ONCE UPON A CRIME: An Anthology of Historical Mysteries by Janet -- Ed. Hutchings

ONCE UPON A CRIME: An Anthology of Historical Mysteries

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An anthology of historical detective stories whose execution lags behind its long-overdue concept. Ranging in setting from imperial Rome to 1930s America, the 13 stories (all but two written since 1987, all reprinted from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, which Hutchings edits) provide something for everybody, but not too much for anybody. Devotees will welcome cases involving Lillian de la Torre's Dr. Sam Johnson (workmanlike stuff), Steven Saylor's Gordianus the Finder (evocative as ever), and Ellis Peters's Brother Cadfael (minor work by a major genre figure). William Bankier poses an ingenious new solution to the murder of Christopher Marlowe, and Miriam Grace Monfredo reviews the demise of Sir Walter Scott's Elizabethan heroine Amy Robsart. George Baxt's foolish tale of murder most foul behind the scenes at Hamlet and Robert Barnard's anecdote of backstage peace-conference intrigue in a Paris hotel provide relief from the pervading seriousness. None of the more recent stories outclasses Helen McCloy's 50-year-old ""Chinoiserie"" -- still a stunning example of how resonant a historical setting can be. Compared to McCloy's masterful tale of art, lust, and politics, most of the mysteries here seem content to treat the past as an exotic canvas for the display of the usual suspects.

Pub Date: June 24th, 1994
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: St. Martin's