Welcome to a new series of posts across my blog and Instagram! Sometimes I just want to show off an excellent book cover or talk about my initial thoughts, and other times I just want to get my thoughts down whilst I’m emersed in the book before I’ve already moved on to the next. So these posts will depict “meet-cutes” introducing these books.
The first in this series simply had to be The Life of Crime by Martin Edwards. This book is perfect for this post-type as it’s a chunky book running over 700 pages of content, including indexes etc, so I’ve dipped in and out of the chapters I selected since its arrival. Therefore, a full review wouldn’t be fair so this is more of an introductory overview.
Whereas stating the extensive page length outright may make the book seem daunting, however, I want to clarify that Edwards’ actual content and excellent design from Steve Leard and the production team elevates this book to the perfect gift, reading list, research prompter, and enjoyable read all in one. The latter is specifically achieved by Edwards’ conversational and succinct style combined with extensive experience in introducing British Library Crime Classics. Shorter chapters capture your attention by delivering a wide breadth of information succinctly whilst ensuring you want to continue reading.
The Life of Crime is perfect for those who love reading about books, and enjoyment of its content is not exclusive to knowledgeable readers of crime stories. For context in how I came to this book, I’ve always been curious about the genre of crime fiction. I love mysteries, thrillers, and everything Gothic, but specifically, I hunt for twists and surprises. I’ve also started to devour Christie book after Christie book this year. While I’ve never labeled myself a lover of crime by dipping into this book I’ve come to understand that by virtue of its genre-flexibility and illusions to predecessors crime has actually snuck up on me as one of my most read and loved genres.
Edwards actually addresses this in the book’s introduction by clarifying he “weave[s] different strands together, so as to highlight connections between one branch of crime writing” and this promise comes good in his earlier chapters. William Godwin’s The Adventures of Caleb Williams, for example, is placed in direct context with the distinctly Gothic Mysteries of Udolpho which in itself “anticipated the docus of detective stories”. Personally, I love researching books, and Edwards’ effortless simultaneous discussions of plot, biographical and contextual history with sprinkled discussions of publishing and financial success proved this book to be a wealth of research prompts both in terms of historical context and thematic comparisons. These also ensure enjoyment from both crime fiction lovers and those, like myself, looking to place the genre against other favourite novels with both being able to garner new recommendations.
The most succinct way to explain the benefits of Edwards’ almost encyclopedic knowledge and research poured into this book is to echo the sentiments of fellow blog-tour participant @ThePuzzleDoctor. The Life of Crime includes everything you’ve always wanted to know and loads that you never knew you wanted to know.
Despite the overall book’s length, the explorations of individual titles and authors are consistently handled with a brevity which Edwards clarifies immediately within the introduction. Submitting to the reader’s ability to Google, Edwards provides almost miniature cliff-hangers to some examples ensuring curious readers will immediately jump to the notes to read more or research to their satisfaction. However, I was disappointed that ‘Whodunwhat?: Theatrical Murder” was preoccupied with historical context rather than discussion of the form’s specific challenges for the crime genre and how this is tackled by some of the most enduring shows. I understand this may be the understandable result of remaining within specialism, however, some of the clearest examples need only to be outlined within the book’s style of brevity for this chapter to stand out amongst the others. I’m particularly thinking of staging the current run of Witness for the Prosecution in London’s County Hall, emphasising its legal setting, and the challenge of ensuring the audience can witness a crime whilst continuing to conceal the perpetrator’s identity as handled in The Mousetrap using radio sounds and blackouts. I understand that critiquing a single chapter within a tome of excellent research sounds harsh, I will also clarify I have yet to read chapters discussing any screen adaptations, but this did stand out in my reading experience.
As mentioned above, I feel Edwards has created a book capable of being something different, a gift, research prompt, ode to a well-loved genre, or reading-list, to each reader. Full of immeasurable, other than in page count, knowledge of an extensive genre, and an enjoyable writing style The Life of Crime is a treat to return to each time. I look forward to discovering more recommendations and the context tying each title together.
Please do follow the blog tour for Martin Edwards’ The Life of Crime:
The Life of Crime by Martin Edwards was published on May 26th 2022 by HarperCollins.
I was invited to take part in this blog tour and received a final physical copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to HarperCollins for this opportunity.
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Blackwells is linked as it is one of the largest specialist book retailers in the UK, so their books are widely available in-person and online. However, I encourage you to support local, independent bookshops wherever possible.
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