Going for the Golden: “Bodies from the Library”

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Bodies from the LibraryThe Golden Age of Detection, generally defined as the era between the two World Wars, saw the detective story come into its own. During this time, detection moved away from the who and how to the why, focusing on the psychology behind the murder instead of the mechanics of the murder. Many of the most famous detective writers got their start during this era, with a group of the best coming together to create the Detection Club in 1930, where they created a set of standards for fairplay in mystery stories.

During this era, writers often prolifically produced short stories in addition to full length novels, with detective stories published in numerous magazines. With the knowledge of how many stories were once written but now little noticed, Tony Medawar has just published a new anthology of previously unknown mystery stories by the most famous writers of the ers. In Bodies from the Library, Medawar has collected 16 detective stories that have either been previously unpublished or published in only one obscure magazine.

The stories in this collection come from a variety of the top mystery writers of the Golden Age of Detection. They include such famous writers as Anthony Berkeley, founder of the Detection Club; Georgette Heyer, popular writer of both Regency Romances and mysteries, whose first detective story appears here for the first time since 1923; A.A. Milne, who wrote mysteries besides his famous Winnie the Pooh stories; and the most famous of all, Agatha Christie, whose story “The Wife of the Kenite” appeared in an Australian magazine during her “Grand Tour” of the world in 1922 but hasn’t been seen since.

I really enjoyed this collection, which introduced me to several new authors and reintroduced me to some with which I had limited exposure. I especially appreciated the biographies of each author by Medawar that concludes each one’s story and taught me fascinating details about each one. For example, Christianna Brand wrote the children’s books about Nanny McPhee in addition to her mystery books.

My favorite story was “The Man with the Twisted Thumb” by Anthony Berkeley, in which Geoffrey Grant carries a handbag to his date. Veronica, while at Monte Carlo, only to discover that she already has her own bag. They get threatened by a man trying to get the bag and go on adventures related to the bag and people trying to recover the bag. From Wedawar’s brief biography, I was amused to learn some facts about this prolific author. For one thing, Berkeley dedicated one of his books to himself, and for another, he dedicated two books about the murder of spouses to his first two wives.

Philip Bretherton performs the audio edition of this collection and handles the many stories with ease and panache. He narrates the many stories with their own attitude and focus. The characters have their own voices and are well suited to the course material.

I first became aware of Bodies from the Library when I saw on a Facebook page how many fans of the Golden Age of Detection were eagerly looking forward to its release. When I discovered that the book was available on audio at the same time as its print release, I found that excitement and energy to be contagious. Listening to it just confirmed to me that this collection is special and that all the work Medawar put into discovering previously unknown manuscripts paid off. I give this book five stars!

To purchase this book for yourself, click here on Amazon.

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