The Big Book of Victorian Mysteries

Highbridge Audio Aug. 2022. ed. by Otto Penzler. 37:23 hrs. ISBN 9781696606592. $39.99. M
Edgar Award winner Penzler (The Big Book of Espionage Stories) has assembled an impressive collection of short stories, which provide curious and compelling glimpses into Victorian society. These 49 stories, published between 1838 and 1900, feature a pleasing array of authors, both famous and relatively unknown. While some authors were known in their time for their detective fiction, others, such as Leo Tolstoy and L. Frank Baum typically wrote in other genres. Especially commendable is the inclusion of authors from outside of England or the U.S., including authors from Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. Although some stories tend to blend together when read in succession, listeners will likely appreciate hearing about Victorian values, laws, and industry. Unfortunately, however, the audio, narrated by Dan Calley, Rachael Beresford, and Stephen Bowlby, is disappointingly dry. Beresford’s reading is relatively livelier, but the overall presentation and daunting run time make this a strictly optional purchase, especially for public libraries.
VERDICT Penzler’s latest is remarkable in size and scope, but listeners may want to enjoy in print rather than audio.
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