Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"A Pleasant Surprise Awaits the Reader"

By Edward Clary Root.
Frederick A. Stokes Co.
1907. 339 pages.
Online HERE.
As far as the Internet is concerned, this book barely exists:
Detective stories involving murder mysteries do not seem likely to offer anything agreeably new. But in this respect a pleasant surprise awaits the reader of The Unseen Jury, by Edward Clary Root.
An old man, highly honoured and deeply beloved in his native town, is found dead one morning in a stream near his home, apparently having been thrown into the water from a rustic bridge just above. Suspicion naturally centres upon a dissipated young fellow who has long sought the dead man's daughter in marriage, and has been heard to utter violent threats against him on account of his persistent opposition.
Circumstantial evidence accumulates until there is not a doubt in the mind of any one in town, save that of the dead man's daughter, that the prisoner is guilty. There is not even a single voice raised to protect his interests, until suddenly, swayed by curiously complex motives, the dead man's foster son, who is a metropolitan lawyer of note, decides to champion him. He, too, has leaped to the conclusion that the prisoner is guilty, and all the more willingly, because they both of them love the same girl and have long regarded each other as rivals.
But now, suddenly, when he sees the other friendless, helpless, menaced with such an imminent danger, a fine sense of honour impels him to give his rival the benefit of the doubt, to force himself to believe in his innocence, to give his days and nights to the task of saving him, even though acquittal might mean the loss to himself of the girl he loves.
So he toils on in the face of the indignant opposition of all his former friends; and every day fresh courage and energy come to him, because every day the conviction grows that he is doing right—that his client is not the guilty man he at first believed him.
And all the while, had he only known it, there is in existence convincing documentary evidence, the reading of which would have spared the jury even a minute's deliberation. But fate willed it that this evidence should not come to light until the last day of the trial, and that even then it should seem best not to use it. But this is precisely the point upon which the main interest of the story turns. — Frederic Taber Cooper, "The Fetich of Form and Some Recent Novels," THE BOOKMAN (May 1907; scroll to page 286, right)
. . . the story of a suspicious death, of an accusation of murder founded on circumstantial evidence carefully provided, and of a great criminal trial in which the hero appears as counsel for his dearest enemy and rival in love, and the author drives a coach and four through the rules of evidence. It is a novel in one dimension. It has length but neither breadth nor depth. — J. B. Kerfoot, "The Latest Books," LIFE (1907)

Category: Detective fiction

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