When I wrote a while back that An Oxford Tragedy by J.C. Masterman was regarded as the first mystery set in the city’s academic environs, I was corrected by a comment from Philip, who pointed out that, in 1929, four years earlier, Adam Broome had published The Oxford Murders.
I realised that, instead of relying on my memory of the various reference books that acclaim Masterman’s book and ignore Broome’s, that I should have checked a voluminous book that I bought a few years ago called Academe in Mystery and Detective Fiction. Written by John B. Kramer, it is a real labour of love, commenting on no fewer than 486 academic mysteries from 1910 to 1999.
This is quite a bibliography, compiled with a great deal of discipline. The basic plan of the book is that each of the 486 annotations should comprise two paragraphs. The first describes the story (‘paying special attention to academic disciplines, academic ranks, and the location and nature of the academic institution’) while the second discusses the author.
Kramer’s book is the sort of project that will never appear on any best-seller list, but I admire the endeavour, and he has produced a valuable resource that I have dipped into infrequently in the past. I’ll consult it more diligently when writing about academic mysteries in future. Meanwhile, I’m pleased to say that The Oxford Murders, and Broome’s later book The Cambridge Murders, have both recently been republished in attractive editions by Ostara Publishing, whose enterprise really is commendable. We need more neglected books to reappear!