Murder in the Library! A new exhibition at the British Library will provide a special A-Z of crime fiction

  • 18 January to 12 May 2013, Folio Society Gallery, the British Library

The British Library takes a quirky look at the history of crime fiction, from its earliest roots to the present day, in a new exhibition in The Folio Society Gallery, Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction. Featuring familiar and loved writers, such as Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, alongside the obscure and unexpected, former footballer and England Manager Terry Venables and burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee to name but a few, the exhibition will showcase never before seen manuscripts, beautiful printed books, rare audio recordings, artworks and intriguing artefacts from the Library’s outstanding British and North American collections.

Curated by Kathryn Johnson, Curator of Theatrical Manuscripts at the British Library, the exhibition will provide an A-Z of crime, from ‘A’ for Agatha Christie to ‘H’ for ‘Hardboiled’ to ‘Z’ for ‘Zodiac’, a nod to Soji Shimada’s The Toyko Zodiac Murders, an illustrated Japanese detective novel.

Exhibition highlights will include:

  • Arthur Conan Doyle’s manuscript of the Sherlock Holmes short story The Adventure of the Retired Colourman published in 1926
  • The first appearance of Miss Marple in print in Royal Magazine (1929)
  • John Gielgud’s annotated script for the film of Murder on the Orient Express and photographs from his personal album of his appearance in Morse
  • Crime novels by such unlikely authors as former footballers, Pele and Terry Venables, and renowned burlesque performer and actress Gypsy Rose Lee
  • The Jigsaw Puzzle Murders (1933), an intriguing book with a real jigsaw puzzle providing the solution
  • Dennis Wheatley’s murder mystery ‘dossiers’ including physical clues, such as human hair, alongside letters and reports. The reader was invited to solve the crime and the solution provided in a section at the back (1930s)
  • Original material relating to historical real-life crimes such as the Road House murders (The Suspicions of Mr Whicher) and the 18th-century case of Elizabeth Canning which inspired Josephine Tey’s The Franchise Affai

A series of crime events will take place alongside Murder in the Library, including Real Crime Real Fiction and The Story of Crime Fiction, with panellists such as P D James Mark Lawson, Laura Wilson and Mark Billingham.

Following the success of recent British Library crime titles, including The Notting Hill Mystery and The Female Detective, in March 2013 the Library will publish William Stephens Hayward’s Revelations of a Lady Detective (1864). The novel is the second ever to feature a female detective (pipped to the post by Andrew Forrester’s The Female Detective published in the same year and republished by the Library in 2012). Mrs Paschal, a much racier heroine, is shown smoking on the front cover – a modern and daring habit for women even in the late 19th century – and carries a Colt revolver, trailing suspects and searching houses. With an introduction by Mike Ashley, this very rare novel will be made available once again to celebrate Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction.


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    Notes to Editors

    Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction runs from 18 January to 12 May 2013 in the British Library’s Folio Society Gallery and is FREE.
    Further information about British Library exhibitions and events can be found at

    Exhibition opening hours
    Monday, Wednesday-Friday 9.30 – 18.00, Tuesday 9.30 – 20.00, Saturday 9.30 – 17.00, Sunday and Bank Holidays 11.00 – 17.00

    Events programme

    Real Crime Real Fiction
    Monday 21 January
    18.30 – 20.00
    £7.50 / £5 concessions
    Conference Centre, British Library

    In this panel discussion writers, curators and journalists explore the impact of real life crimes on the writing and production of crime fiction both on television and in print. Does the consumption of crime novels influence the way we read about real crime? Where does ‘true crime’, which takes its inspiration from actual events rather than mere imagination, fit in?

    Joining our host, writer and journalist Barry Forshaw, will be authors Laura Wilson, Robert Ryan and Mark Billingham and Carla Connolly, curator at St Bartholomew’s Pathology Museum.

    The Story of Crime Fiction
    Friday 8 February
    18.30 – 20.00
    £7.50 / £5 concessions
    Conference Centre

    Mark Lawson, who recently wrote and presented the BBC Radio 4 series Foreign Bodies: A History Of Modern Europe Through Literary Detectives is joined by a panel of leading crime fiction writers to discuss the history of the genre, their favourite classics, and their own work.

    Joining Mark will be one of our greatest crime writers - P D James – as well as Henry Sutton, whose novels include DS Jack Frost novel First Frost and Jason Webster whose thrillers, such as Death In Valencia are set in his adopted country of Spain.

    The Female Detective
    Friday 8 March
    18.30 – 21.00
    £7.50 / £5 concessions
    Conference Centre

    Britain’s first-ever lady detective “Miss Gladden” appeared in The Female Detective published in 1864, where she exposed killers while concealing her own identity. Since then the female sleuth, from Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple to Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma Ramotswe, has captivated readers of crime fiction, but what is it about the female detective which makes her an icon of the genre? Join an esteemed panel of writers for an entertaining debate.

    To book tickets for events please visit or call 01937 546546 (Mon - Fri, 09.00 - 17.00) or buy tickets in person at the British Library.

    Easter Holiday Family Workshops: Who done it?
    2 – 4 April, 11.00 – 12.30 and 15.00 – 16.30
    FREE / No booking required
    Harry M Weinrebe Learning Centre, the British Library

    As part of our exhibition on crime fiction join Shelagh McCarthy to become a famous detective in this hands-on workshop for all the family.

    The Library's Learning Programme also includes workshops and events for Primary and Secondary school groups and conferences for teachers. Events listed in full here.

    British Library Publishing

    Revelations of a Lady Detective is published March 2013 and will be available from the British Library Shop (tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7735 / e-mail: and all good retailers as well as online at .

    Paperback £8.99 / ISBN 978 0 7123 5896 5 / 320 pages, 198 x 130mm

    Also available as an Ebook £2.99 / ISBN 978 0 7123 6305 1

    The Folio Society was founded in 1947 to create exceptional editions of the world’s greatest books through the highest standards of printing, binding, typography and illustration. Over sixty years on, its aim remains the same - to publish reasonably priced books that will stand the test of time, in handsome, imaginatively designed and beautifully crafted editions. The Folio Society publishes beautifully illustrated, cloth-bound editions of a wide range of classic crime novels, including many of those featured in the exhibition. Highlights include:

    • Miss Marple Short stories by Agatha Christie, introduced by Stella Duffy and illustrated by Andrew Davidson, bound in buckram. £27.95
    • Cover her Face by P.D. James, illustrated by Jonathan Burton, bound in cloth. £26.95
    • Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey, introduced by Ruth Rendall and illustrated by A. Richard Allen. Shortlisted for a V&A Illustration Award. £26.95
    • The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey, introduced by Antonia Fraser and illustrated by Paul Hogarth, bound in cloth. £24.95
    • The Postman always Rings Twice by James M.Cain. Preface by Steve Erickson and illustrated by Patrick Leger, bound in cloth. £22.95
    • The Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries Collection, introduced by P.D. James illustrated by Natacha Ledwidge, 4 volume set bound in cloth. £99.95
    • Trouble is my Business by Raymond Chandler

    Available from or by telephone on 020 7400 4200 or by visiting The Folio Society Bookshop, 44 Eagle Street, London WC1R 4FS.

    For more information:

    Elsie King
    The British Library
    t: +44 (0)20 7412 7105

    Evenings and weekends:
    +44 (0) 20 7412 7150

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