Every so often, a novel is adopted by more mainstream fiction when it is in fact pure genre. Typically the result of this is that those of use who read the good stuff in our own genre have to put up with a ripple of brouhaha while we’re lectured by the broadsheet darlings as they fall over themselves to recommend something as inventive or ingenious when in fact we’ve read three books more inventive or ingenious in the last month alone (or, worse, phone someone in to explain incorrectly to others who don’t know any better). In SF, say, we’ve recently been subjected to Hugh Howey’s Wool trilogy which is…well, every single cliché you can name and about as awful as you’d expect, but it especially seems to be happening more and more in crime fiction.
Respected, iconoclastic patriarch of an isolated group found murdered in his bedroom one night when no-one else could have entered the house? Check. All members of the household cleared from complicity in his murder? Check. Amateur detective-cum-paladin called in against his will to investigate? Check. Cantankerous police riled by this effrontery in spite of the obvious specialised knowledge this amateur brings? Check. Honestly, Peter F. Hamilton wrote such a classic detective yarn with A Quantum Murder, it’s almost a surprise to find it on the SF shelves. But when your genius amateur is also a fully-functioning enhanced psychic empath I suppose you’re not really in Agatha Christie territory any more…
Doing a tour of bookshops today, I discovered that a new collection of locked room stories has been published by Macmillan, edited by David Stuart Davies. The synopsis runs thus:
A fascinating collection of ingenious mysteries which all pose the question ‘howdunnit?’ Featuring well-known sleuths such as Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown, as well as the less familiar, including Jacques Futrelle’s Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, in each story the reader is invited to play detective and is presented with a challenge: can you solve the mystery before the solution is revealed? Locked-room mysteries reached their height of popularity in the Victorian and Edwardian eras; this collection, edited and introduced by David Stuart Davies, brings together stories from such masters of the genre as Edgar Allen Poe, Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and G. K. Chesterton.