The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Reviews

“Written as a companion to the British Library’s Crime Classics series of reprints, this descriptive critical catalogue of 100 crime and mystery novels (mostly British) published in the first half of the 20th century is irresistible for aficionados and a reliable reading list for newcomers. Edwards’ picks, most published during detective fiction’s golden age between the two world wars, range chronologically from Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) to Julian Symons’s The 31st of February (1950) and include, in addition to many of the usual suspects, a few outliers sure to enliven debates among diehard fans. He groups his selections into 24 chapters that cover numerous aspects of the literature—the great detectives, the fair-play mystery (epitomized by Ronald Knox’s The Body in the Silo), the miraculous or locked-room mystery (a specialty of John Dickson Carr), country house and manor murder mysteries, and so on—and whose ordering shows classic tropes giving way to newer approaches more resonant with modern times. A crime novelist in his own right, Edwards (The Golden Age of Murder) brings a specialist’s discerning eye to discussions of each book’s significance, and without giving away key plot points. This is an exemplary reference book sure to lead readers to gems of mystery and detective fiction.” 

Publishers’ Weekly (starred review)

“A fascinating guide.”

Roland White, The Sunday Times

“Since “The Golden Age of Murder” appeared, Edwards — himself a gifted and prolific writer of mysteries, as well as a scholar of the field — has emerged as a driving force behind the republication of older detective fiction, contributing introductions to many of the titles in the series British Library Crime Classics. All that reading lies behind his new work of critical appreciation and rediscovery…Let me end, like many good mysteries, with a confession: After reading “The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books” I quickly bought secondhand copies of Christopher Bush’s “The Perfect Murder Case,” George Limnelius’s “The Medbury Fort Murder” and Gladys Mitchell’s “The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop.” Edwards made them sound so good that right now I’d almost kill for a quiet week at the beach.”

Michael Dirda, Washington Post

“”Erudite, but accessible and never less than very readable. It’s thought provoking too and I reappraised some books which I’d previously dismissed. I’d normally expect that a book like this would be read over a week or more, but I was surprised that I found myself succumbing to the ‘just another chapter’ syndrome and I read right through in little more than a couple of days.”

Susan Magee, Bookbag

“Martin Edwards…has had the neat idea of producing a sort of extended menu of murderous treats for those for whom no library is complete without a pile of corpses beside the French windows…nothing if not encyclopaedic…You’re not elected both Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and President of the Detection Club without knowing where 10,000 bodies are buried, who murdered each of them, and why. No-one could doubt the extent of Edwards’ knowledge. He writes about countryside murders, holiday murders, shooting-party murders and murders by serial killers with equal expertise.”

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

“A striking feature, to a modern reader, is the innocent nature of early criminal activities. Not just Murder at the Vicarage, but The Poisoned Chocolates Case, The Cornish Coast Murder…The Case of the Late Pig…Any one would be right for a wet weekend in August.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Well-researched, clearly written, and beautifully illustrated.”

Alan Taylor, The National (Scotland)

“A cabinet of criminal curiosities that novices and aficionados alike can happily search for titles to match their tastes…Edwards is an enthusiast and also a practitioner of the genre, which explains his keen eye for craft and his interest in writers’ experimentation with the increasingly familiar conventions of crime fiction.”

Times Literary Supplement

“I found many old friends here, but also fascinating writers and books new to me. It was a great pleasure reading it and I know I’ll be hunting out some of the books described here for years to come. The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books deserves a home on the shelf of every aficionado of golden age crime.”

A Reading Life blog

“A brilliant book, with great content, but also lovely design (the picture segment filled with dust jackets was wonderful)…a must have read for all classic crime aficionados, a book you can read from cover to cover (with laptop nearby for all those important google searches) or alternatively dip in to, to discover a new author or title.”

Crossexamining Crime blog

“The all-conquering success of his massively enjoyable Golden Age of Murder must have created a problem for the writer Martin Edwards (currently chair of the Crime Writers Association): how to follow a book which appeared to write the last word on a great era of crime fiction? Well, the multi-talented Edwards (who is no mean practitioner of the crime novel himself) has produced another volume which will be catnip to admirers of the genre – not to mention a shopping list of novels which is going to have aficionados repeatedly reaching into their pockets. The approach in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books is to take books which (in Edwards’ view) illuminate and epitomise the field. And as added value, Edwards sets his choices within pithily written introductions to the variety of areas in which the books operate (e.g., the justice system and ‘Murder at the Manor’). While most of the classic novels and writers one might expect are here, the real pleasure lies in the eclectic choice of books discussed. Now forgotten names abound, and Edwards’ enthusiasm always communicates itself (though it never slips into unqualified encomiums — he is quick to point out when certain writers’ social attitudes would not work in modern crime fiction – though, as he says, we are given inter alia key insight into these eras). If you have the slightest interest in the British golden age of crime fiction, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books is an essential purchase.”

Barry Forshaw, Crime Time

“Edwards writes knowledgeably but conversationally, so that it never feels as if one is being lectured by an expert – rather it’s like having a chat with a well-read friend…Highly recommended to anyone who’d like to know more about the history of the crime novel, or who’d like to read some of the classic books but doesn’t know quite where to begin. But I’d say this book would also be great for people who already know quite a bit about the genre – it’s so packed with goodies I can’t imagine many people wouldn’t learn something from it as well as being entertained by some of the stories about the authors.”

Fiction Fan blog

“Insightful and valuable…Edwards is an acknowledged master of the “golden age” of crime fiction and his prose is pithy and studded with understated wit.”

Stav Sherez, Catholic Herald

“An enjoyable book to dip into and out of at one’s leisure, and would be a recommended choice of gift for fans of this genre”.

The Sherlock Holmes Journal

“There can be few people in the country who know more about crime fiction than Martin Edwards, author and President of the Detection Club, and that shines through on every page of this collection…What I particularly like about the stories chosen is that no greater credence or preference is given to the most famous of writers, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, than to authors whose works have, for whatever reason, become distant memories or forgotten altogether. Edwards isn’t afraid to be critical where he sees fit, whether that be some of the doyens of the genre getting a little lazy with their output, or with authors more famed in other areas who tried to dip their toes into the crime genre, with little success…For anyone with even a passing interest in crime fiction, this is the sort of book that should on your shelves, proving engaging to the enthusiast as well as providing a snapshot of life in the early part of the last century.”

Karl Hornsey, On: Yorkshire Magazine

“Fascinating, insightful and knowledgeable look at the history of classic crime…This is a must for the shelf of any classic crime lover…An intriguing and entertaining read.”

Emma’s Bookish Corner

“Well researched and fascinating…For lovers of the genre, this book delivers in two opposing ways. It’s great to encounter names and novels you recognise, and see if you agree with Edwards’ assessment of them, but also, of course, there’s the delight of the new. I defy you to resist the temptation to start looking for titles or writers that intrigue you – I certainly did and already have two previously unheard of novels on the way to me as I write, with undoubtedly more to come after I seek them out. All in all, in addition to being a hugely enjoyable read, this book is obviously an important contribution to literary history. It has a useful bibliography and two indexes, one of authors and the other of titles. You’ll also find, in each chapter, biographical notes on the authors who are covered in depth. What more could you possibly want? Highly recommended.”

Harriet Devine, Shiny New Books

“engagingly written, allowing for the reader to maybe not have much knowledge of the classic crime stories, especially the older ones, but it is quite inspiring and you can see Martin Edwards’ passion shining through in the text. This is definitely a great addition to the collection and would make a great starting point for any of you who don’t know the best place to start.”

Carpe Libris

“A highly readable volume; it’s densely packed with information, anecdotes and recommendations, but Martin Edwards’ writing style is such that every snippet concerning every book or author is interesting and well told. The amount of research that must have gone into preparing the book is tremendous, since even when discussing extremely well-known books, he manages to include some surprising and little-known facts. For instance, The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the most beloved of crime novels and it is arguably Arthur Conan Doyle’s most popular book, but surly not many people know that the idea behind the story actually came from a journalist (and occasional crime writer) named Bertram Fletcher Robinson, who was at one time going to co-write the book (which would not have featured Sherlock Holmes) with Conan Doyle. “In addition to the text providing a wealth of fascinating information, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books is a beautifully produced volume, which includes a fine selection of photographs of iconic book covers as well as some delightful maps and plans of [fictional] crime scenes. It really is a joy to read, whether cover to cover or on a more “dip in, dip out” basis. It’s definitely a “must have” book for anyone with an interest in classic crime fiction.”

Erin Britton, Nudge

“The coverage is impressive.”

Kirkus Reviews

“This is a very, very good book. It works on so many levels; as a readable text, a history of Crime writing, and a reference book…an enjoyable and in depth read…Edwards has obviously a great breath of knowledge of his subject and the confidence to write critically and persuasively about the history of these of the achievements is to write about all these books without revealing the end, which is a huge success as he provides enticements to read the stories without spoiling them. This is a useful book for anyone interested in fictional crime as a reference book, and an excellent read for those who just want to expand their enjoyment of this popular genre. So, do get hold of a copy of this book if you possibly can.

Northern Reader blog

“I can already see the award nominations for this title. I think it’s a book to be treasured by those of us who love crime fiction.”

Lesa’s Book Critiques

“A book to both read from cover to cover and to dip in and out of. I found myself doing both, looking for authors I was familiar with and discovering new ones. Some of the books will require determination to track down if you’re inspired to read them which makes the list all the more interesting. It’s a timely reminder that the period of the classic crime is more complex and wide-ranging that is often attributed to it. This impressive volume is a book to return to time and time again.”


“Highly pleasing…An interesting, readable book, that can either be read right through (as I did) or dipped into chapter by chapter. Highly recommended.”

Geoff Bradley, CADS

“An excellent book…worth seeking out if you have even the most passing interest in classic crime.”

Desperate Reader blog

“A reference book that should be on the shelves of every serious fan of mystery fiction.”

George Kelley’s blog

“An indispensable, informative – and highly entertaining – book.”

Classic Mysteries

“Highly recommended.”

In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel blog

“A must read.”

Harriet Devine’s blog

“Splendid…this treasure trove of reading pleasures.”

Roberta Rood, Books to the Ceiling

“Fascinating…an enjoyable book to dip into and out of at one’s leisure…a recommended choice of gift for fans of this genre.”

The District Messenger

“Martin Edwards has forgotten more than I will ever know about vintage crime classics. And he presents his knowledge in a most accessible way. A whole book full of novel synopses could easily have been dry-as-dust, but Edwards, as the title indicates, weaves his synopses into a story about the development of the classic crime novel from the turn-of-the century to 1950. I thoroughly enjoyed discovering new authors and new novels, as well as being delighted to see some of my favorites make the list.”

Bev Hankins, My Reader’s Block blog

“Wonderful…I’m grateful to Mr. Edwards for his monumental work and all the fascinating books that I’m going to read because of his book.”

Mystery – Death by Committee blog

“A tour de force…more than compelling.”

Themis Athena’s Garden of Books

“Brilliant…a fantastic resource.”

Cleopatra Loves Books blog

“Entertaining and informative.”

Red Carpet Catering Mysteries Newsletter

“A whirlwind tour of classic crime fiction which is in the process of exploding my to-be-read list.”

Moonlight Reader