(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

The first of Peter Dickinson’s James Pibble series, The Glass-Sided Ants’ Nest (1968), signaled the emergence of a major, if offbeat talent. However, even before he had finished with the Pibble series, Dickinson had begun writing nonseries crime novels, many of them with historical settings. One of the most stylistically innovative writers in the field, Dickinson often tests or redefines the boundaries of crime fiction. His characters are unconventional, his settings are exotic or deliberately disturbing, and his plots, especially in the later nonseries novels, vie with mainstream fiction in their complex juxtapositions of past and present. Although Pibble is too eccentric a police officer to have inspired many imitators, Dickinson’s nonseries novels may justly be compared with those of his contemporary, Ruth Rendell, for having creatively blurred the distinctions between crime writing and mainstream fiction, thus clearing fresh ground for the generation of writers who followed.