The nineteenth century is considered by many the Golden Age of the modern detective story. From the birth of the genre through Edgar Allen [sic] Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin, to the most famous clue seeking sleuth of them all, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, a variety of literary minds turned to crime writing.
Each story in this highly entertaining collection is significant for its contribution to the development of crime solving literature. There are ghastly crimes committed in the dark of night and master detectives at work to insure [sic] that justice is served. In a story by Thomas Hardy, we are introduced to a thief who outwits his hangman, and in an attack on civic self-righteousness, Mark Twain shows us a man who succeeds in stealing virtue from an entire town.
Other writers in this collection include the great American author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Wilkie Collins—often called “the father of the English detective story,”—and Grant Allen, best remembered for his humorous stories of Colonel Clay, the first heroic rogue character of short crime fiction.
In total, there are 15 stories of criminal mystery and detection included in ISAAC ASIMOV PRESENTS THE BEST CRIME STORIES OF THE 19TH CENTURY; enough clue seeking and cleverness in the pursuit of justice to please the most avid devotee to the genre.
I’m actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this anthology. Asimov himself makes no appearance, of course, but a number of other notable authors do, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne (“Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe”), Edgar Allan Poe (“The Purloined Letter”), Thomas Hardy (“The Three Strangers”), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (“The Red-Headed League”), and Mark Twain (“The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg”).
Moreover, the stories here—unlike the anthologies Isaac Asimov Presents the Best Fantasy of the 19th Century, Isaac Asimov Presents the Best Science Fiction of the 19th Century, and Isaac Asimov Presents the Best Horror and Supernatural Stories of the 19th Century which preceded this book—unlike these anthologies, I say, the stories have aged very well on the whole and are just as entertaining to a modern audience as to one now a century dead.
This is definitely an anthology worth owning and reading.