reader has over a thousand pages of classic fiction from giants of the genre and from some lesser known authors past and present. I love these anthologies because I always manage to find some new-to-me authors to read further.

Five huge stars. This was a whopper of a book and really supremely enjoyable for readers of historical detective fiction.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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