Although the Golden Age has roots prior to, and during, WWI, the primary surge in this style of writing happened in the years between the World Wars. It was a time of celebrating the end of the horrors of the Great War, and before the depravity associated with the Second World War. Only during the inter-war years, and particularly in the 1920s, did Golden Age fiction have the happy innocence, the purity and confidence of purpose, which was its true hallmark.(1)Wikipedia – Golden Age of Detective Fiction It was a time when the world looked to lighthearted stories to offset the lingering effects of the war and, later, the grinding effect of the Great Depression. While the publication of these mysteries continued throughout the Second World War, and indeed even through to today, the end of the glory years was heralded by the loss of innocence engendered by WWII.
These books were meant to be entertainments, games where the reader matched wits with the author. Their hallmarks were the cleverness of both the murder and the detection methods, while keeping graphic violence and sociological comment to a minimum. They consisted of stylish writing, and a satisfactory conclusion where order was restored to the community by an essentially honorable detective. (2)The Golden Age of the British Detective Novel
Because these novels are very much creations of their time, they are an invaluable window into a world that has ceased to exist. Both the wonderful and the unsettling lie within their pages. The glory of the magnificent manor houses resides alongside casual racism and sexism. While some of the language and concepts may be disturbing to a modern reader, they were as much a part of society at the time as were speakeasies and open-sided cars. I offer the books here unabridged, since the evocation of the era, warts and all, is fundamental to their charm.
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