History’s Mysteries: Revisiting Classic Crime Novels

This is a 10-week seminar, starting on February 21, 2017.

Moderator:                 Joan Laird
Co-moderator:          Ann Hartman
Day and Time:          Tuesday, 9:30-11:30
Location:                    Lathrop Meeting Room, Northampton
                                         (free parking on site)

In reading (or for many of you, re-reading) a selection of the great mystery novels over the last 150 years, we will explore how the genre both changes and remains the same from one era to another.

From great originals such as The Moonstone and The Hound of the Baskervilles, mysteries, crime novels, and thrillers have dominated the bestseller lists and many of our bookshelves.  In this seminar we visit the major mystery genres, choosing novels representative of each era.  Beginning with: 1) Wilkie Collins and Arthur Conan Doyle, we continue with:  2) The British cozy, 3) Agatha Christie (a category unto herself), 4) The American hard-boiled crime novel, 5) Legal mysteries, 6) Spy novels, 7) The rise of the working-class  heroine, 8) Forensic novels and, finally, 9) The (usually depressed) Scandinavian detective.

For each of the nine eras (one era per session), we will select and feature two novels.  Half of the seminar participants will read one of those novels, and half the other, for a total of nine novels per participant (mysteries usually are fast reads).  Presentations and discussions will focus on such issues as style, formula, the building of suspense, character of the hero or heroine, and the social context, exploring why particular genres seem to reflect the times and the culture.

Role of participants:
Participants will select a mystery novel from the list furnished, give a 20 to 30 minute presentation, and lead a discussion.

All of the novels will be easily available in libraries, bookstores, and as new or used copies on the Internet.

About the Moderators:
Joan Laird is a self-confessed mystery addict and has co-led several seminars, including two on the mystery.  Ann Hartman also enjoys mysteries and had co-led a seminar on Elizabeth Bishop and, with Joan, one on “First Ladies.”