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Plunge into the world of murder mystery and suspense at Cambridge exhibition

Cambridge-based best-selling crime author Nicola Upson has curated the exhibition.

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Murder by The Book – a celebration of 20thCentury British Crime Fiction at Cambridge University Library until 24th August 2024.

“A strange alchemy of elements”

Agatha Christie’s typewriter, Wilkie Collins’s desk and a close inspection of those twists which tease the reader, these are some of the fascinations of Murder by the Book, an exhibition of crime fiction now at Cambridge University Library.

Dr Jessica Gardner, Cambridge University Librarian, said it was the amount of crime fiction in the library’s famous tower which inspired them to put the rare books on display.

She knew they were the most well read and frequently borrowed fiction from British libraries. “This treasure trove in the tower lent us the idea to have an exhibition of crime writing.”

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24. Above: Bleak House

Cambridge-based best-selling crime author Nicola Upson has curated the exhibition.

Introducing her at the launch, Dr Gardner said: “Nicola spoke to our popular book club about P D James’s Mistletoe Murders. She was beautifully articulate about her fascination with crime writing.

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

As someone immersed in the history of the genre, she has been let loose on our own fabulous collection. This is a story excellently told through the eyes of a crime writer. It’s also a master class in constructing the perfect crime novel. After seeing it there will be no excuse not to get reading – and writing.”

Opening the exhibition, Nicola Upson said: “I’ve loved the university library for the past 30 years, as a student and for the research for every single one of my novels.”

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24. Above; Agatha Christie typewriter and manuscript

Paying tribute to the loving care of the books she said: “If you look at the dust jackets of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Poisoned Chocolates, I defy you to see the repairs they have done on those jackets.”

The books on display, she said are rare first editions, not the copies people would find at home.

“The dust jackets are fascinating in their own right. Most are stylish, some of them are simple, a couple of them are dreadful. I don’t know who thought ‘By the author of Death at the Borough Council’ was a good selling point.”

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Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

THE LADY VANISHES Poster for 1938 Alfred Hitchcock film with Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave

She said the covers showed how the publishers had helped to develop the brand. The display was not just chronological. “This craft still feels magical. Several books on now, it has a strange alchemy of elements that’s different every time. Every book has its own personality and its own character.”

As Upson pointed out, the works have things in common and each section in the exhibition choses one thing that crime fiction really excels at.

Essential elements are: “An unpredictable idea, an atmospheric sense of place or a world so real you believe that the events that took place there, vivid, credible characters, details of the crime scene or the wider geographical landscape.”

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24. ‘A Murder is Announced’

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

She added: “Motive is so important in crime fiction, and I love how real your characters have to be, how believable. As you walk round the exhibition, you will see a section on the detectives’ first appearances, and I’ll wager those detectives have been your friends over the years and are as real to you some of the people you meet in your everyday life.”

The exhibition also has a section on the darkness of the genre, Ms Upson said: “We must never forget the violence and a sense of loss that are at the heart of this particular business of death as entertainment.”

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

She highlighted a section on “those brilliant, unguessable endings”, adding: “Twists divide people. There are readers who like to be right and readers who like to be fooled. “But there are no spoilers here. No book should be ruined. One person’s imagination can create a world that you will immerse yourself in.”

The show is also a glimpse into the daily lives of famous 20th century authors.

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24.

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24. Above@ Nicola Upson

Early letters written by P D James to her agent and her editor expressed her worry that the publisher was having to charge sixteen shillings (80 pence) for each book. She hoped they wouldn’t lose money on it.

SUSPICION poster for 1941 RKO film with Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine

Murder By the Book is at Cambridge University Library until Saturday, August 24. Booking essential, entry free. Closed Sundays.

See:

https://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/murderbythebook

 

 

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