My mom sends me mysteries from the swap shop at the town dump, with mini-reviews on Post-Its. Once she sent three books with one note: “One of these is good, one’s okay, and one is pretty bad.” The note she sent with Margery Allingham’s The Crime at Black Dudley reads, “I’d never read this one. It was fun. Love, Mom.” The Post-It is purple.
My mom and I love mysteries; my sister (the theatrical designer, not the librarian) and I love science fiction. She recently got me hooked on Saga, which I intend to write about here as soon as she lends me her friend’s copies of volumes 2 and 3. She left Flight of the Dragonfly, by Robert L. Forward–the middle initial’s important*–at my house after her Chanukah visit.
The Crime at Black Dudley features amateur detective Albert Campion, Allingham’s knock-off of Lord Peter Wimsey. Like Wimsey, Campion becomes more of a person in later books, but this is earlyish, 1929. I love British mysteries from between the two world wars. They are the smuggest and most anxious texts ever. Scholarship exists (she wrote airily) about the mystery novel as conservative and reactionary form: the forces of established order triumph, the people the story knows are evil are punished. In The Crime at Black Dudley, this happens.
Science fiction has its smugnesses too: progress, humanism, a kind of triumphalist advancement through the universe.