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on 27 March 2017
Not as keen on this one of this series as many of the others.
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on 18 May 2017
Of its time. Quite good considering when it was first written.
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on 23 June 2015
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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on 16 July 2015
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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on 18 February 2013
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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on 20 January 2013
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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on 25 July 2014
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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on 27 January 2013
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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on 4 June 2012
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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on 20 November 2016
Said by some to be the first British detective novel, it's well written and better paced than The Moonstone, but without the characterisation and with a plot featuring twins, one of whom was abducted by gypsies. After that the plot gets less believable...

However, I've read worse crime novels, and would be happy to read more Victorian fiction if it was like this.
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