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Summary

From mysterious origins through the Victorian sleuths and the "Golden Age" of the genre (the 1920s through the 1940s) and to the present day, detective fiction, mysteries, and spy thrillers have consistently topped best-seller lists around the world.

Professor M. Lee Alexander provides listeners with a lively discussion of groundbreaking authors from Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle to Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, and modern writers such as Nevada Barr and Jonathan Kellerman.

©2010 M. Lee Alexander (P)2010 Recorded Books, LLC

What listeners say about The Modern Scholar: Detective Fiction

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not bad; not great.

It’s difficult to know how to review this series of lectures. On the whole, it was enjoyable and interesting. M. Lee Alexander seems to know her stuff, for the most part. There are a number of errors that I picked up on, however. For instance, I don’t know where she got the idea that Agatha Christie was a clergyman’s daughter; her father, Frederick Miller, was an American stockbroker. I also wouldn’t describe Christie’s first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1921), as a “blockbuster”. It was well received, but her greatest successes would come later with titles such as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), Murder at the Vicarage (1930), Murder on the Orient Express (1934), And Then There Were None (1939), to name just a few genuine Christie blockbusters. Also, Alexander states that Miss Marple was the author’s favourite detective, but this isn’t the case either: Agatha Christie once mentioned—in her autobiography, I think—that Mr Harley Quin and Mr Satterthwaite from The Mysterious Mr Quin (1930) were her favourites. Perhaps Alexander’s other lectures were more accurate; I just happen to be a fan of Agatha Christie and the “Golden Age” writers in general, so I was more alert to factual errors in that lecture.

Many reviewers have remarked on the lecturer’s faltering narration, which is more of an issue. This is a series of lectures, of course, read by someone who isn’t a professional narrator of audiobooks. For this reason it doesn’t make for the smoothest listening experience. But perhaps one has to allow for this. I remember my lecturers at university being hit and miss: some were engaging and entertaining, while others merely read the lecture verbatim from a piece of paper. M. Lee Alexander comes somewhere in between.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Art Grrrl
  • Art Grrrl
  • 08-01-11

It's A Schlolarly Lecture On Detective Fiction

Professor Alexander's course is very thorough, and she seems to be passionate about the subject. But she is an academic giving a lecture. She pauses quite frequently, Her rhythm is not that of a professional actress reading a book but that of a lecturer speaking from an outline. I assume that her students (who are furiously scrbbling notes) appreciate the frequent pauses. This audio "book" is therefore not as polished as an Agatha Christie audiobook, but it is extremely worthwhile. Her rhythm was initially a little jarring, but the information is very good. I've listened to it several times now, there's so much in it. I recommend it.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Esmeralda
  • Esmeralda
  • 15-10-10

Badly directed overview of dective fiction

The Modern Scholar series normally provides a wonderful listen because of the academic analysis in easy to understand English. Generally, the professor herself does the reading. Though professors are clearly not professional narrators, the content usually more than compensates for this deficiency. Not this time, however. It takes M. Lee Alexander until chapter 11 before her narration comes up to speed, without far too long pauses on the wrong moments, slips of the tongue that were not edited out, starting every other sentence with 'And', combined with 'so' in the other half of the sentences. In short: the direction and editing is not up to standard and really distract from the content. Although you don't need to buy this audio book if you are looking for an in depth scholarly analysis of detective fiction. 90% of the audio book is taken up by spelling out the content of detective novels and short stories. Categories such as cosy, hard-boiled and international will not make you see detective fiction in exiting new ways. Buy it if you are looking for a very good overview of English language detectives to put on your reading list. Do not buy it if you are interested in exiting new academic insights with respect to detective fiction. And certainly don't buy it if you are easily distracted by bad narration.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Carole T.
  • 05-09-12

Depends on What You Want

There's a lot of information in this set of lectures. It offers an exhaustive list of writers and their works throughout the history of the mystery genre. However, there's not much of critical analysis or insight about authors or books. If you want and expect, as I did, a defense of the mystery as more than a second-rate step-child in the field of Literature, you won't find it.

If, however, you appreciate a long listing of suggestions for reading mystery and detective fiction, this is a valuable tool. But you'll have to put up with a lot of very long . . . . . pauses! As other reviewers have noted, M. Lee Alexander presents this as though her audience were very slowly writing down every word and every sentence. It can be annoying (and you'll occasionally check your device to see if it's still working!).

Unarguably, Alexander knows her stuff, and it's wonderful to be reminded of some of the great old names in mystery fiction, like Mary Roberts Rhinehart, Patricia Wentworth, Josephine Tey (and lots of male authors, too). This course will send me back to some old favorites and has introduced me to some new and old series to try.

10 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Canarylampshade
  • 14-01-14

Very disappointed

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Fact checking. The professor made a number of errors regarding authors whose work I know well -- leading me to lose interest in her lectures on those authors whose work I don't know a lot about.

What was most disappointing about M. Lee Alexander’s story?

Not a strong academic lecture at all.

What aspect of M. Lee Alexander’s performance would you have changed?

Again, it was not appropriately researched, the number of errors led the whole book to be a disappointment for me.

Any additional comments?

Bummer. I've 2 other Modern Scholar titles -- one on WWI, the other on the Paris peace talks. I trust Margaret MacMillan, but now am leery about the other titles. I won't be buying more.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • N. Polson
  • 30-06-15

Listen in double time!

Great review and history of this literary genre, but the professor was very obviously reading the entire lecture and kept taking long pauses between sentences, pages? It was kind of like listening to someone who had never studied the subject, but was just filling in. But I now have many book recommendations, so all's well.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 05-02-15

A Decent Course But Not Outstanding

What did you like best about The Modern Scholar: Detective Fiction? What did you like least?

The great number of new authors and sub-genres I need to check out. This was the best part of the course.

The part I liked least was Professor Alexander's presentation. She was rather monotone in delivery and repetitive at some points.

Would you recommend The Modern Scholar: Detective Fiction to your friends? Why or why not?

I probably wouldn't recommend it unless someone was really into detective fiction.

Would you listen to another book narrated by M. Lee Alexander?

It would depend on the topic.

Did The Modern Scholar: Detective Fiction inspire you to do anything?

I'm inspired to spend more time on Amazon searching out some of the authors and sub-genres Prof. Alexander mentioned.