(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Anthony Boucher entered the field of mystery and detective fiction in 1937, just as the Golden Age of that genre was drawing to a close. The five novels he published under the Boucher pseudonym and two others under the name H. H. Holmes were typical of one branch of the field at the time: intellectually frothy entertainments offering several hours of pleasant diversion. Boucher’s plots were clever murder puzzles that could be solved by a moderately intelligent reader from the abundant clues scattered generously throughout the narrative. The murders were antiseptic affairs usually solved in the end by an engaging deductionist. The characters (or suspects) were often intriguing but always only superficially developed. The settings were potentially interesting but somehow unconvincing. Boucher was, however, one of the first writers to bring a high degree of erudition and literary craftsmanship to the field of popular mystery and detective fiction.

Boucher was much more important to the field as a critic and as an editor than as a writer. As a mystery and detective critic with columns in the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times Book Review, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and the New York Herald Tribune Book Review, Boucher showed that he could recognize talented writers and important trends in the field. As an editor, he had a penchant for extracting the best from the contributors to the journals and...

(The entire section is 435 words.)