This book is a study of the "mothers" of the mystery genre. Traditionally the invention of crime writing has been ascribed to Poe, Wilkie Collins and Conan Doyle, but they had formidable women rivals, whose work has been until recently largely forgotten. The purpose of this book is to "cherchez les femmes," in a project of rediscovery.
Rediscovery is exactly the word that needs to be applied to this small, but incredibly packed offering from renowned Senior Research Fellow Lucy Sussex.
Sussex has to be one of the greatest proponents of the discovery and telling of the tales of the earliest female writers - having now bought Mary Fortune to light, she has turned her hand to exploring not just the origins, but much of the history of early Women Writers and Detectives. Proving once and for all that the crime genre was not just founded by a well-known group of men, many of the women in this book (characters and authors) really deserve the accolades due to them from current day readers.
Densely packed with information, this isn't a book that I sat down and read in a few settings, but rather one I've been dipping into and out of since it arrived here. It was particularly interesting to see where Mary Fortune fitted into this role call of writers, and it was also most interesting to come across Anna Katherine Green's name - a woman whose book The Leavenworth Case is a book that I remember from my early exposure to crime fiction in all its forms.
Despite having dipped into and out of this book from start to finish, it will be a book that I know I'll be returning to - the subject matter deserves a re-read over and over again.