In a nutshell:
Insurance investigator tries to prove a murder (or three)
Language I read the book in: English
Did I like it? Absolutely. I loved it.
For people who: old fashioned like detective novels, modern detective novels, epistolary novels
The Notting Hill Mystery is said to be the first detective novel (published 1862-1863), even though some claim otherwise. Whether it is or not is irrelevant. I was so mesmerized by it I couldn’t put it down. Even though the crime and the perpetrator are clear from the start the suspense comes from finding out how the murderer did it and how the detective finds evidence. Not that we ever accompany the detective on his investigations, the whole book is a presentation of evidence in the form of floor plans, letters, statements and testimonials from witnesses and I can only begin to imagine how much time and effort it cost poor Henderson to track down people and get them to cooperate. There are dubious circus managers, insurance clerks, maids fired for petty theft, there is no end to the list of people who have something to contribute.
Things that nowadays take 5 minutes to find out with the help of an email to Australia, must have taken months then, but Henderson perseveres. A word of caution: In order to go with the flow and accept the solution to the mystery you need to be open to rather esoteric (or mumbo jumbo, depending on your point of view) topics, but, really, the story is so well told and from so many different perspectives that it hardly matters whether you believe in animal magnetism or not.
Baron R** deserves a place among the top fiends in detective fiction. He achieves the results he wants in such a casual way that people who do his bidding actually do not even realize this and rather think he wanted them to do the opposite. Very admirable, when you come to think of it. Even at the end of the book it is more than questionable whether his crimes can ever be proven and whether he can be prosecuted (let alone convicted). It is obvious he did it, but nailing him down is another matter. Brilliant!
Right from the start The Notting Hill Mystery reminded me of another favourite detective novel by Dorothy L. Sayers and Robert Eustace which came much later (1930) called “The documents in the case”. In that book the whole case is presented in the form of documents (letters, witness reports etc.) without any detective work as we know it going on.
Absolutely loved this one. I highly recommend it.
Product info and buy link :
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Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.