Sunday, February 17, 2008
HISTORICAL WHODUNITS ed. by Mike Ashley
This volume, published in 1993 as The Mammoth Book of Historical Whodunits and in 1997 as Historical Whodunits, contains 23 historical (that is, set before the author was born) mysteries. The foreword is by Ellis Peters, who discusses how she created the Cadfael character.
Many of these stories were written specifically for this volume. Unfortunately, quite a few of these stories aren't very good. Often, the historical setting has nothing to do with the mystery, and is just used to set up the MacGuffin. Furthermore, the majority of these stories are not ones where the reader can follow along and guess at the culprit. Rather, it seems that many authors were more interested in thinking of ridiculous scenarios, which their protagonists would then explain.
There is a great proliferation here of authors using both other authors' characters and real historical figures. Poe's Dupin and Doyle's Holmes appear here in stories from other authors, and other detectives include Leonardo da Vinci, Poe himself, and William Shakespeare.
There are a couple of good stories here, and some good authors, but a great many of the stories in this volume aren't particularly interesting. I suppose they can't all be Cadfael.
TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT