Letter: Criminal neglect

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MARK TIMLIN is unduly harsh on British crime writers ("Whodunnit? One of the ciphers", Culture, 29 August). While it is certainly kind of him to express such admiration for Yank mystery writers, American readers greatly appreciate British mystery writers, often with an obsessive ingenuity. Americans will routinely order Lindsey Davis's latest Marcus Didius Falco novel from London's Crime in Store because the British edition is published a full year ahead of the American edition.

In the years since 1988, when I helped to found the US mystery convention Malice Domestic, there has been a revolution in mystery fiction. Yes, Agatha Christie is still read, still often introduces young people to the world of mysteries, and is now being taught in schools. But now a greater spectrum of material, from mysteries set in the cosiest of villages to the seamiest of cities, is available and we often look beyond our shores for our reading matter.

In addition to the Timlin-mentioned Ian Rankin and John Harvey, we look to the Brits for masterful plotting (Reginald Hill, transplanted Yorkshireman Peter Robinson), sly humour (Robert Barnard, Ruth Dudley-Edwards), history lessons (Gillian Linscott, Peter Lovesey, Edward Marston, Anne Perry) and remarkable twists (Iain Pears). Not all of these literary streets are mean, but many readers, still reeling from Columbine, prefer the gentler byways. Rather than deplore the current state of British crime fiction, Timlin should feel proud of the tremendous gifts these talented UK practitioners offer and consistently deliver.

ELIZABETH FOXWELL

Bethesda, Maryland, USA

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