One of the most widely collected of all fictional genres is the mystery. It constitutes one of the least expensive of all genres to add to one's private library, since so many mysteries are readily available for purchase at yard sales, garage sales, friends-of-the-library book sales, publishers' clearance sales and the like.
One of the reasons for this widespread availability, no doubt, is that that this genre encompasses a huge range of traditionally popular sub-genres, such as hard-boiled detective fiction (discussed in our posts of 30 June-3 July 2009), police procedurals and cozies (exemplified by the fiction of Agatha Christie, whom we profiled in our posts of 24-26 May 2009).
The sub-genre that most seems to resonate with folks building a private library, though, is the bibliomystery. Bibliomysteries are defined as
mysteries which deal in some significant way with books and the world associated with books. A bibliomystery may deal with the theft of a rare book, the murder of a bookdealer, or underhanded dealings inside a publishing firm. The key is that the connection to the world of books not be merely tangential. So, a mystery set on a college campus featuring a professor-detective who occasionally wrote wouldn't generally be considered a bibliomystery unless the action of the book somehow centered directly around a book, manuscript, or some other book-related theme.
The bibliomystery is not a recent invention. Fredric Perkins, for example, penned Scrope: or the Lost Library back in 1874. Believed to be the first bibliomystery published in the United States, it is rarely offered for sale in anything approaching Fine condition.
Fortunately, reprints are available, and a digitized copy of the text is available online.
Another early bibliomystery is Agnes Miller's The Colfax Book-Plate (1926), which deals with murders arising from the discovery of a previously unknown bookplate. Again, finding a copy in anything approaching Fine condition could be an interesting challenge:
Some bibliomysteries are well-known, because the books were by famous authors, or the books were turned into films, or both. A case in point is The Big Sleep (1939) by Raymond Chandler (which deals with a rare book dealer who is fronting for a pornographic lending library). Featuring Chandler's well-known fictional detective Philip Marlowe, the title has twice been turned into film, in 1946 (with Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe) and again in 1978 (with Robert Mitchum as Marlowe). For more on Chandler, see our post of 2 July 2009:
Another bibliomystery from this same period, which also was turned into a film and has a plot that revolves around stolen first editions, was Fast Company (1937) by Marco Page (pseudonym of Henry Kuritz, who is best remembered for his 40+ screenplays):
Tomorrow, we will look at some more recent examples of the bibliomystery, including a number which are a part of books in series....