A gigantic anthology with something for everyone—except for an accurate title.
Make no mistake: This is indeed a mammoth gathering (27 stories ranging from 1834 to 1935). Jakubowski (The Mammoth Book of Comic Crime, 2002, etc.) has scoured a century and come up with a precious assortment of ghosts and spirits (Edward Bulwer Lytton, Barbey d’Aurevilly, Alexandre Dumas); stalwart detectives (Nick Carter, Arthur Morrison, Baroness Orczy, Ernest Bramah, Marie Belloc Lowndes); thieves and swindlers (Maurice Leblanc, E. Phillips Oppenheim, J.S. Clouston, William Hope Hodgson); comic sleuths and con artists (Mark Twain, E.W. Hornung, O. Henry); and tales of revenge served hot or cold (Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Rudyard Kipling, Arnold Bennett). What he doesn’t provide in any great number are either whodunits or vintage tales from the genre’s Golden Age. Readers will look in vain for Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr, though Jakubowski includes a negligible locked-room puzzle by E. Charles Vivian, superfluous stories from Poe and Conan Doyle and unclassifiable curios by M.P. Shiel and C. Daly King. The collection, which seems structured by its absences, divides about evenly into old chestnuts that deserve their reputation (Pushkin’s “The Queen of Spades,” Stevenson’s “Markheim,” Hardy’s “The Three Strangers”) and also-rans that have been forgotten for good reason.
A testimony to the exceptional variety that allowed a wide range of stories to be counted as mysteries before the orthodoxy of the whodunit set in.