The British mystery of the 20’s to the early 50’s created a classic literary sub-genre of its own. Often set in a small village, country house, or other genteel location, they told a deadly story in a decidedly whimsical tone. Do not be misled by the style in which these are written or the dry British humor that is sometimes used by the characters – these were not “cozy” mysteries. No animals, spirits, or other cuddly assistants were involved here. The actual deed and its consequences were not treated lightly in a moral sense. Amateurs often mingled with the authorities, desired or not, in solving the crime, but then found themselves brought up short by the realities of the case and its ultimate resolution – generally the knowledge that a noose was the final step. These were decent, often naïve people, from whom the rougher side of life had been hidden but who felt morally bound to pursue the truth whatever the result.
Over the years, especially in America, many talented authors of this genre have been forgotten. Today, many may still know Agatha Christie and recognize the names of Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Patricia Wentworth, and a few others, but there are also those who do not deserve to be left in obscurity. Poisoned Pen Press and the British Library have begun bringing many of these authors and their works back into the light of day in a series known as British Library Crime Classics and I, for one, am thrilled. As a longtime fan of the style, I am meeting or being reacquainted with a host of formerly unavailable or difficult to find authors and stories. I don’t know why they were abandoned in the first place, but highly recommend you join me in welcoming them back.