Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Amateur detectives of 100 years ago.

A NYT article of March 12, 1911, listed "tales that will test the ingenuity of experts in the literature of mystery," but not all were universally embraced by the reviewer. The books were the following:

"I'll shoot," she
announced in a tense tone,
"so help me, I'll shoot."
Illustration by J. V. McFall
from The Paternoster Ruby.
The Dazzling Miss Davison by Florence Warden [actress-author Florence Alice Price James] (1910). Is the beautiful Miss Davison a pickpocket and a shoplifter, under the "hypnotic control [of] some very capable crook"? Filmed in 1917.

The Paternoster Ruby by Charles Edmonds Walk (1910). A detective investigates the murder of a skinflint who owned a priceless jewel.

The De Bercy Affair by Gordon Holmes [Louis Tracy] (1910, illus. Howard Chandler Christy). An actress is murdered; suspects include her wealthy fiance and anarchists. A "well-constructed detective tale, with plenty of false clues to lead the reader astray" [and a] "Chief Inspector, who is a much more human and attractive person than the customary detective of fiction."

The Key to Yesterday by Charles Neville Buck (1910). An artist with no memory of his past begins to look into what he once was. Filmed in 1914. Buck has "to enjoin his characters from attempting such curious stunts with their eyes—as when his heroine stifles 'a mutinous impulse of her pupils to riffle into amusement.'"

The Quests of Paul Beck by M. McDonnell Bodkin (1910). A dozen murders that have baffled others are solved by the detective of the title; Bodkin was a judge and served in the Irish Parliament. His notable female detective is Dora Myrl (Dora Myrl, the Lady Detective, 1900)—a "Sherlock Holmes in petticoats," according to the Morning Leader.

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