Gwendoline Butler, or Calling all fans of historical mysteries
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
"In Paris the tricolor flew, and the crowds sat watching Madame Guillotine receive her passing guests.
"In Windsor all was normal except for a few apprentices and mechanics who held a meeting in Thames Street but were soon dispersed, one or two to the hulks and then on to Australia. The navy was offered as an alternative but few chose it and rightly so, Denny thought ... "
Look what Butler does: She lets the reader know when the story takes place, she makes the reader smile with the allusion to A Tale of Two Cities, and she gets us right into the mind of one of her two protagonists.
I'm most impressed with the first of those achievements. Having set the period scene with such force right at the start, Butler averts the necessity of cluttering the body of the story with period detail. That sort of clutter and constant scene-setting has put me off historical mysteries in the past. I may make another try with Butler's historical novels, which include The King Cried Murder!.
Here are my questions for readers of historical mysteries: Is Gwendoline Butler regarded as an innovator in historical crime fiction? Do my observations about her short story make sense to you? Do they hold true for her novels?
© Peter Rozovsky 2007
historical crime fiction
English crime fiction
British crime fiction