The Dead Witness

The Dead Witness

A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories

Paperback - 2012
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Gathering the finest adventures among private and police detectives from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries-including a wide range of overlooked gems-Michael Sims showcases the writers who ever since have inspired the field of detective fiction.

From luminaries Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Bret Harte, Wilkie Collins, and Arthur Conan Doyle to the forgotten author who helped inspire Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" to a surprising range of talented female authors and detectives, The Dead Witness offers mystery surprises from every direction. The 1866 title story, by Australian writer Mary Fortune, is the first known detective story by a woman, a suspenseful clue-strewn manhunt in the Outback. Pioneer writers Anna Katharine Green and C. L. Pirkis take you from high society New York to bustling London, introducing colorful detectives such as Violet Strange and Loveday Brooke.

In another forgotten classic, November Joe, the Canadian half-Native backwoods detective who stars in Hesketh Prichard's "The Crime at Big Tree Portage," demonstrates that Sherlockian attention to detail works as well in the woods as in the city. Holmes himself is here, too, of course-not in another reprint of an already well-known story, but in the first two chapters of A Study in Scarlet , the first Holmes case, in which the great man meets and dazzles Watson.

Introduced by Michael Sims's insightful overview of detective fiction, The Dead Witness unfolds the irresistible antecedents of what would mature into the most popular genre of the twentieth century.

Publisher: New York : Walker & Company, c2012
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9780802779182
Branch Call Number: MYS DEA
Characteristics: xxix, 576 p. ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Sims, Michael 1958-

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multcolib_susannel Apr 25, 2016

From its first beginings, the detective, crime and police procedurals attracted its readers.
This anthology is varied and interesting and just plain fun!

EuSei Jul 08, 2015

Interesting mismatched collection of Victorian/Edwardian mystery short stories. Some are very good, some are a bit predictable, others simply unreadable. My favorite was the last story, An Intangible Clue, by Anna Katharine Green. Through her femininity and fragility, the main character, Violet Strange, gets men to help her—very unlike the masculine Loveday Brooke created by Catherine Louisa Pirkis (The Murder at Troyte’s Hill) and modern women. She is the typical Victorian woman: feminine, delicate, a little minx when it comes to getting where/what she wants! I didn’t care for the stories by Dickens (one of my favorite authors), Poe (not my favorite author by far), or Wilkie Collins (can’t stand him, no matter how much I’ve tried). The tale by Hesketh Prichard, The Crime at Big Tree Portage, was such strange story and the character (a Canadian half-indian backwoods guide) so absurd, I stopped after a few phrases. The Whitechapel Mystery is a transcript of a gruesome murder, bone chilling and I couldn’t finish the story. But, of course, it is always a pleasure to reread the first meeting between Holmes and Watson in The Science of Deduction. Sims, the compiler of the tome, is an excellent representative of the modern PC crowd. He wrote that "The biblical [sic] Daniel seems to have been the first fictional detective." Inquiring minds would like to know where he got his proof that the Bible is a work of fiction. Then he goes on to comment on Bret Harte’s poem The Heathen Chinee, “a parody to Irish immigrants’ bias against Chinese immigrants who had suddenly become their competitors for jobs.” Sims labeled the Irish racist for adopting this poem. If instead of Chinese they were Germans, would he still call the Irish racist?

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