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A short enjoyable overview,
This review is from: Talking About Detective Fiction (Paperback)
In this enjoyable monograph P. D. James discusses the genre of detective fiction, from its nineteenth century origins to the present day, focusing mainly on England's inter-war 'Golden Age'. The book is very readable, even on familiar subjects, with well-chosen examples and quotations. James writes from the perspective of a practitioner of the craft, and her observations are astute, well-written, and often very witty.
This is a short book, and I'm sure readers will regret the omissions of their personal favourites (no Carter Dickson! no Harry Kemelman!). James, however, cannot be expected to cover the whole of the genre and I finished the book with a reignited affection for the form, and a reading list which I can't wait to get started on.
James admirably tries not to give away too many plot twists or endings of the various books she discusses. However, readers who don't know the identity of the murderer in "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" will want to avoid page 53, and page 92 is out for those who don't want to know the ingenious ways in which Sayers's victims meet their ends.
Sometimes the prose felt slightly disjointed, with paragraphs not always smoothly following on from one other, and there was some repetition as well. I also would have appreciated an index of authors mentioned. But these are very minor quibbles and I would recommend this book both to fans of the genre and to newcomers wanting a place to start. As an added bonus a portion of the proceeds of the paperback edition will be donated to Bodleian Library.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 May 2011 22:28:33 BDT
One point on which I disagreed with James was her comment that "The last thing we get from a Christie novel is the disturbing presence of evil." "Curtain", which contains a particularly malevolent and disturbing murderer, immediately springs to mind as a counterexample. However, "Curtain", is probably an exception, in various ways, and I would be interested if anyone can provide examples from Christie's other works.
In reply to an earlier post on 19 Sep 2014 07:37:53 BDT
Red Rivere says:
Eleanor, there are many other examples. Christie was very concerned with the idea of "evil"--more so, I think, than Sayers or Allingham and certainly Ngaio Marsh. James is just dead wrong on this point.
If some of the writing seems disjointed it's probably because James has incorporated a number of her older writings into detective fiction into this book. I did not see this acknowledged in my edition.
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