The history of detective fiction
The classic detective novels and crime fiction that we read today first began to become popular in the mid nineteenth century, mainly as novels. These stories often featured elements of mystery, usually murder, with a memorable protagonist investigating and solving crimes. Many of the most popular characters have their origins in crime fiction, such as Sherlock Holmes. One of the first true detective fiction books published in English is usually credited as Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, which established many of the popular tropes and plot formulas which have been used ever since to give crime fiction its characteristic suspenseful and intriguing story-telling. Later, Wilkie Collins’s novel The Moonstone developed on the genre, establishing several ideas that have become staples of British crime writing.
In 1887, Arthur Conan Doyle created the detective Sherlock Holmes, who would go on to be emblematic of some of the most famous detective stories, and perhaps most iconic characters of the genre, who would be revived time and again in writing and film. The character of Sherlock Holmes, though by no means the first detective in fiction, is the most easily recognisable and has become the basis for many subsequent sleuths in detective novels. The collection features many first print editions, published by Breese Books, of Val Andrews’s Sherlock Holmes pastiches, which emulate Conan Doyle’s style and continue to utilise this beloved character. These are among several other takes by other crime fiction authors, on Sherlock Holmes, a character who has captured the imagination of generations.
The 1920s and 1930s are viewed as something of a golden age for British crime writers, where detective fiction authors flourished and created many of the best noir novels that are still read today. It was during this time that popular authors such as Agatha Christie were writing and the classic format of the ‘whodunnit’ became popularised.
Among some of the best crime books in the collection, we have several of the thrillers by British author John Le Carre, known for his espionage and post-war novels, based on his own experiences in the Secret Service.
Another author of modern detective fiction who appears in our list of detective books is Ruth Rendall. Four of her novels have appeared on the British-based Crime Writers Association Poll of the best crime fiction novels ever written, and she has been credited with developing the thriller genre to include more social awareness.
Among our collection of crime fiction books, there are also first editions of contemporary commercial detective and crime fiction, such as thrillers by Lee Child, well known for the Jack Reacher series. We also have a first edition of The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman, from the best-selling series The Thursday Murder Club. In addition to this, we also have several first impressions by Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell, creator of Inspector Kurt Wallander, who featured in many of his detective books. These books are all in excellent condition, with no markings or signs of wear.
As well as well-known novels, the collection also includes several dust jacket artworks from popular noir detective novels of the fifties and sixties, which are emblematic of the particular art style of the time, and are so familiar as to instantly invoke a sense of the mystery novel. The dust jackets include some which are hand-painted, signed, and incredibly unique, which capture the spirit of vintage crime and detective fiction.
Among the most impressive and very rarest titles in the collection we have that of a first edition of Edgar Wallace’s The Tomb of Ts’in, an incredibly difficult to find edition from 1916, kept in relatively good condition considering its age. The story follows the mystery behind a search for hidden treasure in China.
Another incredible first edition copy among our mystery and detective novels is that of the Baroness Orczy's Eldorado, published in 1913 and signed by the author. The book is still bound in its original red cloth, with the lettering still very bright, and in wonderful condition. It forms part of The Scarlet Pimpernel series, which is often cited as starting a long tradition of masked vigilantes with secret identities which are enduringly popular even today.