The Mysterious Bookshop

Sims, Michael, The Dead Witness

Publishers Weekly
Sims (Dracula’s Guest) has pulled together an exceptionally intelligent and varied anthology of Victorian crime fiction, starting with a detective story that predated Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by four years, William E. Burton’s “The Secret Cell,” reprinted for the first time since its original publication in 1837. The usual suspects—Poe, Dickens, Collins, Doyle, and Chesterton—are all on hand, but the chronological placement of their contributions, each with an insightful introduction, helps delineate what each author got from his or her predecessors. D’Artagnan’s impressive deductive reconstruction of a gunfight 30 years before A Study in Scarlet amply justifies the surprising inclusion of a section from a Dumas père musketeer romance. Among the lost treasures is the title story, “the first known detective story written by a woman,” Mary Fortune, an Australian immigrant who wrote a story a month for 40 years under the pseudonym Waif Wander. Serious readers of detective fiction will cherish this volume.