Friday, December 9, 2016

"She Has Been Stealing from Me Little by Little for the Last Six Months"

"My Detective Instinct."
By Emma M. Wise (?-?).
First appearance: The Black Cat, February 1898.
Short story (10 pages).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE) (PDF).
"It was as though I had severed all relation with the established system of gravitation, and was whirling through space with the bronze figures of Washington and Napoleon on the mantelpiece attending me as satellites."
Pretty much dissatisfied with how things are going in her life and craving some adventure, on a whim Constance Stewart decides to represent herself as a private detective, and is delighted when a woman who runs a boarding house engages her to track down a thief—not the usual sort of thief, mind you, for this robber has stolen something that could never fit in a swag bag. To really complicate matters, Constance soon discovers that she sees this thief every time she looks in the mirror . . .

Comment: A good-natured, humorous story that spoofs what were even by that time detective fiction clichés, with a delightfully apt last line.

- According to FictionMags, "My Detective Instinct" appears to be one of only a few short stories Emma M. Wise had published; another story, this one more serious and not at all clever, which we think this same individual wrote for a church publication, is "Because of the Kidnapping" (1899), online (HERE), if you want to bother with it. The story mentions the sensational Charley Ross kidnapping case:
"Charles Brewster 'Charley' Ross (May 4, 1870 – disappeared July 1, 1874) was the primary victim of the first kidnapping for ransom in United States history to receive widespread attention from the media." — Wikipedia (HERE)

The bottom line: "Most detective story readers are an educated audience and know there are only a certain number of plots. The interest lies in what the writer does with them."
Kerry Greenwood

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