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The spring semester at BOLLI (Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) begins in just over two weeks, and I’m preparing to teach WHODUNIT?:  Murder Most British.

As most mystery fans are aware, there has always been a competition between the admirers of the American author Edgar Allan Poe and his French creation and those of the British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his English detective as to which author should be credited for introducing the world’s first consulting detective.  Since this will be a course on British authors, you can probably guess into which camp I belong.

Although Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin arrived on the literary scene first, today he is a figure mostly forgotten, a footnote in detective fiction.  Not so with Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, who is as well known today as he was more than a century and a quarter ago when he made his first appearance.

In this semester’s class, we will begin our reading adventure with two quintessential British mystery writers.  We will first read Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and four of his short stories–A Scandal in Bohemia, The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Final Problem, and The Empty House.  Next will be two Agatha Christie classics–The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, a novel that broke all the rules of traditional mystery writing when it was published, followed by And Then There Were None, its plot featuring characters stranded in a remote location and being killed one by one.

From there we will move into more contemporary times.  In Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey we will read about a developmentally delayed teenager in England; Garnethill by Denise Mina features poverty and a dysfunctional family in Scotland; Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham takes readers to Wales to explore a detective with an almost unknown and often fatal illness; and The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville and Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty, both dealing with The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

WHODUNIT?:  Murder Most British begins on February 26th.  If this course sounds like your “cup of tea,” you are most welcome to read along with us.


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