Maddened by Mystery: A Casebook of Canadian Detective Fiction
Joan McGrath is a Toronto Board of Education library consultant.
Thirteen exceedingly diverse stories dating between 1893 and 1977 make up the first collection of Canadian mystery and detective fiction to be published. It comes as rather a surprise to discover that during the ‘30s, when the genre was at its peak of readership, some Canadian detective stories sold in the millions.
Few if any of the fictional sleuths included (apart, of course, from a Sherlock Holmes parody by Jack Batten and Michael Bliss) have names that will ring any bells today, and the style of the earlier pieces is mannered and for the most part unexciting: but it is an interesting study to examine the first faint Canadian traces in the detective fiction landscape now so well marked by the late Hugh Garner, Ross Macdonald, and Howard Engel, to name but a few.
Included in the collection are Canadian-born writers, and writers resident in Canada, as well as detectives identified as Canadian even though created by non-Canadians. An appended Who’s Who in Canadian Mystery Fiction provides “an annotated listing of detectives, cops and rogues created by writers with Canadian connections.”