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The Big Bow Mystery Paperback – 15 Aug 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Dybbuk Press, LLC (15 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0976654636
  • ISBN-13: 978-0976654636
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.1 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,508,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BobH on 6 April 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
`The Big Bow Mystery' by Israel Zangwill certainly lives up to its name. The novel reeks of Victorian atmosphere as it produces right from the start the `closed room' mystery. A landlady cannot arouse a lodger so she summons a neighbour, a retired detective called Grodman, to help. They burst in to find Arthur Constant, throat cut while asleep, with the door locked and bolted, windows closed and no weapon in sight (so not suicide).
The novella is packed with interesting characters that are vividly drawn. I should have realised that Zangwill was a noted humourist by the way these characters are handled. The saintly agitator (Arthur Constant) aka the victim; the steadfast but innocent landlady (Mrs. Dragdump) supplying much of the extensive humour, especially at the legal proceedings; the retired detective (George Grodman) guiding the reader through the forensics but obsessed by rivalry with his successor (Wimp) at the Yard; the blinkered, arrogant detective (Edward Wimp) who EXPLOITS the law rather than acts as its servant; the odious and deceitful scrounger (Denzil Cantercot), a self-styled poet and clear suspect; the ambitious rabble-rouser (Tom Mortlake) who performs the role of chief suspect - perhaps unjustly; the forthright radical (Peter Crowl), so keen to lead others but so hen-pecked by his wife; and the `femme fatale' (Jessie Dymond), basically off-stage but the answer to the mystery.
The background is that of the social unrest (e.g. 1889 Dockers Strike) which led to excessive anti-union legislation and so to the creation of the Labour Party (1900). It was the era of not just Socialism but also Communism and even Anarchism. Some of the characters are part of that world. It was also the world when police faced growing public expectation and not always successfully (e.g.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rachel London on 19 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
It's not really worth buying this book, it's just a scanned-in copy, with many errors in the text. You'd be much better off downloading it for free from Project Guttenberg.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book was very well written and although over a hundred years ago you could feel the area and the atmosphere and enjoyed it a lot.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
One of the earliest locked-room mysteries 8 Mar. 1998
By P. Mann - Published on
Format: Audio Cassette
Author Israel Zangwill wrote one of the earliest locked-room mysteries in "The Big Bow Mystery." A woman becomes discouraged when she cannot wake her new lodger. He is in his room, which has been locked from the inside. Despite her fervent knocks, she simply cannot wake him, and she hears no sounds from within. Convinced that her lodger has been murdered, she enlists the help of a celebrated ex-detective neighbor. He breaks down the door, and the lodger is found dead in his bed, his throat slit. The door was indeed locked from the inside, and the windows were similarly secured. Thus is the puzzle at the heart of one of the earliest (circa 1891) locked-room mysteries.
Zangwill has indeed included a masterful puzzle, though the story itself is somewhat problematic. The middle of the story is unnecessarily complex and confusing, and there is a bit too much devotion to politics. Still, the book is very accessible, and anyone with a fondness for the sort of "impossible" crime that John Dickson Carr (a.k.a. Carter Dickson, a.k.a. Carr Dickson) later made famous should read this early entry to the genre.
Note: I read the paperback book for this review and have not listened to the tapes.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Semi-decent mystery 28 Aug. 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Israel Zangwill did not write this novel to write a mystery, he wrote it to be a satire of Victorian England. The charecters are on dimesional at best, and completely unlikeable, even the detective. The solution for the mystery is belivable, but the reason for the impossible nature of the crime is completely unbelivable. Like the other reviewers have said, and I agree, the middle of the story is completely pointless, as are several of the charecters. But, it was the first locked room mystery novel, so I must give it some credit.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Lots to like 23 Dec. 2010
By Paul Roberge - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
One of the main points of this novel is that people see what they expect to see, and do so at the expense of what's really there. So, caveat lector. Don't start this early locked-room mystery (the first?) expecting a purist's detective tale of the later (Golden Age) type. That's not to say that it isn't a decent locked-room mystery with a couple of last-page surprises, but Zangwill also uses the genre as a vehicle for his ideas and observations, and for poking fun at late Victorian London. The novel offers a good representation of the period--especially with regards to the labor movement--Dickensian characters (almost caricatures, not necessarily likeable but still entertaining), and quite a bit of sardonic humor.

In that regard it struck me as more "modern" than many later and more pristine detective novels of the twenties and thirties.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Good premise and writing 21 Sept. 2012
By S. Silverman - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
This newspaper serial from the 1890s is a decidedly mixed blessing. In my eBook anthology (not Kindle), it is a bit short of a hundred pages, making me wonder if I didn't get an abridged copy. Be that as it may, there were strengths, most notably lovely language and an intriguing mystery beginning, a murdered man in a room locked and secured from the inside. In the included preface, the author acknowledges that even HE didn't know whodunit at the beginning, and he solved it as the story neared its climax, deliberately working it out so that the murderer was one whom nobody had suspected in the readers' responses to the newspapers in which it was serialized. For this reader, that left an unsatisfactory conclusion, one which didn't follow in any compelling way from the story, a story which, given the ending, in retrospect seemed to do a lot of aimless wandering around. I would read more Zangwill for his use of language, but would be hard-pressed to recommend this mystery.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By David R. Eastwood - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Israel Zangwill's THE BIG BOW MYSTERY (1891) is a short Fair-Play Puzzle novel written decades before John Dickson Carr and Agatha Christie appeared on the mystery scene. It involves a young man found dead in his bed inside his room, whose windows were all latched and whose door was locked and bolted from the inside.

All the clues that readers need are provided, but this is one of the harder puzzles you're likely to encounter. The good news is that Zangwill is a highly intelligent writer who provides not only an excellent puzzle but a great deal of good humor, good psychological analysis, and good social commentary throughout.

It is possible that Elizabeth Peters' "The Locked Tomb Mystery" (1989), a short story set in Egypt, "borrowed" key parts from the plot of this novel, but it is absolutely certain that the 1946 crime movie THE VERDICT, starring Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet (which I saw by chance on Cablevision last night), was at least 85 percent based on Zangwill's book.
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