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The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's…

The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective…

by Michael Sims (Editor)

Other authors: Robert Barr (Contributor), Ernest Bramah (Contributor), William E. Burton (Contributor), G.K. Chesterton (Contributor), Wilkie Collins (Contributor)16 more, Charles Dickens (Contributor), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Contributor), Alexandre Dumas (Contributor), Andrew Forrester, Jr. (Contributor), Mary Fortune (Contributor), Émile Gaboriau (Contributor), Anna Katharine Green (Contributor), Bret Harte (Contributor), William Crawford Honeyman (Contributor), Harvey O'Higgins (Contributor), C.L. Pirkis (Contributor), Edgar Allan Poe (Contributor), Melville Davisson Post (Contributor), Hesketh Prichard (Contributor), George R. Sims (Contributor), Mark Twain (Contributor)

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Showing 5 of 5
Interesting mismatched collection of Victorian/Edwardian mystery short stories. Some are very good, some are a bit predictable, others simply unreadable. My favorite was the last story, An Intangible Clue, by Anna Katharine Green. Through her femininity and fragility, the main character, Violet Strange, gets men to help her—very unlike the masculine Loveday Brooke created by Catherine Louisa Pirkis (The Murder at Troyte’s Hill) and modern women. She is the typical Victorian woman: feminine, delicate, a little minx when it comes to getting where/what she wants! I didn’t care for the stories by Dickens (one of my favorite authors), Poe (not my favorite author by far), or Wilkie Collins (can’t stand him, no matter how much I’ve tried). The tale by Hesketh Prichard, The Crime at Big Tree Portage, was such strange story and the character (a Canadian half-indian backwoods guide) so absurd, I stopped after a few phrases. The Whitechapel Mystery is a transcript of a gruesome murder, bone chilling and I couldn’t finish the story. But, of course, it is always a pleasure to reread the first meeting between Holmes and Watson in The Science of Deduction. Sims, the compiler of the tome, is an excellent representative of the modern PC crowd. He wrote that "The biblical [sic] Daniel seems to have been the first fictional detective." Inquiring minds would like to know where he got his proof that the Bible is a work of fiction. Then he goes on to comment on Bret Harte’s poem The Heathen Chinee, “a parody to Irish immigrants’ bias against Chinese immigrants who had suddenly become their competitors for jobs.” Sims labeled the Irish racist for adopting this poem. If instead of Chinese they were Germans, would he still call the Irish racist? ( )
  MrsRK | Nov 21, 2016 |
As an avid reader of mysteries and literature, this collection was an amazing find. Sims has collected well known and little known mystery stories from the 1890s and put them all together in one place as well as writing a thoughtful introduction. Every story was a good read, some were scary and a few were even funny. I would recommend this book to someone who's read all of Doyle and Poe and is wondering what to read next. This provides a history lesson as well as chance to meet new authors. ( )
  katekf | Jun 24, 2012 |
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

This fascinating new anthology, by an academe who has made a career out of putting together such anthologies, is a lively and unexpected guide to the early history of the detective story, whose invention is largely credited to Edgar Allen Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and which really flowered into mainstream success during the Victorian Age of the 1830s to 1900s. And indeed, by placing his only Sherlock Holmes story right in the middle of this massive book, editor Michael Sims is clearly showing just how much precedence there was leading up to what eventually became the most famous character in this genre's history; because with the very idea of a city police department not even invented in the real world until the early 1800s, many of the first stories about solving crimes came about in a roundabout way, whether through "Newgate" novels that salaciously glorified the criminals or "Sensation" novels that combined noir-like plots with Gothic moodiness and supernaturalism. And there's lots more surprises awaiting the eager Victoriana fan who picks this up, not an "all-star" compilation but with stories picked precisely because of their uniqueness and obscurity; for example, how many female writers found real success in this genre back then, or how much great crime fiction came from other areas of the Empire like Canada and Australia. And in the meanwhile, Sims throws in a few nonfiction tidbits to help us maintain a sense of society in general back then; of particular interest, for example, is a full reprint of the first long newspaper article to come out about the first Jack The Ripper slaying. A huge collection that kept an armchair historian like me flipping pages quickly, it comes strongly recommended to other Baker Street Irregulars, and the only reason it's not getting a higher score is the unavoidable fact that you won't like it at all if you're not already a fan of Victorian genre fiction.

Out of 10: 8.9 ( )
  jasonpettus | May 3, 2012 |
A well-curated collection of short stories, excerpts, and even a bit of non-fiction (in the form of newspaper articles and an inquest transcript from one of the Jack the Ripper murders), Michael Sims' The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories (Walker & Co., 2012) is a thoroughly enjoyable volume.

Some of the selections here will be familiar to many: Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and selections from A Study in Scarlet most specifically. But many of the other stories Sims includes may introduce the reader to new authors and characters, like Hesketh Pritchard's Canadian detective November Joe or Robert Barr's delightful Eugène Valmont. I also enjoyed Bret Harte's amusing parody starring Hemlock Jones, "The Stolen Cigar-Case."

Sims' good general introduction is buttressed by shorter introductory notes to each individual selection, providing a bit of background about the authors and their work. It must have been no easy task to select the pieces for inclusion; I don't envy Sims the job, but he's done it well. ( )
  JBD1 | Mar 21, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sims, MichaelEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barr, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bramah, ErnestContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burton, William E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chesterton, G.K.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Collins, WilkieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dickens, CharlesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Doyle, Sir Arthur ConanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dumas, AlexandreContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Forrester, Andrew, Jr.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fortune, MaryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gaboriau, ÉmileContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Green, Anna KatharineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harte, BretContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Honeyman, William CrawfordContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
O'Higgins, HarveyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pirkis, C.L.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Poe, Edgar AllanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Post, Melville DavissonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Prichard, HeskethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sims, George R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Twain, MarkContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Contents of book edited by Sims:
Prophets looking backward / Michael Sims --
The secret cell / by William E. Burton --
The murders in the Rue Morgue / by Edgar Allan Poe --
On duty with Inspector Field / by Charles Dickens --
The diary of Anne Rodway / by Wilkie Collins --
You are not human, Monsieur d'Artagnan / by Alexandre Dumas --
Arrested on suspicion / by Andrew Forrester Jr. --
The dead witness; or, The bush waterhole / by W.W. (Mary Fortune) --
The mysterious human leg / by James McGovan (William Crawford Honeyman) --
The little old man of Batignolles / by Émile Gaboriau --
The science of deduction / by Arthur Conan Doyle --
The Whitechapel mystery / by Anonymous --
The assassin's natal autograph / by Mark Twain --
The murder at Troyte's Hill / by C.L. Pirkis --
The Haverstock Hill murder / by George R. Sims --
The stolen cigar-case / by Bret Harte --
The absent-minded coterie / by Robert Barr --
The hammer of God / by G.K. Chesterton --
The angel of the lord / by Melville Davisson Post --
The crime at Big Tree Portage / by Hesketh Prichard --
The tragedy at Brookbend Cottage / by Ernest Bramah --
The case of Padages Palmer / by Harvey O'Higgins --
An intangible clue / by Anna Katharine Green.
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From luminaries Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Bret Harte, Wilkie Collins, and Arthur Conan Doyle to the forgotten author who helped inspire Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" to a surprising range of talented female authors and detectives, The Dead Witness offers mystery surprises from every direction. The 1866 title story, by Australian writer Mary Fortune, is the first known detective story by a woman, a suspenseful clue-strewn manhunt in the Outback. Pioneer writers Anna Katharine Green and C. L. Pirkis take you from high society New York to bustling London, introducing colorful detectives such as Violet Strange and Loveday Brooke.… (more)

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