Eccentric sleuths, private eyes, inexplicably locked-rooms and crucially timed trains: for terror, bafflement and satisfaction, few things beat a good detective novel. A new exhibition at the British Library traces the history of this treasured genre through an enlightening illustrated alphabet.
From the foxed pages of the earliest forays into crime in the late 19th century to the rubbed spines and cracked joints of well-fingered contemporary paperbacks, there are some choice books on display. Illustrated covers of crime give a wonderful overview of the age: there are the Victorian pen and ink drawings of subterfuge under lamplight, the swift lines of mid-century green-spined Penguins, 1980s watercolours of bucolic villages with ominous shadows and, of course, the red lipped femme fatales with much to hide who frequented the 1940s American hardboiled crimes.
Along with the books is a miscellany of thrilling finds. There’s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original manuscript of the later Sherlock Holmes story The Adventures of the Retired Colonel, an annotated script of Agatha Christies’ Murder on the Orient Express, a couple of crime adventures penned by footballers Terry Venables and Pele and some inspiring lady detectives. The Golden Age of detective fiction falls in the period between the two world wars. During that time the fashion for mystery went well beyond books. There were jigsaw puzzle murders and “crime dossiers” stuffed with clues such as human hair and cigarette ends which players had to wade through to solve. Makes Cluedo sound a bit lame, doesn’t it.
Murder in the Library is on at the British Library until May 12.
- Superb updates from plus mûrs showcase slick design and 90s net-art inspo
- Mattress Men: a new film tells the tale of Dublin's local hero Mattress Mick
- Baptiste Virot gives us summer vibes with his pop art-inspired illustrations
- Design studio Build creates bold branding for Nike’s Track and Field line
- Enter your work for the chance to be an It’s Nice That Graduate of 2016!
- Kyle Weeks’ photos portray the traditional and contemporary identity of the Himba people
- Don't Hug Me I'm Scared - an exclusive interview with Duck, Red Guy and Yellow Guy
- Yoshinori Mizutani captures the colourful, rain soaked commuters of Tokyo
- Poem Baker photographs the Jûngølā drag clowns of London’s Deptford
- Stack founder Steven Watson shares five of his top magazines
- Photography: New show at LCC shows young travelling communities of the 90s
- Hilarious and charming new Maynards Bassetts' Liquorice Allsorts ad by Jack Sachs