For the first time, here is an annotated bibliography of murder mysteries that is organized by the category of the mystery and lists only contemporary publications, including an extensive listing of titles that are paperback originals. Categories range from Academic, Getting Away with Murder, and Old Crimes and Murders to Writers and Their Conventions. Because an interesting annotation should be available for reading, contemporary publications were chosen. With the exception of a few favorites, each entry was in print in either a paperback or a hardcover edition in 1985, and listings continue through late 1991. Murder... By Category is the companion to take for library and bookstore browsing.
"Here is another entry in the growing field of guides to mystery fiction. These guides seem to evolve from the compiler's own enthusiasm for the genre, and this one is no exception. Mackler owns a bookstore called Murder Unlimited and wrote this book because, as she explains in her introduction, identifying mysteries by subject is a difficult task. Murder by Category lists approximately 1,600 titles under 90 headings, ranging from Academics to Writers and Their Conventions. Among the more unusual subject headings are Bees, Crossword Puzzles, and Richard III. Entries are confined to books that are available as recently released hardcovers or paperbacks, or from publishers' backlists. Most titles were published between 1985 and early 1991. A few older classic titles are included as well, such as Dorothy Sayers' Murder Must Advertise in the Advertising section and Josephine Tey's A Daughter of Time under Richard III. Each entry provides author, title, publisher, and date of publication, along with a brief and lively annotation. The abbreviation PBO designates paperback originals. Titles that are part of series are noted as "1st," "2nd," etc. When a title is listed under more than one category, as many are, the additional category is noted in brackets. Following the main body of the book are lists of British women mystery writers and female detectives. There are also lists of award winners and nominees and of reference books on this genre, as well as an author index. Though it makes no claim to be comprehensive, the book suffers from arbitrariness in the choice of both subject categories and titles. Some categories are very broad, such as Historical, and others are very specific, such as Richard III. There is a category Black Detectives, but nothing on Jewish detectives. The Black Detectives section does not include any of the Easy Rawlings titles by Walter Mosley. Some of the existing guides to mystery fiction, such as Allen J. Hubin's Crime Fiction 1749-1980 and its supplement covering 1981-85, are authoritative and comprehensive. Hubin indexes more than 60,000 mysteries by setting. Most similar to Mackler is Albert J. Menendez's The Subject Is Murder, volumes 1 and 2 [RBB S 15 90]. Menendez classifies a greater number of titles (over 6,000) under a fewer number of categories (29) and provides no annotations. Inevitably, there is some overlap between the two books. Menedez lists 220 titles under the heading Christmas, while Mackler lists 39. Twenty-four of the Christmas mysteries identified by Mackler also appear in Menedez. Both books are limited by the number and choice of headings. Steven Olderr's Mystery Index [RBB Ja 15 88] provides by far the most detailed subject access to the genre for more than 10,000 titles. Not even Olderr, however, has the entry Crossword Puzzles, a category under which Mackler identifies seven titles. Although the price seems high, the book's annotations and its emphasis on current titles make Murder by Category worth considering for public libraries, as both a reader's advisory and a collection-development tool. Since it is so selective, it is probably an optional purchase for libraries that already own a good selection of the other available mystery reference tools. (Reviewed Mar. 1, 1992)"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.