Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | The Idler | M.P. Shiel | Gordon Holmes | Baroness Orczy | Catherine Louisa Pirkis | Arthur Morrison | Max Pemberton | Harry Blyth | George R. Sims | Headon Hill | George Hibbard | August Derleth

A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection Home Page | Download a free E-book of my mystery stories in EPUB or Kindle format.

Recommended Works:

Robert Louis Stevenson

New Arabian Nights

The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) (available on-line at

Arthur Conan Doyle

Complete Sherlock Holmes stories

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (available on-line at

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (available on-line at The Return of Sherlock Holmes (available on-line at His Last Bow (available on-line at The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes (available on-line at The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901-1902) (available on-line at

Australian Tales of the Victorian Goldfields

Colonial Tales Early Mystery Short Stories The Great Keinplatz Experiment and Other Tales of Twilight and the Unseen (available on-line at

Out of the Casebook Tradition

C. L. Pirkis

The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective (1893) (available on-line at

Arthur Morrison

Martin Hewitt, Investigator (1894) (available on-line at The Chronicles of Martin Hewitt (1895) (available on-line at The Adventures of Martin Hewitt (1896) (available on-line at

Max Pemberton

Jewel Mysteries I Have Known (collected 1895) (available on-line at

Doyle Influenced Storytellers

Headon Hill

Clues From a Detective's Camera The Divinations of Kala Persad (collected 1895) (available on-line at

Harry Blyth

Jules Gervaise short stories

George R. Sims

Dorcas Dene, Detective (collected 1897)

George Hibbard

Hermia Wyatt short stories

George Barton

The Strange Adventures of Bromley Barnes (collected 1910) (available on-line at

Puzzle Plot Classics

Matthew Phipps Shiel

Prince Zaleski (available on-line at "The Case of Euphemia Raphash" (1895) (available on-line at

Gordon Holmes

A Mysterious Disappearance (1905) (Chapters 1-6, 14-17, 22, 26-27)

Emmuska, Baroness Orczy

Non-series short stories The Old Man In The Corner (1901 - 1902) (available on-line at Uncollected tales about the Old Man In The Corner The Case of Miss Elliott (collected 1905) (available on-line at Skin o' My Tooth (collected 1928) (available on-line at Lady Molly of Scotland Yard (collected 1910) (available on-line at Unravelled Knots (collected 1925) (available on-line at


Rodrigues Ottolengui

Final Proof (available on-line at

Sherlock Holmes Pastiches

August Derleth

"In Re: Sherlock Holmes": The Adventures of Solar Pons (collected 1945) The Reminiscences of Solar Pons (collected 1961)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Doyle's Australian Stories

Doyle's link to Australian police stories can be supported in some detail by circumstantial evidence. First, Doyle wrote a series of tales set in the Victorian Gold fields; this was precisely the setting of such Australian casebook writers as James Skipp Borlase and Mary Fortune. Doyle in fact got his start as a writer this way, mining this branch of literature from 1879 to 1885 - stopping roughly about the time that he created Sherlock Holmes. Secondly, there is the similarity between Holmes and Borlase's and Fortune's detective James Brooke, discussed at length in the casebook article cited above. Third, "Mystery and Murder" (which might be by either Borlase or Fortune) could in fact be a model for "The Speckled Band". Fourth, I recently read an obscure story by Doyle, "De Profundis" (1892). In it, a body emerges from the ocean in exactly the same way that the body shoots out of the waterhole in Fortune's "The Dead Witness". Either this is a startling coincidence, or Doyle actually read Fortune's tale. One other possibility: it is possible that both Doyle and Fortune are referring to some real life case, now obscure.

After all, Doyle had to get his information about the Australian Gold Rush from somewhere. What could be more natural, as Professor Stephen Knight has suggested, than a reading of Borlase and Fortune? Conventional literary historians always ascribe these tales to the influence of Bret Harte. This is certainly possible - even likely. Harte is probably one influence on Doyle. But is he the only one? Harte's tales tend to be pure Westerns, whereas Borlase and Fortune usually mixed crime elements in their work - the same paradigm as many of Doyle's stories.

The Influence of Melville

Doyle was clearly influenced by Melville's "Benito Cereno". One can cite evidence: 1) In later years Doyle praised this piece highly. 2) Many of his early mysteries are influenced by it in plot content, notably "That Little Square Box" (1881), "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" (1883), "The Parson of Jackman's Gulch" (1885) and "Uncle Jeremy's Household" (written by 1885). In fact, it seems to be the role model for Doyle's early mystery fiction.

Most importantly, "Benito Cereno" is one of the most perfectly plotted stories of the 19th Century, and the one most closely approximating Golden Age mystery technique in pre-Doyle fiction. From it, if no other mystery fiction had existed, Doyle could have learned the whole art of mystery plotting. One begins to see that Doyle had some powerful role models available to him when he created Sherlock Holmes: Poe and Gaboriau for the paradigms of the detective story. Robert Louis Stevenson for atmosphere and the concept of high adventure lurking in the fog of London. Borlase's and Fortune's detective James Brooks as a role model for the character of Sherlock Holmes. Melville's "Benito Cereno" for plotting technique.

Doyle's "Uncle Jeremy's Household" (1887) is the early work of his most nearly in the style and story telling technique of his Holmes mysteries. It seems to be one of the last tales he wrote before starting "A Study in Scarlet". Clearly, here Doyle found his voice. It is far less static than some of his early fiction; it has a dynamic quality, as the plot situation is not just stated, but evolves, with one situation developing into another, and different subplots playing off one another.

Doyle never reprinted this work. One possible reason is that he might have been embarrassed by the racism and religious prejudice in the choice of Indian villains. Their villainy is related to their alleged 'primitive' character, and their lack of Christianity, by the narrator of the story. As far as I can tell, Doyle never did this later in his fiction. The Indian sect in the story is one of a series of "murderous conspiracies" in Doyle's work: a group of early religious cultists in "A Study in Scarlet", Moriarty and his gang, the KKK in "The Five Orange Pips", the nihilists, and the Molly McGuires in "The Valley of Fear". These better known groups of Doyle villains differ from the Indians in "Uncle Jeremy" in that they are white, Christian males. Most of these groups (at least in Doyle's fiction - whose historical accuracy has often been challenged!) engage in a near public reign of terror, often dominating whole communities. Doyle does not posit them as any sort of racial "other". In keeping with Doyle's democratic views, they are just the same sort of people as the good characters in the story, including Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. These groups form a memorable leitmotiv running through Doyle's tales. Even the "Bravoes of Market-Drayton", in Doyle's little historical account, adhere to the same pattern.

Doyle's choice of villains aside, "Uncle Jeremy's Household" is an excellent piece of storytelling. It uses the technique found in the Holmes stories of a subplot entering the tale, destined to mysteriously alter the balance of power in the future, but in a way not immediately clear to the reader.

Doyle's "Our Midnight Visitor" (1891) has a Scots setting, and clearly has the feel of a Robert Louis Stevenson adventure tale, such as "The Pavilion on the Links", a story Doyle admired highly. Also Stevensonian is the theme of father-son conflict.

Sherlock Holmes stories

The core of Doyle's accomplishment are the three first volumes of Sherlock Holmes stories, The Adventures, The Memoirs and The Return. Many of these tales contain brilliant puzzle plots, with remarkable surprise endings. They also are loaded with genuinely colorful and imaginative events.

Doyle's mysteries tend to center around situations. He tends to present the reader with some extremely puzzling situation, one that is difficult to explain. He then solves the mystery, by developing some brilliant twist that stands the apparent situation on its head.

Doyle had little interest in alibis in his work. This is not because mystery fiction was unaware of them: they were used by such 1860's writers as Harriet Prescott Spofford and Charles Martel. In general, Doyle was not deeply interested in whodunit. He did not present a crime, have several suspects around who might equally have committed it, and then challenge the reader to pick which one of them actually did. Doyle's very popular contemporary Fergus Hume did this in The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886), a book Doyle had read, and disliked. So Doyle could have set up his mysteries this way: he had certainly seen the pattern in Hume's work. Whodunits were also used by Anna Katherine Green, another author whose work Doyle knew. Doyle only rarely begins his stories with a murder. Instead, Holmes is most commonly called on to investigate a theft, blackmail, a disappearance, or a strange job a middle class person is asked to do, as in "The Red-Headed League", "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" or "The Stockbroker's Clerk". When there is a killing, it is often a byproduct of a theft, such as in "Silver Blaze" or "The Reigate Puzzle". "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" is an example of a full-fledged murder mystery within the Holmes canon.

Doyle, and Holmes and Watson, loved the fantastic, the outré and the bizarre in his cases. He is at the start of a great tradition of surrealism in modern mystery fiction. Virtually all the great 20th Century authors of detective stories had a strong surrealist element to their work. This cuts across schools. It is a dominant tradition among intuitionist writers, such as Carr, Queen and Chesterton, but one also finds it in Rinehart, Frederick Irving Anderson, and other Early American writers of their generation, and among Freeman, Sayers and the Realist school. Most of these writers were strongly influenced by Doyle, and paid written tribute to his work. Throughout this Guide I have often referred to this as a "surrealist" aspect of their work; but Doyle's fiction preceded by many years both Surrealism, and its ancestor Dada. Dada emerged around World War I, c1917, with Surrealism following in the 1920's, while Doyle's love for the bizarre was emphasized in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes of 1891 - 1892. Doyle also influenced surrealist-like activity in other media, such as film. For example, take Juve contre Fantômas (1913). This hour long film is Chapter 2 of Louis Feuillade's movie serial Fantômas. The bedroom scenes here seem to be directly derived from Doyle's "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" (1892). Feuillade's work was much admired by the Surrealists.

Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories were huge popular successes. It has become de rigueur for histories of mystery fiction to attempt to explain why. But, after reading a dozen or so such purported explanations, I remain skeptical that critics actually know why. Shouldn't any genuine explanation involve interviewing the public, asking them questions about why they like the stories, and analyzing their responses, perhaps using statistics? A critic can explain why he or she likes the stories; but just by analyzing the story itself, cannot really determine what the public thinks about it. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there were no pollsters around in the 1890's measuring public attitudes.

I first read the Sherlock Holmes stories as a child. I was overwhelmed by them. They seemed magical. Many other people have described such an experience: Ellery Queen's account of how he discovered the tales as a youth is superb. One cannot recapture childhood wonder as an adult, of course. But I was surprised at how well these stories stand up, on my recent rereading of them at age 44. A story like "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" had me completely fascinated, hanging on every twist of Doyle's plot, and every line of dialogue.

Kinds of Sherlock Holmes Tales

Doyle's puzzle plot stories are on the direct line that leads to the Intuitionist writers of the 20th Century. Such brilliantly conceived works as "The Red-Headed League" (1891), "A Case of Identity" (1891), "The Man with the Twisted Lip" (1891), "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" (1892), "Silver Blaze" (1892) and "The Naval Treaty" (1893) display the ingenious plots that are the hallmark of the later Intuitionist school of Chesterton, Christie, Carr and Queen. Holmes also solves the cases by the methods to be used by the Intuitionist detectives: insight into the central aspects of the mysterious situation, combined with logical deduction. There is much emphasis on how Holmes solves the cases through pure thinking. The finale of "The Man with the Twisted Lip", where Holmes comes up with his solution through a night of pure thinking, seems paradigmatic of later Intuitionist writers. So does the use of logical deduction in "Silver Blaze" and "The Naval Treaty". In these works, Holmes shows how clues embedded in the tale logically imply that one and only one of the suspects is guilty of the crime. This approach will also be much used by later Intuitionist authors.

Doyle did not confine himself exclusively to this Intuitionist approach. In two stories, he emphasized instead the analysis of physical evidence. "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" (1892) and "The Reigate Puzzle" (1893) are both stories of theft, in which Holmes uses trails of physical evidence to track down the guilty parties. This approach was used by the Casebook writers and Gaboriau in the 1860's, and it will be used after Doyle by the Realist writers of the 20th Century. This approach was used less often by Doyle in his tales. It seems less central to his work than the Intuitionist method. But the ability to read physical clues also seems like definite part of the equipment of a great detective, in Doyle's view. Sherlock Holmes would not be the Complete Detective, without demonstrating these kinds of skills. It is significant that Doyle segregated the physical evidence approach out in these stories, rather than mixing it in throughout his career. It is as if he saw it as a separate kind of approach to mystery fiction, one that deserved to be concentrated in its own special stories.

In contrast, "Silver Blaze" and "The Naval Treaty" are also stories of theft, but their clues are entirely the non-physical concepts of the Intuitionist tradition. For example, the wonderful "incident of the dog in the night-time" from "Silver Blaze". This clue involves an ingenious situation. It is a clue that Holmes can understand only through the Intuitionist approach of insight combined with logical deduction.

"Fair play", the idea that all clues to a mystery must be set forth to the reader before the solution, so that he or she has a chance to solve the mystery on their own, is an important concept in 20th Century mystery fiction. The first explicit discussion of this principle known to me occurs in Israel Zangwill's 1895 preface to his "The Big Bow Mystery" (1891), although Zangwill does not use the actual words "fair play". Doyle's stories sometimes use fair play, and sometimes do not. It is significant that most of the Doyle tales that anticipate the Intuitionist school use fair play in their treatment of clues. For example, in "Silver Blaze" Doyle provides a complete set of clues that would allow readers to solve the mystery. Sherlock Holmes even underlines some of the clues in his discussions with the police. By contrast, in the stories concentrating on physical evidence, "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" and "The Reigate Puzzle", some of the evidence is shared with the reader, and some of it is not. This different treatment of fair play emphasizes the separateness of approach in these two kinds of stories.

"The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" (1892) is in the tradition of the Casebook stories and Gaboriau, of the 1860's. Like many Casebook stories, it is about a robbery, and Holmes has to penetrate the gang of thieves to recover the stolen gems. Also Casebook like is the emphasis on money in the tale. The realistic, prominent treatment of the servants in the story is also a Casebook feature. Holmes' deduction from prints in the snow is a homage to Gaboriau's Monsieur Lecoq (1867). The use of disguise by Holmes in the tale is also reminiscent of Gaboriau. The whole work is a throwback to an earlier tradition. In part, this is a homage, a tribute to earlier authors. It also demonstrates Holmes' versatility: the story shows that in addition to his other talents, he has all the skills that were in the repertoire of the Casebook- Gaboriau school of detectives. While the Casebook tradition emerged in the 1850's and 1860's, it was still going strong in Britain in the 1890's. Several of the writers who followed Doyle, such as Max Pemberton, Arthur Morrison, and C.L. Pirkis, were not so much influenced by him in their actual stories, but continued to write mysteries in the Casebook tradition.

"The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez" (1904) is another tale mainly looking at physical evidence at a crime scene. It also has a floor plan, recalling the one in "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty" (1893). Both plans show corridors with steps. The corridors connect rooms and the outside.

Mixed Tales

"The Boscombe Valley Mystery" (1891) combines features of various schools: This multitude of subplots and approaches gives "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" a pleasant variety.

"The Adventure of the Priory School" (1904) seems to be modeled in its structure on "The Boscombe Valley Mystery". Both works have three components: a puzzle of who-done-it, a hidden backstory about character relationships, and reading tracks in the ground around a crime scene. The puzzle plot aspects of these three components have changed, however:

The Three Students: a Mixed Tale

"The Adventure of the Three Students" (1904) has physical clues left at the crime scene. These lead Holmes to the culprit. So this tale is a solid example of "investigating a crime scene and its physical evidence". However, the clues are not obvious. Holmes has to put them together, and determine what common factor caused these clues. This search for a common factor is an Intuitioniist, puzzle plot mystery. The tale shares all the facts about these physical clues with the reader. Can the reader figure out the clues' common factor? Yes - if they are as clever as Sherlock Holmes. It's a full, legitimate puzzle.

"The Adventure of the Three Students" also has a separate piece of evidence, used by Holmes. This has its start when Holmes looks in through the window. The facts about this are not shared with the reader. Holmes' conclusions from this evidence are sound. But there is no way for the reader to figure them out in advance - because the facts are not shared with the reader.

Holmes points out that the culprit must be one of three students, all of whom live in the building where the events took place. This is an early example of a closed circle mystery, that is, one with a strictly limited group of possible suspects. Such closed circle mysteries would be popular in later authors. Ellery Queen liked them. Ellery Queen also liked to write closed circle mysteries with exactly three such suspect: just like "The Adventure of the Three Students".

The Yellow Face: Multiple Solutions

"The Yellow Face" (1893) has two mystery puzzles. One puzzle, the mysterious face, is solved by Sherlock Holmes.

The other puzzle, the mysterious events in the house, gets two solutions:

  1. The first solution is proposed by Holmes. It turns out to be false.
  2. The second solution is correct. This second solution is not figured out by any detective. It is simply revealed by the wife at the end of the story. (The wife knows the facts from her personal experience: she is not a detective.)
This puzzle about the house, is thus a mystery with two solutions. It anticipates later mysteries with multiple solutions, notably E. C. Bentley's Trent's Last Case (1913) and Anthony Berkeley's The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929).

"The Yellow Face" also anticipates Trent's Last Case, in that the detective fails to figure out the ultimate, true solution.

The later Holmes tale "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger" (1927) has two solutions. The first is by Watson, and is false; the second, correct solution is revealed by a confession at the end. Holmes doesn't actually provide either solution. This is a fairly similar structural pattern to that in "The Yellow Face".

Social Commentary. "The Yellow Face" is one of Doyle's most politically significant stories.

Sherlock Holmes Tales without Mystery

"The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" (1904) is Doyle's homage to the Raffles tales of his brother-in-law, E.W. Hornung. Holmes and Watson burglarize a blackmailer, just like Raffles and Bunny. The tale makes clear the tremendous affection between Holmes and Watson. It is also better, in my opinion, than most of Hornung's originals. This tale is also in the tradition of Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes short story, "A Scandal in Bohemia" (1891), which was written long before any of Hornung's Raffles stories. Both "A Scandal in Bohemia" and "Milverton" are unusual in Doyle's work in that there is no mystery for Holmes, or the reader to solve. Instead, Holmes is asked to frustrate a blackmailer's efforts. Holmes does this in both tales by engaging in theft, and essentially functioning as a crook himself, although in a good cause.

"The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" (1893) is mainly a thriller, with only the smallest elements of mystery. It introduces Mycroft Holmes, one of the great characters in the saga. Mycroft only appears in four short stories, and is often off-stage even in these. But this does not stop him from being unforgettable. He forms a counter-example to the inane critical cliches about characters needing novels to be interesting.

"The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" (1921) is a brief thriller without mystery. It suffers from a stereotyped Italian villain. It benefits from:

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901-1902) is the best-known Sherlock Holmes novel.

Landscape. The Hound of the Baskervilles emphasizes landscape. Landscapes will later be popular in Golden Age mystery fiction.

Doyle was not the first to use landscapes in a mystery. Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone (1868) had the Shivering Sand, an elaborate, precisely described landscape. The Shivering Sand anticipates a landscape in The Hound of the Baskervilles, in that both involve quicksand.

However The Hound of the Baskervilles goes beyond The Moonstone, in basing much of its material directly on landscapes:

Hero. Good guy Sir Henry Baskerville in The Hound of the Baskervilles recalls hero Franklin Blake in The Moonstone. Both are good guy aristocrats, both are short, both had youthful formative experiences outside England, and are the better for it.

Boots. The Hound of the Baskervilles emphasizes men's boots:

Both men's boots are deliberate class status symbols: Watson's are part of his "gentleman's" attire, Sir Henry had just bought his so he could convey the image of Squire.

Watson's boots and top hat are shiny (Chapter 3). Sir Henry wears a pair of patent leather boots, in addition to his boots that are stolen (start of Chapter 5).

Such boots, shiny leather signifiers of class, anticipate J.S. Fletcher. They also anticipate the interest in boots in comic books.

The Opening. The opening of The Hound of the Baskervilles depicts a contest or struggle between Holmes and an unknown villain. They have a battle of wits. This recalls "A Scandal in Bohemia" (1891), where Holmes has a battle of wits with Irene Adler. Both works take place all over London. "A Scandal in Bohemia" is purely comic. The opening of The Hound of the Baskervilles is much grimmer, but it has comic aspects too.

Anna Katherine Green. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901-1902) perhaps shows the influence of the mystery Lost Man's Lane (1898) by Anna Katherine Green. Both novels feature:

A difference: the events of The Hound of the Baskervilles are fake-supernatural. The events in Lost Man's Lane, however creepy or horror-filled, lack any sort of supernatural appearance.

The similarities between Lost Man's Lane and The Hound of the Baskervilles mainly deal with the overall structure of the books. The details of the books' plots are completely different. And the powerful atmosphere, landscapes and storytelling in The Hound of the Baskervilles are Doyle's own.

Patricia D. Maida's Mother of Detective Fiction: The Life and Works of Anna Katherine Green (1989) talks about Doyle's interest in Green. An 1894 fan letter from Doyle to Green survives, proposing that they get together when Doyle's lecture tour brings him to Green's home town of Buffalo, New York.

The Solitary Cyclist

"The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist" (1903) has a structure recalling Doyle's earlier The Hound of the Baskervilles: "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist" has a baffling mysterious situation. And an ingenious solution at the end. So it is certainly a mystery story. However, Sherlock Holmes does not actually solve the mystery. He is simply present at the end, when the truth behind the mystery reveals itself.

The New Woman was a feminist ideal of the 1900 era. She went everywhere and did everything. A symbol of the New Woman was the bicycle. Most women of earlier eras had just one means of transport: walking. The New Woman instead could go everywhere on her bicycle. While the phrase "New Woman" is not used in "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist", I think many readers would have recognized the heroine as a sterling example of the "New Woman": intelligent, hard working, dynamic, courageous, outgoing.

Mystery Aesthetics: The Solitary Cyclist

How does Watson choose which of Holmes' cases to write up? The opening of "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist" tells us. Watson looks for "the ingenuity and dramatic quality of the solution."

These are the exact principles, that guided much of classic detective fiction of the years 1900-1967. And these principles are still relevant today. They are at the core of good detective fiction writing.

One minor quibble: these principles apply not only to the solution, but the story as a whole:

The Empty House

"The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903) is the story that brought Sherlock Holmes back to life.

The Murder Mystery. Embedded in the story, is the mysterious murder of young Ronald Adair. This is a full-fledged puzzle-plot mystery, a worthy successor almost as good as Doyle's earlier works in puzzle-plot mode.

Sherlock Holmes solves this mystery at the story's end. His solution is solidly grounded in evidence. And it explains all the mysterious, hard-to-understand aspects of the murder. These things together make this an admirable solution.

This mystery is very concisely told. The facts are summarized by Watson at the start; the solution is given by Sherlock Holmes at the end. These approaches are about as small, short and concise as they can be, and still give rise to a fully-plotted mystery tale. Despite this, the mystery does NOT seem minimalistic.

The mystery has some simple groundling in architecture. The same will be true of a later thriller sequence, the events in the "Empty House" of the title.

Landscape. The events at Reichenbach are systematically based in landscape.

Gambling. The story never editorializes about gambling. But it makes it clear that Ronald Adair is a compulsive gambler at cards. And it is hard not to reflect that if this rich young man had any interest in life more constructive than gambling, he never would have been killed. This sort of implicit perspective might be more effective than explicit preaching, at conveying an anti-gambling message.

Social Commentary. SPOILERS. On reading the biography of villain Colonel Moran, Watson immediately classifies Moran as "an honorable soldier" of the British Army's fighting in India. And wonders how such a man could have turned to crime. Holmes proposes some unconvincing ideas to explain this. Even Watson doesn't agree with these ideas.

What the story DOESN'T say explicitly, is that alternative explanations are possible. What if British Colonialism in India is corrupt? And inevitably produces crooked officers like Colonel Moran? This is the implicit position of Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone (1868). British soldier Colonel John Herncastle is as corrupt and morally rotten as they come, in The Moonstone.

I'm pretty sure, that is the the politics of The Moonstone. I'm less sure whether this is the implicit point of view of "The Adventure of the Empty House".

This viewpoint would contradict Watson's judgment that Colonel Moran was "an honorable soldier". Watson is a very likable human being. But he regularly says things that reflect the most conventional sort of "conventional opinion". Oftentimes these things are false. I think the reader is often supposed to recognize that Watson is in error. This conversation in "The Adventure of the Empty House" might be one of these times.

The Norwood Builder

"The Adventure of the Norwood Builder" (1903) shows Doyle's flair for comedy. A comic subtext runs all through this story. The tale also has an engaging quality, that makes it likable.

Links to "Abbey Grange". "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder" shares features with the slightly later, and much more serious tale "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange":

Despite these shared features, the two tales are quite different.

The later tale "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger" also shares a few of these features. In it Holmes provides a list of "flaws and implausibilities" in the conventional account of the events. And the dead man is a monstrous abuser of women.

Mystery Plot. The mystery in "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder" is mainly one of Doyle's puzzle plots. It is well-constructed in all aspects.

But the story also contains a well-done piece of reasoning from physical evidence: the study of the will.

The Second Stain

"The Adventure of the Second Stain" (1904) is an espionage story, rather than civilian crime. It is thus a change-of-pace for Sherlock Holmes. Still, it has a central mystery for Holmes and the reader to solve: who stole the all-important document?

Color. Doyle highlights two key objects by giving them bright color: at the tale's end we learn that the document is in a blue envelope, and that the dispatch-box is red.

Later authors did this too, perhaps influenced by Doyle. Please see my Color in Ellery Queen, which documents Queen's extensive use of this highlighting-key-objects technique.

Gender Roles. SPOILERS. The heroine gets in trouble, because her husband follows the most stringent Victorian views on gender roles:

By contrast, Holmes is able to help the heroine and resolve the mystery, because he repeatedly violates traditional standards about how a man should treat a woman. Holmes is one of the few men who has ever addressed the heroine as an equal, rather than a Victorian doll. Perhaps realistically, the heroine doesn't like this at first, and repeatedly condemns Holmes, telling him he should behave like a typical Victorian man. But eventually she cooperates.

In many ways the story points out the husband's virtues and assets. He's successful, handsome, famous, and faithful to his wife (he has "honor", his wife says). He's also NOT abusive, in conventional ways: a Good Thing. Many women would love to get a spouse like this. But his Victorian treatment of his wife might be as bad as abuse, the tale implies.

The Bruce-Partington Plans

"The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" (1908) is one of a series of spy tales Doyle wrote, along with "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty" (1893) and "The Adventure of the Second Stain" (1904). All of these tales center on the mysterious theft of a valuable British government document. While there is plenty of welcome suspense, these tales are centrally mysteries, that Holmes must solve.

"The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" has elements that bring it into the realm of Scientific Detection:

The development of Mycroft's character is fascinating. It is one of the main reasons to read this tale. SPOILERS. Mycroft's treatment of information, reminds one a little bit of ideas for utilizing information that will be proposed by H.G. Wells.

The Adventure of the Red Circle

"The Adventure of the Red Circle" (1911) is split into two chapters:
  1. In the first chapter, Holmes solves numerous mystery puzzles about the tenant. This section is a mystery.
  2. In the second chapter, the emphasis is one thrills and adventure, not solving mysteries. This section is a thriller.
This separation of mystery and thriller sections, suggests that Doyle was aware of the differences between the two genres.

Trying to understand the candle-messges, is formally similar to understanding dying messages. SPOILERS. The solution is similar to understanding the wall-writing in "A Study in Scarlet".

The architecture and cityscape of the tale's later sections, recalls that of "The Empty House".

The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax

"The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" (1911) is a tale that mixes suspense with a bit of mystery. The mystery is "What has happened to Lady Frances?"

The tale anticipates later authors:

Even before she gets in danger, Lady Frances Carfax is leading a remarkably empty life. She is not interested in marriage, a career, social work or scholarship. Instead she promotes class barriers - telling the hero he is not refined enough for her class. And she practices religious fanaticism. These are right-wing, conservative activities. BIG SPOILERS. Long before the end of the tale, Lady Frances is already buried alive.

The Adventure of the Three Garridebs

"The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" (1924) is a mystery with comic aspects: something Watson announces in the opening. SPOILERS. It also has an impressive sentimental moment.

SPOILERS. The plot is broadly in the tradition of "The Red-Headed League". However, all the details are different.

SPOILERS. The motive for the villain trying to get at the victim's home, reappears in much subsequent crime fiction. See "The Two-Headed Dog" (1934) by Ellery Queen.

The tale includes a small private museum in a man's home. This will soon be a staple in S.S. Van Dine and some of his followers.

A violent professional criminal is from Chicago. Gang warfare was already a staple of Chicago-based crime in 1924. However the crook in "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" does not seem to be a full-fledged Al Capone style gangster. He does have what the tale calls "political influence", like Capone.


Several stories in The Return of Sherlock Holmes feature good-looking male hunks:

Doyle and Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Contributors to the list VICTORIA pointed out that Doyle's quote about crime in the countryside in "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" (1892) was influenced by the Sensation writer Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Lucy Sussex has traced the influence of Braddon's theme of the "incarcerated woman" on Doyle, in the same tale. The remarks below build upon their insights.

Some of the stories in Doyle's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1891 - 1892) remind one of Braddon. In these works, Doyle seems to have taken plot material from Braddon's works, given it new, ingenious twists, and developed it into mystery plots. In all cases, Doyle has come up with something original. He has also made the plots more purely mystery oriented. Doyle has also made Braddon's initial situations more optimistic, and more with a happy ending. There is also an alteration of the social roles of the women and men. He has altered the plots to make the leading woman character more morally pure. Also, in Braddon, the men in the story have both the money, and the power of the patriarchy behind them. The women have nothing. In Doyle, the women typically have money, and they are preyed on by men, who attempt to use their patriarchal power to control them. Doyle's approach is closer to such Wilkie Collins works as The Woman in White (1859 - 1860). In all three authors, there is a feminist subtext, in which women struggle with all their might to resist being controlled by the patriarchy. Doyle's approach makes the duel between the two characters slightly more evenly matched. It is unclear whether it is more realistic however.

"The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" (1892) reminds one of Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret (1861 - 1862). Doyle has shifted the background story away from Braddon's English and Australian setting, and into a California mining camp that recalls one of Doyle's favorite writers, Bret Harte. He has also made the heroine's response to the situation much more idealistic. However, one might point out that Doyle's heroine can afford to be idealistic - she has money of her own, while Lady Audley does not. In "the Noble Bachelor", the unsympathetic nobleman combines in one package the patriarchy which attempts to control women, and the aristocratic rule from which Americans successfully escaped. This is a clever symbolic union, and makes him an ingenious emblem of everything Doyle detests.

Doyle's "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" (1892) is in the tradition of Braddon's "The Mystery at Fernwood" (1861). In both short stories:

One can also see touches of "The Mystery at Fernwood" in Doyle's "The Man with the Twisted Lip" (1891). The scene where the heroine looks up and sees her husband at the window of the room, rather recall similar ones where characters in "Fernwood" see mysterious characters at an upper window. And there is some relationship of mystery approach here too, although it is a distant one.

The Idler

Some of the Holmes era magazines had their own distinctive approach to choosing mystery fiction. The Windsor Magazine emphasized mysteries by famous literary figures: Arthur Morrison, Arnold Bennett. Perhaps most interesting in this regard is the Idler. This magazine emphasized game playing among detectives. Examples include Ottolengui's The Final Proof, with its rivalry among the professional detective and the amateur, and Chesterton's The Club of Queer Trades, with the "Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown" (1903) provided by an adventure service. Together with Zangwill's playful "Cheating the Gallows" (1893), the Idler's tongue in cheek, even campy approach to the mystery is clear. Perhaps the influence here of the magazine's cofounder, Robert Barr, had something to do with this. Barr's own detective series, Eugène Valmont, also has elements of parody and playfulness.

M.P. Shiel

M.P. Shiel wrote two mystery short stories in 1895 that show real skill at the construction of pure puzzle plot mysteries. Neither is especially plausible or realistic, but each constructs complex situations loaded with many unanswered, mysterious questions. Shiel then proceeds to uncover ingenious hidden truths about the central situations of the tales, and provides answers to all the mysterious questions based on these new perspectives. By these two works, Shiel has certainly earned at least a footnote in detective history. Shiel also successfully develops an atmosphere of 1890's decadence and bizarrie around these tales. The tales, in their plot construction, their use of central situations that reveal paradoxical elements, their eccentric aristocratic characters that live isolated lives at lonely country houses, and their bizarre atmosphere, seem to anticipate the works of G.K. Chesterton. I have no idea whether Chesterton read Shiel, or not.

Later tales by Shiel in the Prince Zaleski series are not as good; "The S.S." in particular is ridiculous, although it is much admired by some critics. Shiel wrote and collaborated on many other mystery novels and tales of intrigue. All of these are virtually unknown today, and one wonders whether there are any outstanding detective works among them. Shiel promoted crackpot (and worse) religious and political ideas in his work; ideas in "The S.S." and some of the Cummings Monk short stories are offensive to me, and surely to other people as well.

Gordon Holmes

Gordon Holmes' A Mysterious Disappearance (1905) is apparently by Louis Tracy alone; the later novels by "Holmes" resulted from a collaboration by Tracy and M.P. Shiel.

The book is a genuine detective novel, concerned exclusively with the efforts of barrister Claude Bruce to track down the facts behind the disappearance of the title. Despite this, the book does not seem very much like a Golden Age detective story. For one thing, it is open ended: Bruce follows up clues dealing with a potentially infinite group of suspects; the book never achieves the "closed circle" so popular in Golden Age books. The story has a labyrinthine quality. Each new lead opened up by the detective in turn leads to new mysteries, which branch out in all directions. The book is also long, and full of curious experiences undergone by the detective, and the reader. In this, it somewhat resembles the oceanic feel of Cleveland L. Moffett's Through the Wall (1909), although Holmes' book is far less elaborate than Moffett's.

The settings of the novel recall those of Arnold Bennett's The Loot of Cities (1905). As in Bennett's story, much of the action takes place in a smart, upper crust block of highly modern flats. Other sections take place abroad, at a Continental casino: Ostend in Bennett, Monte Carlo in Holmes. There is also a scene in a theater in both books. It is hard to tell if this is all just coincidence. E. Phillips Oppenheim's The Lost Ambassador (1910) also moves in somewhat analogous circles. Perhaps these were just the settings favored by sophisticated authors of the period.

Holmes' pseudonym surely refers to Sherlock Holmes. His novel also mentions both Poe and Fortuné du Boisgobey by name.

The several scenes involving cabs at night recall Fergus Hume's The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886). Like both Hume and Boisgobey, there is much about the romantic lives of his suspects.

There are also some sections dealing with mining in the American West. These are probably inspired by Bret Harte, a favorite author in England at the time. One can find Harte inspired passages in Conan Doyle and Robert Barr.

A Mysterious Disappearance is much too drawn out in its writing style. Parts of it really need to pick up the pace. But the plot is well constructed. The best sections of the book are Chapters 1-6, 14-17, 22, 26-27. These contain most of the actual detective work and plot revelations of the book. They take up a little less than one half of the novel.

Baroness Orczy

Innovative Concepts

Baroness Orczy's work is what is known in Hollywood as "high concept". That is, it embodies new startling concepts: In practice, Hollywood films hailed as "high concept" are often more accomplished in their innovative idea, than in their execution. Unfortunately, this is true of Orczy as well. Many of her actual mystery short stories are disappointing. Everyone should read some Orczy, to experience her innovative approach to armchair detection, and to meet her interesting sleuth hero, the Old Man in the Corner. But finding first rate individual short stories by Orczy to recommend is not easy - although there are indeed some excellent ones.

Similarly, while the Scarlet Pimpernel is an interesting character and his secret identity is an important innovation, the novel The Scarlet Pimpernel is not that good a book, as a whole. It pales when compared to the swashbucklers of Alexandre Dumas.

There are other possible innovations in Orczy. The Old Man in the Corner tales open with lists of characters who will appear in the tale. I do not know which author was the first to do this. It became common in detective novels of the 1920's through 1940's. Many readers, myself included, welcome this as a handy way to keep track of the characters in the story. In Orczy, the character list is referred to by the drama-derived term "Dramatic Personae". These cast lists are already present in the original magazine publications of Orczy's tales. They are preserved in the collection of tales edited by E.F. Bleiler for Dover Books, The Old Man in the Corner (1980), but not in many other book versions of the stories.

Mystery Techniques

Most of the tales in Orczy's three books of Old Man in the Corner detective short stories are "mystery puzzles": There are quite a few writers before Orczy who sometimes created mystery puzzles: Doyle's are classic. But Orczy is one of the earliest detective writers, whose stories are uniformly in such a puzzle mode. She adhered to the puzzle approach with consistency.

Orczy is skilled in pinning the crime on a person the reader didn't much suspect. She often fools me.

Orczy regularly explores the times of the crime and various suspects' actions. Sometimes these are used for alibi puzzles, sometimes not.

Servants in Orczy often serve as witnesses. They function almost as recorders, observing everything that happens, including bits of conversations, and later reporting it verbatim to the authorities. They often spill the beans to the police, about their employers' secrets. Other lower-downs, who are not technically servants, sometimes perform similar functions: the nurse who overhears things in "The Case of Miss Elliott", for example.

A running character throughout the Old Man tales is the lawyer Sir Arthur Inglewood. He is a superb counsel for the defense. We never see Inglewood operating in other than his professional capacity. He is dignified, expensive to hire, and well recognized as a top lawyer.

The Old Man in the Corner

Baroness Orczy's The Old Man in the Corner (1901-1902) is an early series of mystery short stories. The tales follow a common format. The Old Man narrates a sensational murder or theft case of the day. Usually it involves the collision of two groups of people, and often there is a substantial sum of money involved. There is one principal suspect, against whom evidence looks bad. This person is tried for murder, (or arraigned or discussed at an inquest), but at the courtroom trial the defense attorney introduces evidence that seriously complicates the case, often making a situation that is logically contradictory, and difficult to explain consistently in any fashion. The Old Man then shows the right way to look at the case, instead of the wrong way, and gives an explanation of all the case's peculiar features. The stories are some of the best early courtroom dramas. The courtroom scenes seem most reminiscent of those in Hume's The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886).

"The Fenchurch Street Mystery" (1901) is the first of the Old Man tales. It sets up the two series characters and the paradigm of the stories.

"The Fenchurch Street Mystery" has an elaborate backstory for the suspects. It involves decades of their lives, and foreign travel to distant lands. She also has a complex interaction between the characters in the contemporary time of the story. Orczy uses this elaborate backstory to weave a complex mystery plot. She inter-threads hidden mystery developments in it, to prepare ingenious mystery plot surprises. Orzcy will employ this same backstory-and-complex-mystery approach in another outstanding tale, "The Tremarn Case".

"The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway" (1901) eventually becomes a borderline impossible crime story. Impossible crimes are rare in Orczy's work.

Some Orczy characters perceive the world so vividly, that their experiences are almost visionary. The plot in "The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway" depends on the opposite effect: a witness who is vague about what he sees, and who has not paid close attention. The story opens with an in-depth look at problems of humans not closely observing what they see.

SPOILER. The Lady Molly tale "The Woman in the Big Hat" has similar basic plot as "The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway". The gender roles have been reversed, and the impossible crime aspects have been removed. It adds a clue, concerning the hat of the title.

"The Regent's Park Murder" (1901) is an alibi puzzle. The tale is logical, fairly complex, and holds the attention. But its solution has disappointing aspects. SPOILERS:

"The Mysterious Death in Percy Street" (1901) has plot problems. SPOILER. The killer does elaborate things to conceal and mislead about the time of death. But why? The killer gains nothing from this - certainly not an alibi. All this complex action seems pointless. The actions are ingenious, though. They can make interesting reading.

The various people who work in the victim's building make an interesting background.

SPOILER. "The Mysterious Death in Percy Street" has an unusual choice of killer. One wonders if Orczy was the first to do this. It also does unusual things with the story's narrator, who is effectively the Old Man. Both of these elements might have influenced Agatha Christie.

"The Glasgow Mystery" (1902) has a clever plot idea. It has been much imitated by later writers, but it is still surprising. SPOILER. The execution of the idea in "The Glasgow Mystery" depends on the isolation of the kitchen staff from the boarders - something that might not be familiar to today's readers.

"The Glasgow Mystery" was omitted by Orczy from editions of The Old Man in the Corner published in her lifetime. It is therefore not included in e-book versions derived from these editions. It is readily available in print though, including the collection of tales edited by E.F. Bleiler for Dover Books, The Old Man in the Corner (1980). And in Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (1978) edited by Alan K. Russell.

"The York Mystery" is a minor tale. SPOILER. Its sole ingenuity involves an unexpected choice of killer. Otherwise, there are no surprises in the solution: the crime is pretty much what it first seems to be, only done by another killer than the original main suspect. "The York Mystery" is one of a series of mild, bland tales Orczy wrote using this approach: others are "The Case of Mrs. Norris". "The Murder of Miss Pebmarsh", "The Tragedy of Barnsdale Manor". Motives in these cases tend to be similar: an upper class person trying to avoid scandal, when their bad behavior comes to life, and they start getting hounded by a lower class person. The choice of the killer in these tales also tends to be similar.

"The Liverpool Mystery" is a minor tale of a jewelry swindle, without much ingenuity. SPOILER. Its only puzzle plot aspect is a mildly surprising choice of bad guy. However, one reason this choice is surprising, is that it is not especially logical or clued.

"The Dublin Mystery" (1902) is an intricately plotted mystery about a will. But somehow, the ideas are not that ingenious or impressive. Still, this tale should get credit for its plot's complexity and logic.

Orczy reworked different aspects of the plot material from "The Dublin Mystery" into such later tales as "The Tragedy in Dartmoor Terrace" and "The Duffield Peerage Case". These two later stories are drastically different from each other, but both have roots in "The Dublin Mystery". "The Ayrsham Mystery" and "The Murder in Saltashe Woods" form a parallel series, that also have links to these tales.

"The Edinburgh Mystery" (1902) is a poor story. It has an alibi puzzle involving the time of the killing, resolved by a similar inane, uncreative idea as the solution of "The Case of Miss Elliott".

"The Edinburgh Mystery" suffers seriously from a stereotyped portrait of a disabled man.

"An Unparalleled Outrage" is also known as "The Brighton Mystery" (1902). The core idea of the mystery puzzle is today a cliche in the genre. It frequently appears in books and TV crime dramas. Because of its familiarity, the story's solution is easily guessed, and the tale does not seem very impressive. However, it might have been more baffling in 1902. SPOILER. Today, such plots are most often associated with kidnapping mysteries. Dashiell Hammett used such a twist in his kidnapping tale "The Gatewood Caper" (1923) (also known as "Crooked Souls"), and one suspects it has spread from there to other writers. By contrast, "An Unparalleled Outrage" concerns blackmail.

"The De Genneville Peerage" is also known as "The Birmingham Mystery" (1902). SPOILER. The puzzle plot is a variant on that of "The Fenchurch Street Mystery". It is simpler than the one in "The Fenchurch Street Mystery". And the killer benefits less in "The De Genneville Peerage" than in "The Fenchurch Street Mystery". For these reasons, "The De Genneville Peerage" seems like a less successful story. The storytelling also seems flatter and less colorful.

Mystery Traditions: Bodkin, Fergus Hume

Orczy's best tales turn on the impersonation of multiple identities. We see some of this in Bodkin, who perhaps influenced the creation of the Old Man, just as his detective character Dora Myrl perhaps influenced Lady Molly. In addition to her two detectives, Orczy's fiction shows other parallels with Bodkin's. Bodkin's "Murder by Proxy" includes a long Coroner's inquest, whose testimony is used to ultimately reveal the killer. This session is reminiscent of the courtroom dramas of Orczy. Both Bodkin's tale and most of Orczy's are whodunits, with a parade of suspects, a murder case, an obvious suspected party, a clever plot, and a hidden villain. Relations of the characters are often mercenary. The relationships among the characters are set out dispassionately, as if in a game of chess - another mark of Orczy's fiction. Bodkin's story has a similar "feel" to Orczy. There is a static quality to both writers: instead of events happening, relationships are set forth and mysterious events are analyzed. This static quality is not all bad: it is partly a sign that thinking is going on.

Both Orczy and Bodkin show similarities with the mystery fiction of Fergus Hume. Hume's tales are also dispassionate and restrained in their telling. Hume sets up a network of relationships, then shows how those relationships can be reinterpreted to form the surprise solution to the mystery. All of these writers emphasize the fair play, puzzle plot. Hume works like The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, also perform much of their storytelling in the form of trial scenes. There is also a great deal in Hume about public reaction to cases, in the form of newspaper publicity, which is also a feature of Orczy. Marriages tend to be sinister in both authors, with either one party killing the other, or sharing some guilty secret. Hume, like Bodkin and Orczy, also featured female sleuths in his fiction.

Mystery Traditions: Rogue Fiction

Orczy, like Bodkin, also has ties with the Rogue literature of her day. Double identities were fairly common in this literature for bad guys: see Guy S. Boothby, for example.

The crimes in Orczy's tales are usually committed for financial gain, and often involve a distinct swindle or theft by the villain. Sometimes this is very close to the Rogue school: see the swindle in "The Liverpool Mystery".

The Old Man's frank admiration for the clever villains is also an attribute of this school.

Rogue fiction often involves clever crooks dressing up in the fine clothes of the upper classes, and using this to sway people's opinions and responses. This recurs in Orczy:

The Red Carnation: a spy short story

Orczy was most famous in her time for the adventure novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905). The best scene in that book, the intrigue at the party in the center of the novel, is in fact a reworking of her earlier spy short story "The Red Carnation" (1898).

"The Red Carnation" takes place against a background of Russian - Polish conflict, such as would later animate Joseph Conrad. This is one of the few works in Orczy's oeuvre set against the Eastern European background of her youth - it is laid in Vienna. A woman from Vienna appears in the London-set "The Woman in the Big Hat".

The tale describes how the heroine's instinct and talent for espionage work draws her back into the profession. Orczy would go on to create the similarly talented woman detective, Lady Molly of Scotland Yard.

The tale keeps describing the heroine's actions as automatic: first at the beginning of the story, which describes her espionage role as automatic to her as a hunting dog going after its prey, then at the end, where emotionally overwhelming circumstances cause the heroine to move like an "automaton". The heroine's feelings are intense throughout.

The story is notable for the vivid sensory impressions of the heroine. Especially towards the end of the story, virtually every sentence describes some perception she has. All of the senses are appealed to: touch, sight, hearing, smell, taste, even heat and cold. There is a riotous mix of textures: a paragraph will describe first furs, then flowers and palms. One wonders if Orczy is participating in the turn of the century literary movement of Impressionism, whose advocates included Stephen Crane and Conrad, and which stressed rich description of sensory effects. Orczy's work has a visionary quality, as if it were a dream. Orczy would have real life visionary experiences, where her creative imagination would present to her both the Old Man in the Corner, then The Scarlet Pimpernel, enabling her to create these characters. These are discussed in her autobiography. Orczy trained as a painter, and apparently "saw" the world through a multitude of media.

The Case of Miss Elliott

The Case of Miss Elliott (1904-1905) is a second series of tales about the Old Man in the Corner.

"The Case of Miss Elliott" is an alibi puzzle. Its solution is sound enough, but distressingly uncreative. In fact, the solution is so routine that some readers might regard it as a cheat.

Its setting is the real London street of Blomfield Road in Maida Vale. This locale of a pretty London neighborhood near a canal combines a nice landscape with architecture, in the form of a foot bridge. Landscapes and architecture are both regularly featured in classic mysteries.

"The Case of Miss Elliott" shows skepticism about leaders and administrators of charitable organizations, suspecting they might be crooks. This theme will return in "The Mystery of the Pearl Necklace".

"The Hocussing of Cigarette" is a story about a threatened race horse, like Doyle's "Silver Blaze". It is pleasantly enough told, and has some nice twists and turns. The solution is pretty minor though: one of those lesser Orczy tales, in which another person turns out to be guilty rather than the chief suspect, but in which this doesn't change the case much. The solution does do some decent things with motives.

"The Tragedy in Dartmoor Terrace" has an inventive mystery plot. It depends on coincidence - but so do a lot of good mysteries. The story involves a similar situation as "The Dublin Mystery", with two young men rivals to be heirs to a fortune. The plot of "The Tragedy in Dartmoor Terrace" is more developed. SPOILER. One clue is now dated, based on knowledge about London life in 1902 that most readers today do not know.

"Who Stole the Black Diamonds?" has an implausible central situation, that creates holes in its plot. SPOILERS. The scheme depends on the husband dying - a coincidence no one could plan for. Worse, the scheme depends on him not obtaining any documentation of the sale. In real life, people buying valuable objects obtain all the documentation they can get. Furthermore, a man's heirs would save all this documentation, not destroy it as the widow does in the story. Such documentation would be designed precisely to avoid such lawsuits as are in the tale.

"The Murder of Miss Pebmarsh" is a minor tale. SPOILER. Its only good mystery plot feature is an unexpected choice of culprit. There are some timetable-and-alibi aspects to the puzzle, that help to indicate the killer. It is not an "alibi puzzle", i.e., it is not a tale in which the sleuth has to break a perfect alibi. But the alibis and timetables do suggest the killer. Both subject matter and the killer in "The Murder of Miss Pebmarsh" reflect an earlier, minor Orczy tale "The Case of Mrs. Norris" (1903), which features her sleuth "Skin o' my Tooth".

"The Lisson Grove Mystery" is a well-constructed alibi mystery. It shows an alibi puzzle long before the appearance of alibi problems in Freeman Wills Crofts or Christopher Bush. SPOILER. The alibi uses similar techniques as those Orczy employed in "The Mysterious Death in Percy Street". They are more elaborate in "The Lisson Grove Mystery". And used to construct an actual alibi puzzle, something unfortunately not found in the weaker "The Mysterious Death in Percy Street". "The Lisson Grove Mystery" and "The Mysterious Death in Percy Street" have elements of the "breakdown of identity", used to construct alibis by Crofts and others of the Realist school.

"The Tremarn Case" is an elaborately plotted tale, with a well-constructed solution. Its structural approach reflects that of the first Old Man tale "The Fenchurch Street Mystery".

"The Fate of the Artemis" has the same mystery plot as the later "The Mystery of the Pearl Necklace". The two stories have different backgrounds: "The Fate of the Artemis" involves international intrigue and a valuable map; "The Mystery of the Pearl Necklace" looks at the stolen jewels of the title. I prefer "The Mystery of the Pearl Necklace": "The Fate of the Artemis" tells the reader all about a late plot development right from the start, then flashes back to the main story, while "The Mystery of the Pearl Necklace" reserves this development as a startling surprize later in the tale. This increases its effectiveness, and also underscores its bafflingly mysterious nature, its complication of the mystery puzzle. "The Mystery of the Pearl Necklace" also adds new plot twists that take place outside of its hotel, while "The Fate of the Artemis" sticks closely to the single setting of its rooming house.

"The Disappearance of Count Collini" is a minor tale. Its plot derives from Doyle's "A Case of Identity". The plot also seems highly improbable, something that would be difficult to pull off, without everyone realizing the truth. The tale has some mildly decent alibi features.

Orzcy would reuse this material as part of the later "The Case of the Sicilian Prince". Plot summaries of the non-series historical novel The Nest of the Sparrowhawk (1909) suggest the plot was re-used there as well.

"The Ayrsham Mystery" has a puzzle plot idea recalling "The Tragedy in Dartmoor Terrace". It is simpler and less clever though. The material about the young woman and the boyfriend she protects is mildly distasteful. Later, Orczy would considerably re-work "The Ayrsham Mystery" into "The Murder in Saltashe Woods", replacing all the romantic elements with business dealings: an improvement.

"The Affair at the Novelty Theatre" has a pleasant backstage setting, which might appeal to readers (like me) who have a passion for the theater. Some aspects of its theater portrayal anticipate the classic Cue for Murder (1942) by Helen McCloy: the great actress, the big melodrama scene on-stage, the non-actor boyfriend with a cameo role in the play. Also appealing is the story's light-hearted focus on a jewel theft, rather than a grim murder. It is also the only mystery story known to me that uses the term "art nouveau" (to describe a necklace). Unfortunately, the solution is mainly pretty routine. SPOILER. The best feature of the solution is the unlikely culprit, who is indeed indicated by a fair play clue.

"The Tragedy of Barnsdale Manor" is a fairly minor tale. Its solution is not that much different from the apparent facts of the case. This robs the solution of ingenuity. The repeated suggestions that working class women might commit murder, but that aristocratic women wouldn't and couldn't, seem like class prejudice. SPOILER. The choice of killer recalls "The Murder of Miss Pebmarsh", although the culprit's identity was better hidden in "The Murder of Miss Pebmarsh" than in "The Tragedy of Barnsdale Manor".

Unravelled Knots

Unravelled Knots (1924-1925) is a third series of tales about the Old Man in the Corner, created years after the first two volumes.

"The Mystery of the Pearl Necklace" is well plotted, mixing an ever-more complicated story with an inventive solution. The tale shares imagery with "The Affair at the Novelty Theatre", but the mystery plot eventually moves in decisively different directions.

Skin o' my Tooth

"Skin o' my Tooth" is the nickname of a clever Irish lawyer, Patrick Mulligan. Orczy wrote a series of short stories about Mulligan, collected as Skin o' my Tooth. While the book was published in 1928, many of the tales first appeared in magazines decades earlier.

The tales are narrated by Mulligan's confidential clerk Alexander Stanislaus Mullins. The mild-mannered clerk serves as a "Watson", recounting his boss' detective work. The clerk is frequently called "Muggins" by his mean boss "Skin o' my Tooth", as sort of a joke.

Aspects of Skin o' my Tooth anticipate Erle Stanley Gardner:

Murder in Saltashe Woods. "The Murder in Saltashe Woods" (1903) is fairly routine as a mystery puzzle, but it is absorbing as a story. It establishes the characters of "Skin o' my Tooth" and his clerk. Its detailed look at how money matters were handled by a business in 1903 also has interest. So does the detective leg-work performed by the clerk.

SPOILER. The mystery plot of "The Murder in Saltashe Woods" is another Orczy tale about two brothers. Like the others, it has some symmetry between the pair of brothers, and suggestions that actions attributed to one brother may actually have been caused by the other. Among such brother stories, "The Murder in Saltashe Woods" seems closest to "The Ayrsham Mystery". Both open with a body being discovered in a woods; both have a handsome younger scapegrace brother being immediately suspected of a crime, while his successful, respectable older brother is never suspected till the finale. However, these tales are a bit less close to other Orczy "brother stories" like "The Dublin Mystery", "The Tragedy in Dartmoor Terrace". There are no concerns over who might be an heir, for example, in "The Murder in Saltashe Woods", unlike the other stories.

Sicilian Prince. "The Case of the Sicilian Prince" was originally called "The Case of the Polish Prince" (1903) in magazines. It is a minor tale. It combines the plot idea from Orczy's "The De Genneville Peerage" with that of Orczy's "The Disappearance of Count Collini", which in turn derives from Doyle's "A Case of Identity".

Duffield Peerage. Material from the Old Man tale "The Dublin Mystery" was reworked into the "Skin o' my Tooth" story "The Duffield Peerage Case" (1903). Instead of the will in "The Dublin Mystery", "The Duffield Peerage Case" centers around documents about who is the rightful heir to a title, and the characters are different. But the mystery plots have similarities. There are plot differences:

Once again, while "The Duffield Peerage Case" is a logically constructed mystery, like "The Dublin Mystery", it suffers from a certain dullness.

Major Gibson. "The Case of Major Gibson" (1903) differs from most Orczy stories, in that it is not a mystery puzzle, solved through reasoning. Rather, the guilty party is unearthed when they fall into a trap set by hero "Skin o' my Tooth" at the end of the story. And aside from the identity of the guilty party, there is not much plot revelation or surprize at the end of the tale.

Normally, I regard such stories as inferior to true mystery tales. However, "The Case of Major Gibson" shows good storytelling. It helps characterize "Skin o' my Tooth", showing his dramatic, fierce methods. It also shows his relations with his clients. The tale also shows how upper class British society handled suspicions and accusations, often unfairly, till "Skin o' my Tooth" intervenes. As a whole, "The Case of Major Gibson" makes a pleasant change of pace in Orczy's oeuvre.

Inverted Five. "The Inverted Five" is more a thriller-with-surprises, than one of Orczy's pure puzzle mysteries. It eventually becomes lurid and lowbrow. It does include such mystery elements as a mysterious death, traced at the end to a surprising culprit: Orczy has not lost her skills about unexpected murderers.

Casebook Influenced

Catherine Louisa Pirkis

Catherine Louisa Pirkis' Loveday Brooke tales (1893) seem partly in the tradition of 1860's British casebook literature, partly puzzle plot stories showing the influence of Sherlock Holmes. Loveday is a professional detective who mainly investigates robberies. She shows up undercover in some new identity in a household or a neighborhood, asking questions and sneaking up on suspects. All of this is right out of the casebook tradition. But her two best stories involve puzzle plots, and both have the surprise solutions of puzzle plots in general, and the Holmes stories in particular.

Pirkis' best stories involve three stages. The first is the setting forth of the mystery; the last is the solution. In between is an episode in which Loveday elaborately interferes in the activities of the culprits, leading to their neutralization and capture. This can become ingeniously complex. "It's all so intricate - so bewildering", one character exclaims as Loveday explains it all to him, in "Drawn Daggers". This stage of mystery fiction seems to be unique to Pirkis. It has its roots in the casebook school - all the casebook detectives had to not just identify the criminal, but lay traps to catch him, (unlike Golden Age detectives, in which the revelation of the killer's identity usually led swiftly to his arrest). Still, Pirkis has developed this into something personal and ingenious.

Pirkis' poorer stories suffer from a lack of what would later be called "fair play". While it is perhaps unfair to judge an earlier writer by the norms of a later age, Pirkis' lesser mysteries (e.g. "Missing!") sometimes have solutions that come at the reader completely out of left field, involving elaborate early histories of the characters or other events that have been completely unprepared for in the tale. The solutions can also involve deductions from clues that have never been shared with the reader.

Fair play is sometimes treated today by critics as a campy remnant of a stiff upper lip era of British sportsmanship - good form, and all that. I wish to vehemently disagree. Fair play is deeply embedded in the logic of the mystery form itself. It has nothing to do with manners or social customs or even morality. Instead, the mystery as an art form depends on the logical unfolding of solutions to puzzling events. Unless the solution is logically deductible from the information provided in the earlier parts of the story, the mystery logically falls apart. By the 1920's people began to understand this as an explicit principle of mystery construction, although the principle had been used implicitly much earlier by authors, such as Conan Doyle. It had also been set forth by Israel Zangwill in his 1895 introduction to The Big Bow Mystery (1891), although Zangwill did not use the actual name "fair play". It applies to virtually any tale that involves a mystery, and is not restricted to any one school of detective fiction. (Of course, it is inapplicable and irrelevant to crime novels, books that tell the story of a crime without any mystery in their plots.) The principle is related to the general aesthetic principle of "artistic unity", the idea that all parts of a work of art should work together to create a logically coherent effect. The concept of fair play goes beyond that of artistic unity, however, in that a work of art can lack artistic unity, and still be made up of outstanding pieces, whereas a mystery tale that ignores fair play will probably just be an incoherent mess. The name "fair play" for this principle is perhaps mildly unfortunate. It suggests good sportsmanship and/or honesty, two things highly desirable in themselves, but which actually have little to do with fair play, in the detectival sense.

All of the Loveday stories show a feminist point of view. Women in the tales are often struggling to get out from under male control. This control is often used to lead them into crime or corruption, something the women are struggling to avoid. Society's sympathy for men and lack of sympathy for women is shown to be often deeply misguided, from a moral point of view - not to mention a good source for detective plots. Loveday herself is shown to be a highly professional, intelligent detective. This is one of the most "liberated" portraits in detective fiction history, even by the standards of the 1990's.

Pirkis' religious points of view come through loud and clear in the tales, as well. She admired what she called "practical Christianity": doing good works and charitable activities. She disliked what she called "religious hysteria" and cult groups. She saw the "millennial" sects of the 1890's as purely bad. Pirkis also admired independent thinking, and warned of the dangers of blindly following charismatic leaders.

"The Ghost of Fountain Lane" is an early story in which the detective investigates two seemingly unrelated cases, which gradually coalesce and prove to be linked. Raymond Chandler did this in Farewell, My Lovely (1940), and it has been common in modern private eye and police procedural books. I have no idea who was the first person to write such a mystery story.

Pirkis' two best tales are such triumphs in the history of detective fiction that one wishes she had written much more in our genre. She seems to have turned to detective fiction because it was what was selling in the 1890's, after the success of the Holmes stories. (See remarks in "The Redhill Sisterhood".) Perhaps there are other important Pirkis tales among her uncollected magazine short stories.

Bernard Higham's illustrations to Loveday Brooke are halfway between Sir John Tenniel, and the sort of Victorian narrative art burlesqued in Herriman's Krazy Kat comic strip. There are the props like clocks and food on the table, sentimental portraits of sad heroines and heroes that merely look a bit wimpy by today's standards, an interest in staged tableaux, and an overdone emotionalism in the hand gestures - all part of the Kat tradition. Despite all of this, Higham was not a bad artist. He did have the ability to create his own world. His sentimental pictures seem at odds with Pirkis' forceful, dynamic characters. There is something clean cut and straightforward about Pirkis that seems antithetical to all this Victorian folderol.

Arthur Morrison

Differences From Doyle

Arthur Morrison's fiction seems to have only a little in common with Doyle's, despite his often being cited as Doyle's chief imitator. Admittedly, Martin Hewitt is a consulting detective who appeared in a series of short stories in middle class magazines, just like Sherlock Holmes. So Morrison's commercial publication was entirely due to an appetite for Doyle imitations. But the actual content of Morrison's fiction seems quite different from Doyle's.

Martin Hewitt does sometimes surprise clients with information about them, in a manner made famous by Sherlock Holmes. See "The Flitterbat Lancers". As in the Holmes tales, Hewitt's knowledge is firmly grounded in reasoning from evidence.

Some Martin Hewitt tales are written in the "third person". Others are narrated by his journalist friend Brett (Brett's full name is not given). In some ways, Brett resembles Watson in the Holmes tales. Both men are friends of the detective, both give inside, first person accounts of his cases, based on personal observation, neither has any detectival skills themselves. However Brett is far less close emotionally to Hewitt, than Watson is to Holmes, and the two men do not room together, unlike Holmes and Watson. Brett admires Hewitt's detective skill, but expresses this admiration far more moderately than Watson's lavish praise of Holmes.

Anticipating the Rogue School

In many ways, Morrison seems closer to the soon to emerge Rogue school. Many of his Hewitt tales focus on some ingenious criminal scheme, often involving robbery of some sort. These tales can also involve impersonation of respectable people by members of the criminal classes. Morrison would go on to make his own direct contribution to the Rogue school with his Dorrington tales.

The Casebook Tradition

If Morrison's writings look ahead to the Rogue school in their crimes, their detective work seems rooted in the British casebook fiction of thirty years before, of Waters, Forrester and the rest. In "The Case of Laker, Absconded", Hewitt uses disguise to infiltrate a crooks' den, does lots of legwork querying suspects, and finally leads a police raid of a crime scene: all behavior one associates with the casebook school.

Financial considerations loom large in his behavior: another traditional casebook element. The casebook detectives were business people. By contrast, although Holmes is hired by his clients, once he is on the job he seems largely motivated by loyalty to the innocent, and the need to search for truth.

Another casebook feature in Morrison: the use of codes and ciphers, both in "The Case of Laker, Absconded" and "The Flitterbat Lancers". This use of codes was introduced by Poe, and was taken up by Forrester into casebook literature. Morrison gives detailed, carefully reasoned explanations of his sleuth's breaking of the codes. Interpreting the meaning of the coded messages also builds on Hewitt's knowledge of underworld slang. The interpretation of the letter fragments in "The Loss of Sammy Crockett" is also a bit code-like, though it does not involve an actual code.

Morrison, like the casebook writer Charles Martel, also wrote his own variation on Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue": Morrison's is "The Case of Mr. Foggatt". For a detailed list of such tales inspired by "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", please see the article on Charles Martel.

There is perhaps something suggestive about Morrison and Doyle's use of titles. Morrison's stories begin with "The Case of", and Morrison is faithful to the traditions of casebook fiction. The far more innovative Doyle called his tales "The Adventure Of". Doyle's fictions are structured as complex melodramas in which many groups of people, the villain, Holmes, and various innocent suspects, are all struggling in complex, interactive ways. Holmes is far more deeply embedded in the action of the story, than in the casebook tradition. Holmes is indeed having an adventure. He is experiencing something in the first person. Doyle's fictions have elaborate puzzle plots as well, and Holmes' detective attempts to solve these also serve to immerse him far more into the story than is traditional in the more standoffish casebook fiction. In casebook tales, the crook is up to his crimes, the detective is busy detecting him through standard detectival techniques, and the two stay firmly in separate spheres.

The way such pioneers of Rogue fiction as Morrison and Max Pemberton seem rooted in the detective techniques of casebook literature suggests that there is some continuity between the two schools. Just as the early American school of Rinehart and Reeve seems to lay the groundwork for both the pulp and the general American magazine fiction of the 1920's, so does casebook fiction stand in some ancestry to the Rogue school.

Puzzle Plots

Some of the best Martin Hewitt tales involve full-fledged puzzle plots. These tales come up with surprising but logical solutions, ones that change our basic understanding of the story: the key characteristic of the puzzle plot.

Some of the earliest Martin Hewitt tales are borderline "impossible crimes". Both "The Lenton Croft Robberies" and "The Case of the Dixon Torpedo" involve thefts, that look as if they were impossible to commit. Impossible crimes are at the core of the puzzle plot tradition.

Tales which are not impossible crimes, but which center on puzzle plot mysteries, are also in the Martin Hewitt corpus: "The Stanway Cameo Mystery", "The Case of Laker, Absconded".

Midway through "The Stanway Cameo Mystery" the detective provides a list of suspects, and outlines the case against each.

Detective Work

The Martin Hewitt tales emphasize detective work. Hewitt investigates all aspects of his mystery problems in depth. We are shown Hewitt's detective work as it happens, following him on his investigations. We often see discoveries he makes. Then at the tale's end, we get highly detailed accounts of the reasoning Hewitt used in his detective work, and the deductions he makes from what he discovered.

Hewitt always progresses rationally, step by step building up his conclusions and discoveries. Hewitt never pulls a conclusion or discovery out of thin air. Instead, each new step of the investigation is logically grounded in work that has gone before. Morrison goes to a great effort always to provide his sleuth with a logical, reasoned process of investigation.

Hewitt logically deduces the identity of culprits. He builds up evidence, showing that one suspect is innocent, and another is guilty. Other aspects of the mystery puzzle are also given such logical groundings in evidence.

Martin Hewitt also uses such logical, step by step investigation for activities that are not puzzle plot mysteries. For example, in "The Case of the Dixon Torpedo", once Hewitt has deduced the identity of the guilty party, he still has to track him down, and recover the photographs from this thief. Tracking the thief down is not a puzzle plot mystery. But Hewitt still uses the same step by step logical investigation to find this thief. First, Hewitt uses a clever ruse to get the thief's address. Then he finds a way to access the thief's room, and search for the photos. None of this happens by luck or chance: everything Hewitt does is a step by step investigation fueled by his thinking skills.

Our first glimpse of Martin Hewitt in his first story "The Lenton Croft Robberies" includes a brief backstory, showing how he became a detective. This "origin story" emphasizes Hewitt's skill at gathering evidence. This skill persuaded Hewitt he should set up as a private investigator.

The Case of Laker, Absconded

None of the above mentions how satisfying "The Case of Laker, Absconded" (1895) is, as a work of storytelling.

One aspect of "The Case of Laker, Absconded" is its procedural nature:

All of the above procedures are shown in interesting detail.

The procedural aspects seem to anticipate 20th Century mystery fiction.

Both "The Case of Laker, Absconded" and "The Flitterbat Lancers" show how gangs of crooks are funded and controlled by respectable-looking men. These men are almost like today's "venture capitalists", only they fund criminal schemes rather than business start-ups. Later, Morrison's "The Narrative of Mr. James Rigby" will look at the Camorra in Italy, depicting it as a business-like "crime for hire" organization.

An odd but pleasant sidelight: both "The Case of Laker, Absconded" and "The Flitterbat Lancers" have men who carry individualized umbrellas. I don't recall such personalized umbrellas in post-1950 America. Such umbrellas are apparently part of the Victorian era. The umbrellas play a role in the plots of both tales. An umbrella also briefly pops up in "The Case of the Dixon Torpedo".

The Loss of Sammy Crockett

"The Loss of Sammy Crockett" (1894) is an uneven story. It has some virtues: it shows Martin Hewitt investigating a whole series of aspects of the crime, and using detailed reasoning from evidence on each one as part of his solution: SPOILER. However, the solution of two of these mysteries involves knowledge of Victorian athletes and their world: the identity of the culprit (based on training techniques of athletes) and the footprints (based on Victorian footwear, including shoes worn by athletes). I personally just didn't have this knowledge, and was unable to bring it to bear on possible solutions. I had to watch passively while the sleuth solved the story with this knowledge. Because of this, the story has perhaps dated a bit, although this is not Morrison's fault.

An odd problem: "The Loss of Sammy Crockett" is the title of this story both in its original magazine publication (reproduced in facsimile in Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (1978) edited by Alan K. Russell) and apparently in its original book publication in Martin Hewitt, Investigator (1894) (original American edition available in scanned form on the Internet at the HathiTrust). But the story has also been reprinted as "The Loss of Sammy Throckett", especially in Britain. I have no idea what is going on with these two story names.

The Stanway Cameo Mystery

"The Stanway Cameo Mystery" (1894) is an art theft mystery. It is an example at a fairly early date, of all sorts of ideas that later became standard in thrillers about the art world. I don't know whether Morrison was the first to invent these ideas or not. If he did, he certainly deserves credit. Unfortunately, for today's readers, much of this story is material that has become fairly routine. Arthur Morrison was himself a noted art historian.

The art world aspects include much about the business of art. The central character is an art dealer. There are no creative artists in the story. This makes "The Stanway Cameo Mystery" another Morrison tale about the business world, like "The Case of Laker, Absconded" and "The Affair of the 'Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre, Co., Limited'".

The physical break-in is analyzed by sleuth Martin Hewitt at the end. He makes some mildly interesting points. Unfortunately, his deductions are based on clues and observations that were NOT shared with the reader during the course of the story. In other words, in today's terminology, "The Stanway Cameo Mystery" lacks "fair play".

Man-Made Landscapes

Many of Morrison's stories deal with elaborate man-made "landscapes": In all cases, Morrison's landscapes are full of imaginative detail. They are always set in what might be called "real space": everything in them is precisely located in relation to everything else. The landscapes could be built as movie sets, or as theme part attractions, and allow visitors to walk around in them. One envisions a tourist attraction called "Morrison World". Although the landscapes sometimes take up a lot of space - the trail in "The Case of the Missing Hand" extends across the countryside - each meter of them is precisely described by Morrison, and form a connected landscape without any gaps. They have a connectivity of one, in graph theory terms.

Both "The Case of Laker, Absconded" and "The Flitterbat Lancers" have scenes in cupboards under basement stairs.

The landscapes are perhaps a bit ancestral to the countryside and seaside landscapes later used by realist school writers such as Freeman, Crofts and John Rhode, although Morrison's work tends to stress the man-made aspects of these landscapes more than these Golden Age writers will. There is always something constructed about Morrison's landscapes, an architectural or engineering emphasis. There is also often an element of eccentricity to them, as well. They are something unique to Morrison's story, whereas the realist school writers set their works in "typical" landscapes of the countryside.

While it is not a landscape, an actual floor plan is included in "The Case of the Dixon Torpedo".

Elaborate floor plans and buildings will recur in Mary Roberts Rinehart, and her followers, and in S.S. Van Dine and his followers, such as Ellery Queen. These buildings are some of the most imaginative aspects of Golden Age fiction.

Morrison's mainstream writings often use this sort of man-made landscape, as well. Morrison wrote a story called "The Street", which imagines a single long street as the metaphorical setting of all of London's poor. His most famous mainstream book is The Hole in the Wall, also an architectural/landscape idea.

The Case of the Lost Foreigner

"The Case of the Lost Foreigner" (1895) has unusual multi-media elements. It shows a man's doodles, which Hewitt uses to reconstruct the man's thought processes. This is early for such an approach.

SPOILER. The doodles turn out to represent a district of a city: two streets and their buildings. This is a direct expression of Morrison's interest in man-made landscapes. Here such a landscape is converted into a mental representation, represented by sketchy drawings. When Morrison represents thought, it is thoughts of a landscape!

Like some other Morrison tales, what once were clues based in facts well-known to 1890's readers, have now been obscured with time. Today's readers, myself included, are likely not familiar with 1895 Tottenham Court Road. And the clue of turning the bread loofs over, is also based on now obscure ideas.

The Dorrington Deed-Box

The Dorrington Deed-Box (1897) is a collection of six short stories about Horace Dorrington, an exceptionally crooked private investigator.

Dorrington's long suit is charm, like most con-men, at least in fiction. He is a great story-teller, which he uses to get close to people. He is also noticeably handsome.

The Dorrington Deed-Box has been attracting attention from critics in recent years. Some people seem to prefer it to the Martin Hewitt tales. However, I think it is weaker than the best Martin Hewitt stories: detective elements are much skimpier, plots are more rudimentary. One suspects that many critics' interest centers around Horace Dorrington. Dorrington is the sort of super-villain that seems to fascinate people today. By contrast, I myself have never been able to work up much interest in villains, preferring heroes and detectives. Be that as it may, it is hard to see that most of the The Dorrington Deed-Box stories have as much substance, in terms of plot, background or characterization.

SPOILER. "The Narrative of Mr. James Rigby" re-works material from "The Case of Laker, Absconded". It is more thriller-like and more horror-driven than "The Case of Laker, Absconded", and much less of a detective story. The sinister events that befall the hero of "The Narrative of Mr. James Rigby" turn out to be caused by a similar scheme as that afflicting the victim in "The Case of Laker, Absconded". Unfortunately "The Narrative of Mr. James Rigby" is not much good. The horror aspects weaken the entertainment value of the story. So does the lack of detection, and the story-telling richness that detection adds to "The Case of Laker, Absconded".

"The Case of Janissary" is a pleasantly told crime tale. Janissary is a race horse, and the tale has a background of horse racing and crooked bookmakers.

"The Case of Janissary" shares a story template with "The Affair of the 'Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre, Co., Limited'", later in The Dorrington Deed-Box. Both tales:

Both parts of "The Case of Janissary" show Dorrington doing detective work, investigating the criminal's activities. But this detection is fairly straightforward and brief, and not linked to any deep mystery puzzles. "The Case of Janissary" is thus more of a "crime story" than a "detective story".

"The Affair of the 'Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre, Co., Limited'" combines two interests from previous Morrison tales:

In addition to showing "normal" aspects of the bicycle industry, the tale offers a reasonably detailed look at what a stock swindle was like in 1897. All of this historical material is competent enough. It might interest fans of historical fiction, and people who like comic stories about swindlers. One might argue that the tale's look at business, both honest and crooked, gives the story sociological significance.

"The Affair of the 'Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre, Co., Limited'" is also a mystery story, with Dorrington investigating who is behind some problems afflicting an honest company. SPOILER. One perspective on the tale, is that the only significant aspect of the mystery solution is the fairly surprising identity of the guilty party. This mystery is very simple, and limited in scope. The one clue is withheld from the reader, until the solution.

On the other hand, perhaps one should take a broader view about what constitutes the tale's "mystery aspects". Perhaps the nature of the business swindle should be regarded as a "mystery puzzle". The tale opens by showing the reader how a bicycle business appears to the public. Then Dorrington investigates further, and step by step he uncovers the truth behind the business swindle. Everything is fully revealed by the near-finale of the story. This "truth uncovered behind appearance" does indeed have the structure of a mystery tale.

Max Pemberton

Max Pemberton seems to be a pioneering but somewhat artistically minor member of the Rogue school. His Jewel Mysteries I Have Known (1895) is a miscellaneous grab bag of every type of short story about jewels and crime. A lot of the stories are really mediocre, as well. Three are better than the rest.

"The Ripening Rubies", anthologized by Hugh Greene in The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, is the only story in Jewel Mysteries I Have Known that is at once good, and of some similarity to the conventional crime story. This is a vividly realistic story of a jewel robbery at an English society party.

"The Comedy of the Jeweled Links" is a Biter Bit tale of some sharp dealing involving a pair of emerald cuff links. It is more in the tradition of sardonic tales of con jobs than of the mystery story proper. Somerset Maugham ("A String of Pearls") and Roald Dahl ("Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat") went on to write stories somewhat like this, in which affluent people who engage in dubious business practices eventually find themselves stung. I believe that the tradition has at least some roots in de Maupassant's "The Necklace", although that story is far grimmer than any of the others discussed here.

Finally, "The Watch and the Scimitar" is an adventure tale, partly set in the Casbah in Algiers, no less. It shows lots of exotic foreign color.

Pemberton's A Gentleman's Gentleman has been cited as the pioneer Rogue book, but I have never even seen a copy, let alone read it.

The tales in Jewel Mysteries I Have Known, while dealing with crime, are not really all that close to the Rogue school. For one thing, there are no memorable rogues on the order of Raffles or Simon Carne in the book. Nor does the book have the anti-social glee one associates with Rogues. "The Ripening Rubies" does anticipate the Rogue school in its look at lower class crooks adopting the clothes of the upper classes, and mingling with them socially, to steal their jewels.

Despite the fact that this story dates from the Doyle era, its technique recalls the casebook literature of Waters and Forrester from 30 years previously. There is the same heroic narrator, infiltrating bad guys, detecting their crimes while preserving a certain incognito, and leading a police raid on the bad guys' headquarters, just as Forrester's hero did in "Arrested on Suspicion". There is also considerable, realistic attention paid to servants in this story, just as there was in Forrester. There is also a vivid portrait of London Society in this tale.

The title of the story refers to the yellow color of the stolen rubies in the tale; Pemberton has a penchant for color titles.

Doyle Influenced Writers

Harry Blyth

In the work of Harry Blyth, creator of Sexton Blake, we can see a major, though now largely hidden influence on later writers. The conspiracy scenes of "The Accusing Shadow" (1894) anticipate similar, later scenes in Chesterton's The Man Who was Thursday, Christie's The Secret of Chimneys, and Sayers' "The Cave of Ali Baba". Sayers wrote appreciatively about Blyth's work, and Lord Peter Wimsey apparently originated as a character in a Sexton Blake story Sayers was attempting to write. I don't know much about spy fiction, but it might be mentally searched by experts for traces of Blythian and Blakean influence, as well. Blyth's fiction has also a strong Sherlock Holmes like feel.

These are all British writers, and one suspects Sexton Blake was a major formative influence on generations of young Britishers, including many future writers. By contrast, one wonders if Blake was much read in this country (the US).

George R. Sims

Despite the use of phrases like "The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes", most of the detective writers who followed in Doyle's footsteps in the 1890's do not write fiction much in Doyle's style. Arthur Morrison's tales, for example, seem very different from Doyle's in plot and mood. But George R. Sims' "The Man With the Wild Eyes" does seem Doyle-like. There is the same mystery oriented plot, with an ongoing investigation into a continuing mysterious situation that persists through the whole story, rather than just being a puzzle at the start of the tale; the same sense of threat and menace; the same way separate groups of characters seem to carry on independent schemes (in this story, the father, the daughter, and the assailant); the same sort of middle class characters possessed of dynamic energy, who have a certain presence, with forceful personalities all their own. Dorcas Dene's narrator Saxon also seems most Watson like, with his devotion to the detective, and willingness to assist her with her investigations on a volunteer basis. Like Doyle, Sims also has an international perspective, with characters who have just returned from India.

Watching Dorcas impersonate a nurse to do detective work also reminds one of the numerous 20th century nurse detectives: is this the first use of this plot?

Sims' use of such archetypal images as a pool and a gate also seems especially well done. The pool seems to represent the return of repressed images and dangerous events. The heroine is found lying half in and half out of it, just barely alive; later the pool will turn up all sorts of information. The pool is a female symbol; it also represents memory. The way the assailant in the case gradually emerges more and more throughout the story is a fine piece of detection, and also a well done example of mise en scene, with a man figuratively emerging from the mists, or from the unconscious.

Like most of the Dene tales, "The Man With the Wild Eyes" shows Sims' careful creativity with detection. We see step by step how Dorcas Dene discovers each new fact in the tale. We see Dene's stratagems, which allow her to explore areas and locales associated with the crime; we see her using clues to reconstruct the crime; we see her ingenious search for new sources of information; we see her tracking characters and following their trails. The detection is very full bodied. Sims clearly feels that such detection is one of the main subjects of a detective story, perhaps the principal one, along with the nature of the crime itself. It makes for a very well developed traditional detective story, which each new fact following logically from genuine detective work.

Also, it enhances the status of Dorcas Dene as a detective. She comes across as a genuine professional. She always uses real detection, never guess work or coincidence, to solve her cases. Her cases are solved by brain work, and lots of it. Certainly she has equal ability to any male detectives: no detective of either gender could work more intelligently or professionally to detect crime. This professional status for her is deeply embedded in the structure of the plot: it is based on the solid detective work she performs throughout her adventures. The feminism of this portrait of a woman detective is deeply enhanced by the careful plotting of Sims' tales.

"The Diamond Lizard" is a tale about stolen jewelry. It is ultimately comic in tone, with Sims coming up with elegant plot constructions tracing the path of the stolen items. Both the crime schemes and Dene's detective work also build up to elegant patterns of plot in "The Mysterious Millionaire".

The Dorcas Dene tales have some ties to Rogue literature, as well. Elegant stories of the flow of jewelry such as "The Diamond Lizard" recall Max Pemberton's "The Comedy of the Jeweled Links". The night club scenes in that tale look forward to E. Phillips Oppenheim, and his fascination with danger and fighting in sinister but exciting night clubs. The way that Dene is always getting disguised and going undercover in different roles, also anticipates the Rogue tradition.

The Dene stories have a nice plotting flow, in which detail after detail is added to some scheme, either detection by the heroine, or the crime by the villain. The flow is a pleasing reading experience, like listening to a piece of music. The details all fit into a logical pattern. They tend to be bigger and more extended than the reader first assumed was possible; it is pleasant to watch such a logical design be preserved and extended. The plot ideas tend to involve activities: actions taken by a character. Many of these actions are secret, and concealed from others.

Both "The Diamond Lizard" and "The Mysterious Millionaire" have feminist overtones, perhaps not surprising in an author who creates a female detective. Sims looks at the dark side of well to do Victorian men, and their treatment of the women in their lives. Doyle had also looked at the exploitative nature of male-female relationships. Telling such "home truths" about male and female social standing seems to be one of the purposes of the 1890's detective story.

Also interesting is the way Dene orders her "Watson" Mr. Saxon around, directing his activities and providing all the brain work and planning for his actions. There is nothing too unusual about this: Sherlock Holmes similarly directed Watson, and such a brain power / leg work division of labor is standard in detective fiction history. What is unusual is that the detective here is a woman, giving a man orders. Dene is completely successful at this, with her instructions to Mr. Saxon always bearing fruit in unearthing new clues and information. This portrait of an able woman boss must have been quite startling in its day.

The end of the first chapter of "The Diamond Lizard" mentions both Gaboriau's Lecoq and Doyle's Sherlock Holmes - another example of the long tradition of detective writers paying homage to their predecessors. Some features of Sims do seem Gaboriau like. Dorcas Dene is a master of disguise. In "The Mysterious Millionaire" Dene uses physical clues ingeniously to track people, and to reconstruct events at crime scenes. Sims shows considerable inventiveness at such use of clues, in the Gaboriau tradition.

"The Haverstock Hill Murder" is notable mainly for the detection Dorcas Dene does. There is a good reconstruction of the crime, something popular in Gaboriau and Anna Katherine Green. There is also much charming use of disguise, and following of race track crooks. Doyle's stories are full of disguise, and Sims' tale is in the tradition of such Doyle works as "A Scandal in Bohemia" (1891). Not only does Dorcas Dene show ingenuity in her disguises, but she also disguises subsidiary characters in her schemes, just as in Doyle.

That British staple, the tracing of the bank notes, gets some new wrinkles here. This is one of the earliest stories I remember reading in which such notes play a role.

The introductory chapter of Dorcas Dene, Detective, "The Council of Four", sets up Dene as a character, and introduces us to her husband and mother, with whom she lives, as well as her Watson, Mr. Saxon. This is the weakest part of the book. The mystery case Dene solves here, "The Helsham Mystery", is less inventive than most later Dene stories. Worse, Dene is depicted as subservient to the alleged intellect of her obnoxious male chauvinist husband, and as a follower of all sorts of Victorian nonsense about Womanly Ideals of behavior. This chapter seems to be a sop to chauvinistic ideas about women, popular in their day. It has rightly been criticized by Professor Kathleen Gregory Klein in her book The Woman Detective: Gender & Genre (1988). Fortunately, once the actual cases of Dene start getting underway in the subsequent chapters, all of this is ignored. Dene's dismal husband largely disappears as a character, and Dene shows outstanding detective skills throughout the book. This portrait of a highly intelligent, gifted woman excelling in her profession through ability is deeply feminist.

Headon Hill

The Divinations of Kala Persad

The Divinations of Kala Persad (in book form 1895) is a story collection starring the detective team of elderly Indian Kala Persad and young Britisher Mark Poignand. Headon Hill's two detectives are the only Sherlock Holmes era team I know of in Britain who have a division of labor in detection.

The role played by Kala Persad is similar to the pure thinking that Sherlock Holmes often does to solve cases. Holmes and Persad hear the story of a case, learn about its basic situation, analyze it, and come up with a unique insight that shows the hidden, underlying pattern. Both Holmes and Persad do this through pure thinking. In both Doyle and Hill, this hidden solution is often startlingly different from the apparent situation of the case, involving some unique twist. Doyle's approach here is clearly the ancestor of the Intuitionist detectives of the 20th Century, such as those of Chesterton, Christie, Queen and Carr. Hill, who is plainly influenced by Doyle, has separated this function out to one of his two detectives.

Mark Poignand, on the other hand, does Holmes' functions of disguise, on the spot investigation, evidence gathering and probing of motives. The point of view character of the stories, he does not figure out the central solution of the crime, but he has to gather all the evidence that will stand up in court. He is definitely not a Watson, unlike most of the detective associates in the Holmes era. In Doyle's stories, Watson provides bravery and personal support, but he does not actually detect, except on rare occasions when separated from Holmes, as in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902).

Kala Persad and Mark Poignand anticipate, to a degree, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe and Archie Godwin, with Persad being a genius, and narrator Poignand being an energetic young detective who does leg work. However, the roles of Hill's pair are far more strictly defined than Nero and Archie, both of whom can take on each other's typical tasks.

Kala Persad is in some ways an early "armchair detective", someone who solves mysteries brought to him, without ever leaving his seat. The work usually cited as the start of armchair detection is Orczy's The Old Man in the Corner, first published in 1901, some years after the Persad tales.

It is worth looking at Kala Persad's thought processes in detail. The narrator at first says that Persad is a mystic Indian who arrives at his processes through some non-rational process, maybe reading minds. But Persad himself says that he arrives at his results through reasoning and insight, and Hill seems to agree.

While Headon Hill is a lone Britisher offering teams of detection, we can find them in an American writer of a different school, Anna Katherine Green. Her detectives, in any given novel, often come in teams, mixing both amateurs and professionals, together with different types of professional. This approach was also followed by some American writers influenced by Green, such as Pauline E. Hopkins and Mary Wilkins Freeman. One also remembers the rivalry in the American Ottolengui between the two detectives Mr. Barnes and Mr. Mitchell. Still, Hill's detective team is different from any of these, in that his detectives are part of a commercial team. They are consulting detectives in the Holmes tradition, not mixtures of police and amateurs as in the Green school.

Clues From a Detective's Camera

"The Sapient Monkey" (1892) is a mild, pleasant, much-anthologized short story. It is not at the level of The Divinations of Kala Persad. "The Sapient Monkey" and the Persad tale "The Divination of The Zagury Capsules" share some character types: SPOILERS. Both tales also feature mystery plot aspects, about how a substitution took place of an imitation of an object for the genuine article. Both tales show some ingenuity in this regard.

George Hibbard

George Hibbard was a prolific writer of short stories, mainly for American "slick" magazines. He published several story collections in book form. He is not well-remembered today. Quite a lot of Hibbard's work seems to be mainstream fiction, broadly defined, rather than mystery.

George A. Hibbard published tales in magazines from 1883-1895. Then George Hibbard is the credited author of numerous magazine tales 1897-1918. One suspects these are the same man - but I'm not sure!

I learned about George Hibbard from the excellent site Ontos.

The Mystery of the Centenarian: A Short Story

"The Mystery of the Centenarian" (1905) is a short story, starring woman amateur detective Hermia Wyatt. It might be a non-series work. Hermia Wyatt is a professional painter with an international reputation, who lives in Manhattan. She is a dignified and intelligent person.

Armchair Detection. "The Mystery of the Centenarian" shows the armchair detective format, previously seen in Headon Hill and Baroness Orczy. It is closer to Headon Hill, with a stationary detective who sits and thinks and never goes anywhere, and a mobile operative that goes out and gathers data. In "The Mystery of the Centenarian", the stay-at-home detective is Hermia Wyatt, and the mobile information gatherer is New York City reporter John Elwood. (Later that year, the Watson of Jacques Futrelle's Thinking Machine tales will be reporter Hutchinson Hatch.)

Hermia Wyatt resembles Orczy's Old Man in the Corner, in that she gets information from newspapers.

Detective Work. The solution at the end is not fully fair play. It contains a lot of details that could not have been deduced in advance by the reader. However, this does not spoil the tale. The broad outlines of such a solution have become apparent by then, even if the details cannot be anticipated.

By contrast, most of the detective work preceding the finale is logical and well-clued.

Reason Vs Women's Intuition. Narrator Elwood at first says that Wyatt shows women's intuition: that sexist, dubious concept popular in that era. But he immediately says in the next paragraph that Wyatt is gifted at "analysis and deduction". Wyatt's actual detective work shown in the story is strongly based on analysis and deduction. Only a tiny bit, one statement by her about James Bosworth needing help, is credited to woman's intuition. I think that analysis and deduction is a good thing, and that "The Mystery of the Centenarian" and Wyatt are much stronger and sounder for emphasizing analysis and deduction.

I also agree with Elwood, when he soon says that Wyatt's deductive processes are "reasonable". Wyatt's "analysis and deduction" are indeed grounded in reason. So are the "analysis and deduction" used by other authors' detectives in good mystery fiction as a whole.

I think today's feminists will be pleased with "The Mystery of the Centenarian", in showing a woman with keen reasoning and detective skills.

Artists. "The Mystery of the Centenarian" is sympathetic to artists, with both painter sleuth Hermia Wyatt and likable young witness James Bosworth being artists.

Manhattan. Reporter Elwood says, with some justification, that "Manhattan is now the spot toward which the current of the world's life is turning -- that there is the centre where all people are gathering." It is interesting to see such a view expressed as early as 1905.

Illustration. "The Mystery of the Centenarian" has illustrations by John Clitheroe Gilbert. Their most notable feature is depicting reporter Elwood as a well-dressed leading man type. There is only one portrait of sleuth Hermia Wyatt.

Gilbert is perhaps best known for illustrating the Wall Street science fiction The Promoters: A Novel Without a Woman (1904) by William Hawley Smith.

August Derleth

Solar Pons

August Derleth wrote a long series of pastiches of Sherlock Holmes. His detective is named Solar Pons, and lives a life modeled after Sherlock Holmes. The stories tend to be comic, or at least genial in tone.

Derleth excelled at stories about searches for hidden treasure. This is a standard kind of mystery tale, dating back at least to Poe's "The Gold-Bug" (1843). Derleth's treasure hunts have an especial charm. "The Adventure of The Purloined Periapt" and "The Adventure of the Mosaic Cylinders" (1959) are among his most involving works as story telling.

Derleth was Catholic, and Catholic subject matter sometimes appears in his work. "The Adventure of the Black Cardinal" (1930) is built around events in the 20th Century history of the Catholic Church. It deals not with theology or ritual, but various factions, their conflicts, and interactions with historical events. I am neither a historian nor an expert on religion, and am unable to judge the accuracy of the tale's references. But I can praise the tale as an attempt to do something different, in basing a mystery on events in the history of religion.

No Future for Luana

No Future for Luana (1945) is one of the series of mystery novels August Derleth wrote about wise Judge Ephraim Peck. Judge Peck solves mysteries in the fictitious village of Sac Prairie, Wisconsin, USA. Derleth also wrote mainstream, non-mystery novels about Sac Prairie, an unusual example of an author mixing together his mainstream and mystery fiction in a common background.

Both as a mystery and as a sociological portrait, No Future for Luana is thin, simple and undistinguished. It rarely rises to heights of insight that would make it interesting reading.

Plays in tents. The victim is a member of a traveling stage troupe, that puts on plays in tents in rural areas throughout the Midwest. We see one of their typical shows (Chapter 1), and learn about the history of the troupe (start of Chapter 4). Unfortunately, most of these details are about what one might expect or guess.

We learn that the traveling troupe began in the 1910's, when the rise of movies offered competition to plays in theaters (start of Chapter 4). No Future for Luana claims that plays in tents were actually much more profitable than plays in theaters. It does not explain why, however, or offer an in-depth look at theater finance.

Before the play there is a bit of vaudeville. A pianist does a swing version of Tchaikovsky (Chapter 1). This was an era in which classical music was sometimes fused with pop. In real life, a Wisconsin musician named Liberace was just rising to fame with his mixed classical and popular approach. Crossover classical musician protagonists appear in Edgar G. Ulmer's film classics Detour (1945) and Carnegie Hall (1947).

No Future for Luana shows promotional events before the show, selling the audience boxes of candy linked to prizes. A mystery on a related topic: Hugh Lawrence Nelson's Dead Giveaway (1950). "Giveaways" were live shows before films in movie theaters, in which prizes were given away to the audience.

No Future for Luana doesn't try to suggest there is anything culturally significant about the mainly cornball fare the troupe offers.

Cooperative Farm. A farm is worked cooperatively by two families (start of Chapter 5). It started out as two family farms, neighbors to each other. However, when one farm house burned down, the family moved in with their neighbors, and the two families discovered they liked living and working together. I don't recall seeing this sort of cooperative farm in other books. Stories instead tend to emphasize the extreme isolation of farm life, with each family deeply separated from their nearest neighbors: see Susan Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers" (1916).

We also learn that most of the family members are college graduates.