Tuesday, October 4, 2011

RIP Read 3: The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime

Besides having the most amusing cover of almost any book I've ever owned, The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime is a fantastic little collection of late Victorian crime stories. The editor, Michael Sims, deserves credit for a wonderful collection that doesn't include a single dud. Every story in this book was enjoyable and a few were unforgettable.

Though we are all fairly familiar with a famous Victorian detective or two, Sims decided, after working on a collection of stories about the famed gentleman thief Arséne Lupin, that the era's thieves weren't getting the attention they deserved. After reading this collection, I heartily agree.

I hadn't read any of the authors in this volume except for O. Henry and his classic Christmas heartstring-puller "The Gift of the Magi" -- which couldn't be more different from his tale of frontier town trickery, "The Chair of Philanthromathematics". I also read Sinclair Lewis for the first time in this book with his RIP-worthy "The Willow Walk". Though this group of stories turned out to be more witty than terrifying, I'm still going to include it in the challenge because there's many a mystery in the volume -- even if we are viewing them from a more prosecutable angle!
"The difference between you and me is this," Cecil was saying. "You exhaust yourself by making money among men who are all bent on making money, in a place specially set apart for the purpose. I amuse myself by making money among men who, having made or inherited money, are bent on spending it, in places specially set apart for the purpose. I take people off their guard. They don't precisely see me coming. I don't rent an office and put up a sign which is equivalent to announcing that the rest of the world had better look out for itself. Our codes are the same, but is not my way more original and more diverting?" -- Arnold Bennett, "A Comedy on the Gold Coast"
Keeping my hand over my purse,


  1. Thanks for the recommendation, this sounds right up my ally. I have really been trying to improve my knowledge of crime/detective fiction lately. As soon as I finish my current read which has one chapter to go, I am going to start reading Talking About Detective Fiction by PD James, a book about the history of detectiev fiction.

    I will definitely keep an eye out for this penguin book.

  2. I love the title - gaslight crime!

  3. I've actually checked this book out from the library, but sadly, I returned it unread -- just not enough time to read everything! I'm sorry to say I never looked that closely at the cover! Hilarious, thanks for pointing that out. I'll definitely have to look for this one again.

    I didn't realize Arnold Bennett was included, I really loved The Old Wives' Tale which is one of those forgotten classics.

  4. That is a really really great cover! Love it!

  5. When I saw this title, I thought it meant "gaslight" in the verb sense, like in the film Gaslight. I would love to have a whole book full of crime stories about people making other people think they're crazy. But this looks pretty great too!

  6. This sounds like so much fun, and I also love the cover!

  7. Becky - I just happened upon this one randomly but I'm so glad I grabbed it. I hope you get to read it too!

    Tracy - The editor has a fun little intro too where he talks about what the gaslight period should technically be versus what he chose it to mean.

    Karen - I hope you grab it again sometime. It's a really quick read. All of the stories are fun reads! And I haven't heard of Arnold Bennett before but I would love to read more by him (and some of the other authors featured in the book).

    Jenners - I actually didn't notice at first and then all of a sudden, I saw what was really going on and just started laughing!

    Jenny - THAT would be an awesome collection!

    Kim - I feel like there's more of a disconnect these days between many covers and the stories inside. This one however takes the prize for most perfect fit!