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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Noun or Verb?
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...
Published 22 months ago by Docdaved

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a curio
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...
Published on 4 Jun 2012 by Stephen


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Noun or Verb?, 18 Feb 2013
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This review is from: The Notting Hill Mystery: The First Detective Novel (Paperback)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder mystery, 27 Jan 2013
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read, 20 Jan 2013
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars A historical curiosity rather than a masterpiece of detection, 25 July 2014
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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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a curio, 4 Jun 2012
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This review is from: The Notting Hill Mystery: The First Detective Novel (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 7 July 2014
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Great
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3.0 out of 5 stars Of interest to history buffs, 6 July 2014
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Interesting but not too enthralling. It's of historical interest but not a cracking good read. If you are looking for something contemporary look elsewhere. Probably of interest to those who are studying English at AS or A level, criminology from a historical viewpoint, or those studying Victorian England.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Nottinghill Mystery, 23 April 2014
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This review is from: The Notting Hill Mystery: The First Detective Novel (Paperback)
I was a bit disappointed in this book. Written as the report of an insurance inspector, supported by witness statements, newspaper reports, letters and other expert reports, the story of the deaths of two young wives unfolds in a quite intriguing way but with obviously less drama than straight narration. I also found it slightly repetitive at times. It ends with the inspector's report which summarises all the evidence but does not draw a conclusion - this is left for the insurance assessors - and the readers - to arrive at for themselves and I found that rather unsatisfactory (though I did form a conclusion). The Female Detective and Revelations of a Lady Detective, written a little later, are more entertaining and satisfying and I recommend them. Written in the 1980s but set a hundred years earlier, stories by Catherine Shaw also take the form of letters and newspaper reports and these are really excellent stories which I think any fan of detective literature would enjoy - very well plotted, pacey and intriguing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good and ground-breaking read, 15 Nov 2013
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Well worth reading. Fascinating structure and almost completely plausible denouement. Fascinating to read such an early example of British crime fiction.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent trend-setter, 9 April 2012
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"The Notting Hill Mystery" by Charles Felix (a pseudonym for Charles Warren Adams) is lauded as `the first detective novel in English' because it was published (1863) five years before `The Moonstone' by Wilkie Collins. It was originally published as a serial in `Once a Week'.
As an introduction the novel is declared to be the account (dated 17 January 1858) of Ralph Henderson, an insurance investigator into the sudden death of Madame R**, wife of Baron R**, on 15 March 1857. Her life had been insured under 5 policies by her husband Baron R** between November 1855 -December 1856. Note that in 1856 in real life William Palmer had been hanged for murder of individuals whose lives he had insured. The trial of `our saintly Billy' was the most famous of the period and the case produced a change in insurance law.
The opening pages are produced in the epistolary form more customary in 18th century literature (e.g. `Humphrey Clinker'). The letters (starting in 1832) concern the origin of twin daughters of Edward and Catherine Boulton - the more able of whom (Catherine is stolen as a child by gypsies. The remaining girl (Gertrude), a sickly child grows up to marry William Anderton in August 1851. She is plagued with sickness and is helped by a mesmerist, Baron R** until September 1854 (today both she and her husband might be labelled as `hysterical') One year later the Andertons `by chance' meet Baron R** and the sessions are resumed - Rosalie had meanwhile disappeared. By the following April Gertrude Anderton is suffering from fortnightly bouts of leaden taste followed by vomiting. Suspicion points to her husband. She finally dies on 12 October 1856
As the novel continues the story evolves through a whole series of `documents' - letters, reports and interviews. The style of the accounts of witnesses closely resembles that you'll find in the court reports of the time. It provides an atmosphere of realism. The story build in a series of chunks, sometimes 3 steps forward and two steps backward - just like a real trial. From the start matters are not quite what they appear: characters operate under a variety of aliases (e.g.' Mme Rosalie' is aka `The Little Wonder' aka Charlotte Brown); the clairvoyant and the patient appear to have an eerie understanding; servants come and go under usual circumstances.
Of course, right from the start Henderson's suspicions focus on Baron R**. But witnesses queue up to give the Baron a good reference such as, "He was always very kind to her. He was the pleasantest and most civil-spoken gentleman I have ever met, and I think his wife very bad toward him." But we also get: "I think she was afraid of him, but I don't know why. He was very kind to her". Yet, like McCavity, the Mystery Cat, when victims are being fed or dosed the Baron's never there. He does do some strange things though - framing a young man for drunken behaviour, alleging that maid had upset a victim with an emetic, drawing attention to a clue which had clearly been planted. Underneath all are his alleged powers of mesmerism (hypnotism) - at the time on a par with practising the occult arts. His fate is sealed when Henderson discovers that Mme. Rosalie (later the Baron's wife) is the sister of Gertrude Anderton nee Boulton who'd been snatched away by the gypsies long before. Too much to be a coincident? Certainly when anyone considers the will of the Edward Boulton. So how did the Baron do whatever he got up to? I've given you all the clues in this review. Read the book to enjoy how villainy is exposed in all its Victorian blackness.
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The Notting Hill Mystery: The First Detective Novel
The Notting Hill Mystery: The First Detective Novel by Charles Warren Adams (Paperback - 23 Feb 2012)
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