Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"Dawdling and Prolixity"

By Mrs. Charles Bryce (1839-1920).
John Lane Co.
1914. 344 pages. 6s.
Available on Kindle.
Online HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Here's the full review (THE NATION, September 3, 1914):
Mrs. Vanderstein was the still comely widow of a Jewish money-lender, and had the habit of wearing a king's ransom in jewels. It therefore befell her to be lured into a strange house and murdered. The manner of her taking-off was, we regret to say, rather tame and commonplace, since she was merely chloroformed like a cat. In disposing of the body, however, the murderers really achieved the sort of novelty called for in this order of fiction. They hit upon a new place for an inconvenient corpse, namely, a large, a very large flowerbox on a balcony. The pot of basil, with its dolorous skull, is quite outdone.
How Gimblet, the detective, discovers the house, the crime, the box, the body, and the murderers, is the substance of the story. Gimblet, with his languor, his connoisseurship, and his inductive method—or is it deductive?—bears a somewhat striking resemblance to Dr. Watson's Sherlock. He carries a microscope,and a set of pill-boxes in which he solemnly deposits bits of dust, hairs, and the like. Nothing escapes him, not even the murderer. This is all as it should be, for the purpose.
Detective stories are commonly reducible to formula, and the Sherlock recipe is better than most. But in Conan Doyle's own hands it has proved better adapted to short stories than to a mystery novel. Much of the great Holmes's glamour is due to the celerity of his method. This Gimblet is a dawdling gentleman and a garrulous, more, as it seems, by the author's fault than his own. If anything is fatal to a tale of mystery, it is dawdling and prolixity. The material in this book might have been condensed into a fairly effective short story.
Another review (THE SPECTATOR, 5 September 1914), a one-liner:
Few will be able to solve this admirable detective story, the only fault of which is its excessive length.

Category: Detective fiction.

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