The Verdict on American Mystery Classics: A Treat for Mystery fans…

The Verdict on American Mystery Classics: A Treat for Mystery fans…

The Verdict on American Mystery Classics: A Treat for Mystery fans…

W.H. Auden once wrote: “Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.” Otto Penzler, the prolific editor of crime fiction and the proprietor of New York City’s “The Mysterious Bookshop,” is bringing back classic mystery novels from the past that have been long forgotten, save in the memories of detective story aficionados.

 

Penzler has saved six classic mystery novels from the oblivion of languishing in the netherworld of “out of print.” Originally published during the early twentieth century, these novels cover a wide variety of approaches to the crime novel. Some of them have a supernatural subplot. Some are by female writers featuring female detectives. Some are private detective stories, and some are puzzle mysteries. Some have a touch of noir sensibilities, while others are practically screwball comedies.

 

One point that all six novels have in common is the fact that they are all unapologetic fun. Each of these authors believes that the purpose of the mystery writer is to challenge and entertain, and all the writers are skilled at their jobs.

 

The plots are diverse. Death from a Top Hat centers on an impossible locked-room mystery, with a skilled magician investigating a crime in which most of the main suspects are professional illusionists. Home Sweet Homicide is a comic tale of a group of young siblings who decide to use the lessons their mystery writer mother taught them to solve a crime in their neighborhood. The So Blue Marble follows the hunt for a valuable gemstone in the twisted world of New York high society and the glitterati. The Chinese Orange Mystery is a classic Ellery Queen bizarre crime, as the mystery writer/sleuth investigates a murder where everything in the room has been flipped backwards and upside-down. The Red Lamp combines a ghost story with the investigation of slaughtered livestock and mysteriously deceased residents of the countryside. Finally, The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan has a teacher with a flair for investigation looking into a murder on the set of a major motion picture about the Lizzie Borden case.

Some of these books, like Happy Hooligan and Chinese Orange, are middle entries in lengthy series, but there is no need to read the exploits of Hildegarde Withers and Ellery Queen in chronological order; one can enjoy these mysteries without any previous knowledge of the detectives’ exploits.

 

A few aspects of the books underscore the fact that they are products of their times. Here and there are comments that rankle modern attitudes toward race and other social issues, and a crucial clue to The Chinese Orange Mystery is something most of today’s readers will be largely unaware of, as the item in question has fallen dramatically out of fashion.

 

In the future, more titles will, hopefully, be reprinted under the “American Mystery Classics” imprint, and it will be interesting to see the works rescued from obscurity in the coming years. The first six books in the series will be a treat for mystery fans, especially those who are tired of the darkness, violence, gloom, and depravity that characterize so many twenty-first-century crime tales. These six books are meant to bring gentle smiles to all who read them.

 

Death from a Top Hat (A Great Merlini Mystery)

By Clayton Rawson

American Mystery Classics

2018

$25.95 Hardcover

$15.95 Paperback

 

Home Sweet Homicide

By Craig Rice

American Mystery Classics

2018

$25.95 Hardcover

$15.95 Paperback

 

The So Blue Marble

By Dorothy B. Hughes

American Mystery Classics

2018

$25.95 Hardcover

$15.95 Paperback

 

The Chinese Orange Mystery (An Ellery Queen Mystery)

By Ellery Queen

American Mystery Classics

2018

$25.95 Hardcover

$15.95 Paperback

 

The Red Lamp

By Mary Roberts Rinehart

American Mystery Classics

$25.95 Hardcover

$15.95 Paperback

 

The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan (A Hildegarde Withers Mystery)

By Stuart Palmer

American Mystery Classics

2018

$25.95 Hardcover

$15.95 Paperback

 

–Chris Chan

Posted in Reviews.

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