Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Adams

book cover
The Notting Hill Mystery
by Charles Adams

ISBN-13: 9781464204807
Paperback: 235 pages
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Released: 1862; Aug 4, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through

Book Description from Goodreads:
The Notting Hill Mystery was first published between 1862 and 1863 as an eight-part serial in the magazine Once a Week, written under the pseudonym Charles Felix. It has been widely described as the first detective novel, pre-dating as it does other novels such as Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone (1868) and Emile Gaboriau's first Monsieur Lecoq novel (1869) that have previously claimed that accolade.

The story is told by insurance investigator Ralph Henderson, who is building a case against the sinister Baron 'R___', suspected of murdering his wife in order to obtain significant life insurance payments. Henderson descends into a maze of intrigue including a diabolical mesmerist, kidnapping by gypsies, slow-poisoners, a rich uncle's will and three murders. Presented in the form of diary entries, family letters, chemical analysis reports, interviews with witnesses and a crime scene map, the novel displays innovative techniques that would not become common features of detective fiction until the 1920s.

Now made available again, with George du Maurier's original illustrations included for the first time since the original serial publication, this new edition of The Notting Hill Mystery will be welcomed by all fans of detective fiction.

My Review:
The Notting Hill Mystery is a historical mystery novel set in 1856 in England. It's actually a reprint of a story written as a contemporary mystery. This book was written in a unique format, even for the time. The narrator is a man who was sent to investigate a suspicious death for an insurance agency who wanted to make sure the death was not murder. The investigation has concluded and the story is essentially his report written in chronological order of the victims life. So we get letters that set the whole thing up, then statements and reports about events that led up to the death. It's essentially a detective book filled only with interviews.

I loved how the story unfolded and I could see how it was all slowly connecting together. There is a section at the end where it's all explained for those who missed the clues. The narrator thinks it murder but can't quite believe how it was done. It's based on the idea that these twin sisters will react to the illnesses and injuries of the other, plus that hypnotism was used. It's meant to leave the reader a little uncertain--could it really happen? I think it did an excellent job at what it was trying to do.

There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this intriguing mystery to those interested in mystery stories before the genre got it's modern rules.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.


Anne Payne said...

Debbie, This sounds like an interesting layout for a novel. I'm definitely intrigued enough to search out a copy. :)

Debbie said...

If you read it, tell me how you like it. :)