Rediscovering Crime Classics

Readers who enjoy fiction from “the Golden Age of Murder” between the world wars used to be thought of as an endangered species. Other than Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and a few others, authors of traditional whodunits had largely faded from view, their books out of print and often almost impossible to find. Digital publishing has helped to change things, by making many old titles available gain, while the extraordinary success of the British Library’s Crime Classics has shown that there is a much larger readership for Golden Age fiction than many had realised.

Charles Kingston’s Murder in Piccadilly, originally published in 1936, is a lively mystery with an appealing final twist. Kingston wrote unpretentious entertainment, and won a modest but loyal readership. His work is competently plotted, and infused with a quiet sense of humour. This copy is unusual, because not only does it boast a dust jacket in excellent condition, it also bears Kingston’s signature. I have seen no other book signed by him.

Little is known about the author, but his full name was Charles Kingston O’Mahoney, and it seems that, before turning to crime in the fictional sense, he wrote a book called The Viceroys of Ireland. His surname suggests Irish origins, but his favoured setting for fictional crime was London. Murder in Piccadilly is not a cerebral country house whodunit of the kind so often written during the Golden Age, but a good-natured, old-fashioned thriller that retains a warm period charm.