Thursday, June 18, 2020

Crime Queens of the Golden Age

From Crime Reads:

The Golden Age of British detective writing was dominated by four female authors who have predictably become known as the Queens of Crime: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Josephine Tey. There was actually a fifth as well, Ngiao Marsh, but she is usually discounted as she was a New Zealander, although her books are predominantly set in Britain (and many of them are among my personal favorites).
By way of background, the Golden Age is commonly taken to be the period between the two World Wars although this is more a convenient label than an accurate description. In fact many of these books were written well after the Second World War, but they continued to follow the traditional pattern and to make use of such much-loved literary devices as mistaken identities and mysterious foreigners, not forgetting the convenient side door which is customarily left unlocked.

Of course there were male writers too, and good ones at that. GK Chesterton, Anthony Berkeley, Edmund Crispin, and Nicholas Blake spring to mind at once, and an honorable mention should go to Freeman Wills Crofts, who not only could make a railway timetable seem positively interesting, but was the first of the Golden Age writers to introduce a professional police detective as a protagonist. Yet it is the four Queens who have stood the test of time and become the equivalent of household names in the world of crime fiction. Why is this?

It is a difficult question to answer in general terms since, as might be expected, each has her own strengths. Agatha Christie was a consummate plotter, though some find some of her characters a bit wooden. Sayers was probably the weakest plotter, yet her prose is magnificent, and generations of readers have fallen in love with Lord Peter Wimsey. Allingham challenges our sense of ethical integrity; there is a certain ambiguity about her detective, and on at least one occasion we are invited to believe that he has resorted to killing the murderer himself because he despairs of the ability of the prosecution service to bring the killer to justice. Tey’s output was limited in quantity, but was of outstanding quality. (Read more.)


May said...

Elena, are you familiar with the detective series Foyle’s War? I think you might enjoy it.

elena maria vidal said...

Several people have told me I need to watch it!

May said...

I have watched and rewatched it. My favorite episodes are the Cold War spy ones.