15 February 2015

Review: THAT AFFAIR NEXT DOOR, Anna Katherine Green

  • first published 1897
  • this edition contained in The Anna Katharine Green Mystery Megapack, a selection of 35 novels and stories published in e-book format by Wildside Press (May 20, 2013)
  • #1 in the Amelia Butterworth series, also listed as Mr Gryce #8
Synopsis (Good Reads)

First published in 1897, That Affair Next Door is another fascinating study in human motivations intertwined with bits and pieces of circumstantial evidence that at first make very little sense. True to Green’s style, she calls up and explains each motivation, each piece of evidence with mathematical precision until the mystery unravels and the perpetrator is punished in a most fitting fashion.

The dead body of a woman was found under a large cabinet. But she had been dead four hours before the cabinet fell upon her. The owners of the house had been on vacation and the place empty. Who was she and why was she in the empty house all alone?

Amelia Butterworth lives next door and had noticed a man and a young woman entering the house close on midnight. Then the man came out some ten minutes later by himself. The next morning Amelia insists that a policeman gain access to the house and he and a cleaning lady discover the young woman's body.

My Take

I found this an exasperating novel. It is quite long and largely consists of theories regarding the murder posed by Amelia Butterworth and the 77 year old police detective Inspector Gryce.

Some reviews I have read of the Amelia Butterworth novels, of which this is the first, talk about Butterworth as being the forerunner of Miss Marple. Certainly, there are similarities: a quite elderly spinster, a bit of a sticky beak, rather self opiniated, and rather unlikeable. She softens as the novel progresses.

At times Miss Butterworth works in collaboration with the police, but after they make their first arrest, she decides that they have the wrong man, and strikes out investigating on her own, accompanied by her lady's maid. But each time she or the police come up with a scenario which doesn't quite fit the facts and in the long run Amelia Butterworth produces a rabbit from the hat, something the police did not know. But even then there is a twist to the tale, something Butterworth did not know.

My rating: 3.8

I have also reviewed: X.Y.Z. A Detective Story, a novella published in 1883

About the author

Anna Katharine Green (1846-1935) was an American poet and novelist. She was one of the first writers of detective fiction in America and distinguished herself by writing well plotted, legally accurate stories (no doubt assisted by her lawyer father). Born in Brooklyn, New York, her early ambition was to write romantic verse, and she corresponded with Ralph Waldo Emerson. When her poetry failed to gain recognition, she produced her first and best known novel, The Leavenworth Case (1878). She became a bestselling author, eventually publishing about 40 books. She was in some ways a progressive woman for her time-succeeding in a genre dominated by male writers-but she did not approve of many of her feminist contemporaries, and she was opposed to women's suffrage. Her other works include A Strange Disappearance (1880), The Affair Next Door (1897), The Circular Study (1902), The Filigree Ball (1903), The Millionaire Baby (1905), The House in the Mist (1905), The Woman in the Alcove (1906), The House of the Whispering Pines (1910), Initials Only (1912), and The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow (1917).


Anonymous said...

I have several of Green's novels on the reader (thanks, Project Gutenberg!) and keep meaning to give her a try. From what you say, this may not be the one to start with! Thanks for the pewrceptive review.

Rick Robinson said...

I have found both of the novels of hers that I tried to be plodding and dull. I know she is revered by many, but I don't see the quality.


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