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The Notting Hill Mystery: The First Detective Novel Paperback – Illustrated, 23 Feb 2012

20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: The British Library Publishing Division (23 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712358595
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712358590
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 385,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The book is both utterly of its time and utterly ahead of it."--Paul Collins, "New York"" Times Book Review"

--Paul Collins "New York Times Book Review "

"The book's premise is irresistible. A woman dies after apparently sleepwalking into her husband's laboratory and drinking from a bottle of acid. An insurance company investigator discovers that the husband had taken out no fewer than five policies on his wife. As in Columbo, we know the identity of the villain, but we must work out how the investigator will prove his case. All the paraphernalia of the 20th century detective novel is anticipated here: maps, marriage certificates, torn bits of letter, witness statements. Told in the form of a report by the investigator, it is as much dossier as novel. As the American academic has written, "the book is both utterly of its time and utterly ahead of it." 5 Star Review --Jake Kerridge, Daily Telegraph, March 10th 2012

In its new incarnation, The Notting Hill Mystery proves innovative and cheerfully demented, as it is presented in the form of diary entries, family letters, witness interviews, a chemical analysis report and a crime scene map. Its hero is an insurance investigator building a case against a sinister baron, and the case incorporates kidnapping, acid poisoning, three murders, a dodgy mesmerist and of course a rich uncle's will, all embellished with George Du Maurier's illustrations. Charles Warren Adams was a journalist and lawyer who wrote under a pseudonym, and it's good to have him back. --Christopher Fowler, The Independent 25 March 2012

The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Warren Adams was first published in 1865, yet the way it tells its bizarre tale of murder is astonishingly modern. --Daily Telegraph, 22nd April 2012

About the Author

Charles Warren Adams was a journalist, traveller, lawyer and sole proprietor of the firm Saunders, Otley & Co, which published Once a Week, the magazine in which The Notting Hill Mystery was first published.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Docdaved on 18 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book because of the claim to be the first detective novel. It's a very decent read and there is a well argued introduction to support the claim. Since the main character is an insurance agent rather than a detective, it could be argued that it is the first novel of detection but not a detective novel since it contains no detective but I suppose that depends on whether the word detective is understood as a noun or a verb. The epistolary style might put some people off but I found the letters and documents interesting though it doesn't do too much for characterisation. As for the first detective novel with a detective? I guess that we are back to Wilkie Collins' Sergeant Cuff. Good for anoraks like me rather than a general read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lorna on 16 July 2015
Format: Paperback
The structure is very different and possibly even unique compared to other detective/crime fiction I’ve read. As it’s told through insurance investigator Henderson’s perspective layered over the facts, it comes across as very clinical in its approach. I know that sounds boring, but I actually really liked it. I also liked that parts were told from different witness’ perspectives because that made it sound much more like a real, genuine crime case rather than a work of fiction.

It also took me quite a while to figure out what was actually going on. The beginning wasn’t difficult to understand, on the flipside it was actually pretty involving, but it just jumped straight in with loads of characters at once. That made me get a bit lost, but soon enough I managed to start figuring out what happened even before Henderson did. I’m not sure if that was intentional and the reader is supposed to know the twist already, but I did and it didn’t detract from the rest of the story for me.

The Notting Hill Mystery was a good, involving read, and was definitely unique. I’m glad I got the chance to read it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nelsdorter on 20 Jan. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I downloaded this book after a recommendation from The Guardian.
it originally appeared as instalments in a nineteenth century magazine, and the story is a pretty standard "penny dreadful" shocker, but what makes it interesting is the style, as the story is told though letters and reports, in what we would consider to be a very modern way.
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Format: Paperback
I thought this was a wonderful book but that is probably because I am a fan of the older mysteries and enjoy seeing how authors approached the genre in its young days. In this case, not just an infant but practically it's birth day. You might appreciate this novel more if you forget about it being billed as a detective novel because it definitely is not that. Instead you have an investigation presented from the point of view of an investigator for an insurance company into the death of someone the company he works for insured. As you read more and more of the letters, journal entries, statements and reports compiled by Mr. Henderson you watch his case build up.

The first of the letters concerning the characters were dated in the 1830s and the story concludes in about 1856. Watching Mr. Henderson line up his evidence regarding Baron R** and the mysterious happenings going on with those whose lives he touched was fascinating for me. Granted, this style of novel can be rather bland and dry but if you appreciate watching an expert gather his evidence you will be more likely to enjoy this novel. Knowing this story was published in 1865 gives readers a wonderful example of how the genre has evolved over time and how remarkable it was for Charles Warren Adams to have written this "first" so well. This is a novel for the reader who enjoys the language of the Victorian era and the meticulous gathering of evidence and presentation of that evidence in summary form. Quite an interesting curiosity and I'm very glad I had the chance to read it.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alison Thinks on 25 July 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very, very odd. You have to get through a lot of tosh, so it is really for people interested in the history of the detective novel or into the weirdness of the Victorians, rather than for mystery fans. But if you are interested in the period aspects, it is something you need to read. Mesmerism is a major plot mover. There is also hideous childbirth and other gratuitous female suffering, abduction by Gypsies and a sinister foreign Baron. And more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Booklover on 27 Jan. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very good story well told, but lots of typos - whoever proof-read it didn't do a very good job. The format of statements from different witnesses worked well.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephen on 4 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I suppose the detective novel had to start somewhere, and this, from 1865, is certainly a candidate. It is surprisingly modern in its format; there is little straightforward narrative, but rather a dossier of evidence. The trouble is that the mystery isn't very mysterious. It becomes clear quite early on what must have happened, and you have to endure some Victorian nonsense about long-lost relations as well as mesmerism.

I felt that the characters were no more than cyphers for the plot, and even the investigator, dogged and thorough as he is, does not really emerge as a defined character.

It's of moderate interest, but I think I will stick to Wilkie Collins.
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