Summer is a good time for light reading; maybe a good mystery? But before you delve into your next whodunit, take a short detour with P.D. James’s TALKING ABOUT DETECTIVE FICTION (Vintage, $14), and you will gain a whole new appreciation for the form. James is enthusiastic and lively, asking what makes the mystery or, as she prefers, the “detective story” such an enduring genre? Why are we fascinated with the most horrific of all crimes, murder? She takes you on a tour of the detective story from its earliest incarnations to the present, examining the “Golden Age” of British mysteries and comparing them with the hard-boiled stories from America. As in her fiction, James’s writing is precise and thoughtful. Reading this will make you want to revisit some of your old favorites: Sayers, Christie, Conan Doyle, Chandler—you’ll see them in a new light.
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