Book Review: After Agatha

Sally Cline ~ After Agatha

Synopsis

After Agatha: Women Write Crime is the first book to examine how British, American, and Canadian female crime writers pursue their craft and what they think about crime writing. Hundreds of women who identified as lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, able-bodied, disabled, feminist, left or right wing, who were black or white, who had experienced violence, sexism, homophobia or racism, and who came from big cities or small country villages had one thing in common: they read crime novels.

The book explores why so many women who face fear and violence in their daily lives, should be so addicted to crime fiction, many of which feature extreme violence. The book analyzes why criminal justice professionals including police officers, forensic scientists, probation officers, and lawyers have joined traditional detective writers in writing crime. It examines the explosions of crime writing by women between 1930 and today.

It highlights the UK Golden Age women writers, the 1950s American women novelists, the 80s experimental trio, Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky, and Sue Grafton, who created the first female American private Investigators, and the important emergence of female police protagonists, as well as those central characters who for the first time were lesbian, disabled, black, or ethnic minority. After Agatha also examines the significant explosions of domestic noir thrillers and forensic science writers.

Review

As a child I was fascinated by crime novels. I used to flip between wanting to be a detective and a spy. I think Agatha Christie has a lot to answer for. I remember being too young to read her books, but picked one up anyway. Somehow it happened to be the first in the Poirot series, although I didn’t know it at the time.

I read it and I was shocked. It was compelling, dangerous and cryptic. I loved trying to work out ‘whodunnit’. As I grew up I read more, went to murder mystery parties, watched thrillers, stayed at The Swan Hotel and played the part of Vera in And Then There Were None

And along the way I met other female writers who defined the thriller genre that we know today. Between them they have made me laugh, feel physically sick and even faint whilst reading about the gruesome murders and shocking situations that occur.

After Agatha looks at female thriller writers that came after Agatha Christie. It’s fascinating and a wonderful overview and insight into these popular works of fiction. The psychology behind it and the rationale for its popularity are all things I’d suspected but seeing statistics and interviews made it all real.

While the book is interesting and I did enjoy it, it’s not engaging and is slightly repetitive. Non-fiction often struggles to appeal to the masses, because it’s not accessible or gripping. Although I loved the insight into some of my favourite female authors, I would’ve liked it to be more informal. It felt too much like a university dissertation and not as a book to entertain and inform.

Well-researched, but entirely too academic, considering the huge potential audience.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I received a copy of the book from Oldcastle Books. All opinions my own.

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