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Book Review: Books to Die For edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke

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An avid reader for most of my life, I find that my taste is very eclectic. However, as far back as I can remember mystery novels have been just that one step ahead in my heart. Can it be that sense of fair play, or the fact that in most cases the responsible party has to pay? I am not sure of the fascination, but I am told that passion is worldwide. Having my own favorite mystery writers, based on their own thoughts and stories, I have often wondered what it is that guides them. Who were their own mentors and favorite authors?

In Books to Die For, edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke, the mystery is solved (so to speak.) Filled with history and references to the best works of mystery fiction, such as those of Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, John Le Carre, and many others, we not only learn more about these fascinating novels, but we are given the opportunity of that view through the eyes of our favorite authors today.

Each chapter is dedicated to a particular novel, one considered to be exceptional for many reasons, including those that have changed the face of how works are written and accepted by the public. As we delve into each of the books, we find them narrated by one of today’s mystery writers.

What I find fascinating is that not only is the work broken down and deciphered in a way that helps you to understand the thoughts behind the scenes and characters, we are also give the opportunity to know more about the person behind the book. Often that in itself is the great mystery.

Who would not want to know about the life of Poe or Dickens, what is was that drove them and the realities of their lives outside of writing? In some cases writing is the life of the author, but for most they were a very well connected and busy group, with ties to many different types of work. Some were tortured and tormented within their own mind, but each has a fascinating story.

I was impressed at the depth of the knowledge and research that went into each piece and really appreciated the spin that took me back into the history of some of these all-time favorites. I would be remiss in not mentioning that the authors narrating and breaking down these world greatest mystery novels are also considered the most well-known and respected mystery writers of today.

The list is varied and the authors’ works are also considered some of the best. Such greats as Karen Slaughter (apt name by the way,) Jeffery Deaver, Joseph Wambaugh, Kathy Reichs, and Declan Burke to name a few, put their spin on works that have withstood the test of time.

If you are a fan of mystery, this is a must-have for your library. One of a kind, this work is full of nuances and ciphers, brilliance and mayhem, and it is all broken down in such a way that I find myself wanting to go back and read the works described –w ith a different mindset.

This would be an excellent work for a reading group, and even more for a discussion group. The information and background is exceptional, and how this formed the writers and helped them to pen some of these important and brilliant works would be great fodder for discussion.

About Leslie Wright

Leslie Wright is an author and blogger in the Northwest.