#922: This Deadly Isle: A Golden Age Mystery Map (2022) by Martin Edwards [ill. Ryan Bosse]

After the very enjoyable work done by Herb Lester and Caroline Crampton in mapping the key locations of Agatha Christie’s English mysteries, it was surely only a matter of time before a similar project was attempted. And This Deadly Isle, which maps the locations of a raft of Golden Age mysteries across the country, is the delightful inevitable follow-up.

Naturally, the task this time around is far larger: no longer restricted to the 80-some criminous works by Christie, the palette has broadened to include, er, every UK-set novel and short story written in the genre between approximately 1910 and 1950, That’s…a lot of stories. And so, to ensure coverage, Herb Lester have done the sensible thing and gone to the pre-eminent expert in the field, Martin Edwards. And Edwards’ approach is as thorough as you’d expect: 51 locations and 64 novels and short stories — I shall include a full list of these below, for the curious — covering the range of both the Golden Age’s greater and lesser lights and the width and breadth of the country, complete with interesting asides and filled with the sort of fascinating details you’d expect from a man who has just written a comprehensive history of the crime story.

It’s difficult to imagine the scope of this undertaking. For one thing, so many authors would, as Christie did, fictionalise their villages or counties to free them up from the shackles of boring geography — or perhaps the threat of libel — when telling their stories of murder and mayhem. So while you’ll doubtless have a favourite novel set in these shores, the difficulty remains whether it’s actually set somewhere real — and, even then, it could be set somewhere fictional that’s a stand in for a real place, as with The Second Shot (1930) by Anthony Berkeley whose fictional setting of Budeford is, as Edwards points, out an “amalgam of Bude and Bideford” in Cornwall and Devon respectively. Thus, not only is a range of stories required, but some intelligent reading between the lines also goes a long way. Mayhem Parva might, after all, be closer that first glance would lead you to suspect.

Additionally, the desire to do a professional job will inform certain decisions about which books are chosen. One could easily call on Grimpen Mire and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1912) when finding places in Devon, but a) Hound, while a very good and famous book, isn’t technically Golden Age and b) surely anyone could reference that most famous of books. By way of contrast, how many of you have read, or could tell me the setting of, Sinister Crag (1934) by Newton Gayle? Where on the map would you place The May Week Murders (1936) by Douglas G. Browne? The fun of this sort of endeavour, and no doubt the appeal to its intended audience, is in part the educational value in learning of stories in settings that you might not already know, and this is where Edwards’ astonishing genre coverage really comes into its own. There is, perhaps inevitably, a concentration of locations in and around cities — London, Oxford, and Edinburgh each get little bubbles of their own — but the sheer range of people and places involved shows why you go to an expert of Edwards’ standing when putting something like this together.

The 64 works cited encompass some 50 authors from the Golden Age, with Freeman Wills Crofts — a man who moved his detectives around a lot, and you suspect loved the resulting travelogue more sometimes than the detection his character were engaged in — MVP with four titles on the list. Mainstays such as Anthony Berkeley and Dorothy L. Sayers rub shoulders with the less-appreciated likes of Virgil Markham (can someone please reprint Markham?! His books sound wonderful!) and probably-all-but-forgotten names like Angus MacVicar and John Ferguson. It’s to be understood that these authors were no doubt picked to allow a full range of places to feature, but it also serves as a good reminder of just how deep the quality of the Golden Age went that there’s something to say about neglected authors from almost a century ago.

As before, the map is beautifully produced, too: a striking blood-red-and-black colour scheme for the front, and Edwards’ notes included on the reverse side alongside beautifully evocative black-and-white images from artist Ryan Bosse, whose delightful blocky, almost linocut, images enhance the setting without ever overpowering. I’m no artist, but I imagine the urge to over-populate a map with little flourishes is strong — a Stonehenge here, a factory there, six or seven areas of woodland…and suddenly what you’re left with is cramped and difficult on the eye. Walking the tightrope between this as something to be enjoyed visually while also acting, primarily, as a reference work of sorts is probably a lot tougher than it seems, and it only seems easy because Bosse has done such a restrained, measured job in providing illustration, as he did with the Agatha Christie map.

I particularly love the cover of the slim box it comes packaged in, which manages to convey something sinister without needing to resort to lazy crime fiction standbys. These guys really do produce a very high-quality product, both in terms of its physical nature and, by pairing with knowledgable and intelligent partners, the content and appeal of its focus. The classic crime nerd in your life — which, if you’re reading this, is probably you — would very much enjoy this; in fact buy two, and then you can frame them side-by-side and still refer to the notes when poring over it. It can be bought direct from Herb Lester, who kindly sent me a copy for review, and here’s hoping that a few more will be found in their future.

~

See also

Kate @ Cross-Examining Crime: The map’s locations cover private houses, buildings involving the criminal justice system, department stores, political landmarks, key London streets and even royal abodes. The artwork continues to be brilliant and is one of the reasons these products are pleasing to collect. Lots of attention is given to little details, so the map is enjoyable at a visual level as well as on an information level. It is a great gift to self, but also to others who enjoy classic crime fiction.

~

The full list of titles included in This Deadly Isle: A Golden Age Mystery Map by Martin Edwards

  1. Death of a Ghost (1934) by Margery Allingham
  2. Out Went the Taper (1934) by R.C. Ashby
  3. Death Walks in Eastrepps (1931) by Francis Beeding
  4. Half-Mast for the Deemster (1953) by George Bellairs
  5. The Second Shot (1930) by Anthony Berkeley
  6. The Bells at Old Bailey (1946) by Dorothy Bowers
  7. Cat and Mouse (1950) by Christianna Brand
  8. The May Week Murders (1936) by Douglas G. Browne
  9. ‘The Hands of Mr. Ottermole’ (1929) by Thomas Burke
  10. The Case of the Flowery Corpse (1956) by Christopher Bush
  11. Death Under Snowdon (1952) by Glyn Carr
  12. The Case of the Constant Suicides (1941) by John Dickson Carr
  13. ‘The Absence of Mr. Glass’ (1912) by G.K. Chesterton
  14. The A.B.C. Murders (1936) by Agatha Christie
  15. Towards Zero (1944) by Agatha Christie
  16. Dead Man’s Folly (1956) by Agatha Christie
  17. Dr. Tancred Begins (1935) by G.D.H. & Margaret Cole
  18. Last Will and Testament (1936) by G.D.H. & Margaret Cole
  19. The Moving Toyshop (1946) by Edmund Crispin
  20. Sir John Magill’s Last Journey (1930) by Freeman Wills Crofts
  21. Mystery in the Channel (1931) by Freeman Wills Crofts
  22. Mystery on Southampton Water (1934) by Freeman Wills Crofts
  23. Man Overboard! (1936) by Freeman Wills Crofts
  24. Night at the Mocking Widow (1950) by Carter Dickson
  25. The Hammer of Doom (1928) by Francis Everton
  26. The Young Vanish (1932) by Francis Everton
  27. Death Comes to Perigord (1931) by John Ferguson
  28. The Penrose Mystery (1936) by R. Austin Freeman
  29. Mr. Pinkerton Finds a Body (1934) by David Frome
  30. Mr. Pinkerton at the Old Angel (1939) by David Frome
  31. Sinister Crag (1934) by Newton Gayle
  32. The Woman in Red (1941) by Anthony Gilbert
  33. Murder in the House of Commons (1932) by Mary Agnes Hamilton
  34. Death is No Sportsman (1938) by Cyril Hare
  35. Who Goes Hang? (1958) by Stanley Hyland
  36. Operation Pax (1951) by Michael Innes
  37. Dead Man’s Quarry (1930) by Ianthe Jerrold
  38. Dead Man’s Riddle (1957) by Mary Kelly
  39. Crime in Reverse (1939) by J. de N. Kennedy
  40. The Shop Window Murders (1930) by Vernon Loder
  41. Still Waters (1949) by E.C.R. Lorac
  42. Crook O’Lune (1953) by E.C.R. Lorac
  43. The Screaming Gull (1935) by Angus MacVicar
  44. Death in the Dusk (1928) by Virgil Markham
  45. Shock! (1930) by Virgil Markham
  46. A Surfeit of Lampreys (1941) by Ngaio Marsh
  47. Sunset Over Soho (1934) by Gladys Mitchell
  48. The Devil’s Elbow (1951) by Gladys Mitchell
  49. ‘The Glasgow Murder’ (1902) by Baroness Orczy
  50. Murder at Cambridge (1933) by Q. Patrick
  51. The Warrielaw Jewel (1933) by Winifred Peck
  52. The Red Redmaynes (1922) by Eden Philpotts
  53. The Ingenious Mr. Stone (1945) by Robert Player
  54. The Cambridge Murders (1945) by Dilwyn Rees
  55. Death in the Hop Fields (1937) by John Rhode
  56. Clouds of Witness (1926) by Dorothy L. Sayers
  57. Five Red Herrings (1931) by Dorothy L. Sayers
  58. Gaudy Night (1935) by Dorothy L. Sayers
  59. The Singing Sands (1953) by Josephine Tey
  60. ‘The Rubber Trumpet’ (1934) by Roy Vickers
  61. The Missing Partners (1928) by Henry Wade
  62. Lonely Magdalen (1940) by Henry Wade
  63. Darkness at Pemberley (1932) by T.H. White
  64. The Division Bell Mystery (1932) by Ellen Wilkinson

3 thoughts on “#922: This Deadly Isle: A Golden Age Mystery Map (2022) by Martin Edwards [ill. Ryan Bosse]

  1. I went to watch the new TOP GUN movie yesterday with a good mate of mine and had a good time if it but was highly amused that they wouldn’t identify where the bombing mission that is the crux of the plot actually takes place (one assumes it’s more or less North Korea). Geographical specificity can really make a difference and this sounds like an amazing bIt of work – thanks JJ.

    Like

      • It’s interesting that for large audiences this is thought necessary to keep it at the level of fable, fundamentally removed from the real world. Really has a lot in common with Star Wars. It is a film largely defined, in this respect, by its total lack of specificity, where simplicity and lack of nuance is equated with truth (… justice and etc.) In many ways it’s the lack of politics that makes it so iffy and so retrogressive. Apart from a few swear words, this is a film so retro that it could truly be from 80 years ago.

        Like

Leave a Reply to Cavershamragu Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.