Last month I asked Fowler what he was reading. His reply:
Elizabeth Jenkins. She established her reputation as a biographer, producing volumes on Jane Austen, Henry Fielding, Lady Caroline Lamb and a pioneering work on Elizabeth I, but a fascination with a certain kind of suburban cruelty drew her to darker reaches, and her best novels reflect peculiarly English crimes. Harriet (1934) was based on the true account of a ‘natural’ – a Victorian term for someone of subnormal intelligence - who was systematically starved to death in 1877 by venal relatives chasing her inheritance. The book is exact and excruciating in its unsentimental detail, and has finally resurfaced in a handsome new edition from Persephone Books.Visit Christopher Fowler's website.
And the first ever detective novel, which just resurfaced...The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Warren Adams had been serialized in the magazine Once A Week between 1862 - 1863. Until crime expert Julian Symons mentioned it in 1972, the number one slot had always been taken by Wilkie Collins with The Moonstone, although Gaboriau’s boring L’Affaire Lerouge had been published in France in 1866. This is presented in the form of diary entries, family letters, witness interviews, a chemical analysis report and a crime scene map. Its hero is an insurance investigator building a case against a sinister baron, and the case incorporates kidnapping, acid poisoning, three murders, a dodgy mesmerist and – of course – a rich uncle’s will, all embellished with George Du Maurier’s illustrations.
The Page 69 Test: The Victoria Vanishes (Peculiar Crimes Unit Series #6).