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The first in a new series of classic detective stories from the vaults of HarperCollins is the world’s first locked-room mystery, a seemingly impossible crime story as powerful as any that have copied the scenario since. “The Detective Story Club”, launched by Collins in 1929, was a clearing house for the best and most ingenious crime stories of the age, chosen by a select The first in a new series of classic detective stories from the vaults of HarperCollins is the world’s first locked-room mystery, a seemingly impossible crime story as powerful as any that have copied the scenario since. “The Detective Story Club”, launched by Collins in 1929, was a clearing house for the best and most ingenious crime stories of the age, chosen by a select committee of experts. Now, almost 90 years later, these books are the classics of the Golden Age, republished at last with the same popular cover designs that appealed to their original readers. Originally published as The Big Bow Mystery in 1891, and re-published by the Detective Club to coincide with a new film version called ‘The Perfect Crime’, Israel Zangwill’s novel invented the concept of the ‘locked room mystery’ and influenced almost every crime writer thereafter. ‘A man is murdered for no apparent reason. He has no enemies and there seemed to be no motive for anyone murdering him. No clues remained and the instrument with which the murder was committed could not be traced. The door of the room in which the body was discovered was locked and bolted on the inside, both windows were latched, and there was no trace of any intruder. The greatest detectives in the land were puzzled. Here indeed was the perfect crime, the work of a master mind. Can you solve the problem which baffled Scotland Yard for so long, until at last the missing link in the chain of evidence was revealed?’ This new edition includes a brand new introduction by the Golden Age crime expert, Dr John Curran, author of ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’.


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The first in a new series of classic detective stories from the vaults of HarperCollins is the world’s first locked-room mystery, a seemingly impossible crime story as powerful as any that have copied the scenario since. “The Detective Story Club”, launched by Collins in 1929, was a clearing house for the best and most ingenious crime stories of the age, chosen by a select The first in a new series of classic detective stories from the vaults of HarperCollins is the world’s first locked-room mystery, a seemingly impossible crime story as powerful as any that have copied the scenario since. “The Detective Story Club”, launched by Collins in 1929, was a clearing house for the best and most ingenious crime stories of the age, chosen by a select committee of experts. Now, almost 90 years later, these books are the classics of the Golden Age, republished at last with the same popular cover designs that appealed to their original readers. Originally published as The Big Bow Mystery in 1891, and re-published by the Detective Club to coincide with a new film version called ‘The Perfect Crime’, Israel Zangwill’s novel invented the concept of the ‘locked room mystery’ and influenced almost every crime writer thereafter. ‘A man is murdered for no apparent reason. He has no enemies and there seemed to be no motive for anyone murdering him. No clues remained and the instrument with which the murder was committed could not be traced. The door of the room in which the body was discovered was locked and bolted on the inside, both windows were latched, and there was no trace of any intruder. The greatest detectives in the land were puzzled. Here indeed was the perfect crime, the work of a master mind. Can you solve the problem which baffled Scotland Yard for so long, until at last the missing link in the chain of evidence was revealed?’ This new edition includes a brand new introduction by the Golden Age crime expert, Dr John Curran, author of ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’.

30 review for The Perfect Crime: The Big Bow Mystery (Detective Club Crime Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gerry

    I saw this book and, being the so-called first locked room mystery, I just had to purchase it, especially as I have a signed postcard of Israel Zangwill on my wall, not that that matters much I suppose but I thought it would be good to read something by him. I am pleased that I did so but it was not the greatest reading experience of my life, despite the excellent and appealing billing as 'Gaslight Crime'. The first thing to beware of in this edition is that firstly there is a preface by Nick Rob I saw this book and, being the so-called first locked room mystery, I just had to purchase it, especially as I have a signed postcard of Israel Zangwill on my wall, not that that matters much I suppose but I thought it would be good to read something by him. I am pleased that I did so but it was not the greatest reading experience of my life, despite the excellent and appealing billing as 'Gaslight Crime'. The first thing to beware of in this edition is that firstly there is a preface by Nick Robinson and secondly there is a new 1895 introduction (the book was written in 1892) by the author himself and both of them give slightly more than veiled clues as to what is going to happen in the mystery that follows. Fortunately I quickly realised this and read no further until after I had finished the book - so new readers beware. The novel itself starts rather promisingly as in Mrs Drabdump's lodging house in Glover Street, one of the lodgers Arthur Constant does not answer the landlady's call for breakfast. She panics and goes across the road for the assistance of a neighbour, retired Scotland Yard detective George Grodman. Between them they batter down the door to Constant's room only to discover the occupant dead with his throat slit. And not only was the door locked from the inside, all the windows were closed and there was no other way of entry or egress to the second floor room. From this point on the novel goes rapidly downhill as there is plenty of dull and uninspiring dialogue and description as Zangwill seems to see himself as another Charles Dickens pontificating on social matters. But, sadly, he does not succeed as well as Dickens does. Various social reforms and strikes are written about as the middle part of the tale wanders aimlessly around before we get back to the matter in hand ... how was the murder committed with a locked room scenario confronting the authorities? And, in fairness to Zangwill, he pulls back some of his reputation with a reasonable, and perhaps surprising explanation (providing that that early material hadn't been read) of what had happened and it is this combined with the vivid descriptive opening covering east end London that helped the mystery limp into the two-star bracket. Overall it was something of a disappointment; I will look at Zangwill with a different eye as I pass him in the hallway every morning from now on!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    This was my first brush with "gaslight" crime mystery or so the introduction describes itself - which is rather interesting since it lists a large number of titles from my "tales of mystery and the supernatural" collection but I won't quibble. I will say that the story is engaging and easier to read than I anticipated. Now let me explain. The first consideration was the language - now having read a few books from this era was I not expecting the language to be so recognisable or as down to earth. This was my first brush with "gaslight" crime mystery or so the introduction describes itself - which is rather interesting since it lists a large number of titles from my "tales of mystery and the supernatural" collection but I won't quibble. I will say that the story is engaging and easier to read than I anticipated. Now let me explain. The first consideration was the language - now having read a few books from this era was I not expecting the language to be so recognisable or as down to earth. I guess too authors want for authenticity and at times over do the dialect and pronunciations to the point you have to re-read some sentences to decipher what they are trying to say (or is that me). But not in the case of this story - now I am assuming that the edition I am reading has not been re-edited to reflect its modern printing. So yes this made the book easy to connect with and get in. And this leads on to my second point (or possibly as a result of it?). The fact that the original was serialised in a similar manner to many of the Conan Doyle stories. This meant that each edition had to stand on its own merits and still grip the reader sufficiently to drive them to want to read the next instalment. Now this was quite evident when you finished one chapter and started the next - where the scene and characters would shift quite dramatically and unexpectedly, and more importantly take some time to explain why they were there in the first place. Once I had got used to this approach the story moved along at a fair pace and yes in hindsight I should have been able to work it all out but no it was still fun to get to the final denouncement and see the whole mystery neatly wrapped up.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Short novel, has the wow effect at the end.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Caroline-not-getting-updates

    Very interesting and amusing early mystery. The stars are for the writing, not the plot. The plot purports to be the point (as the ‘first’ locked room mystery) but it is actually beside the point for today’s reader. Instead, I enjoyed Zangwill's witty approach to satirizing the London of his day. Professional jealousy, exaggerated characters, do-gooders, the justice system, family life, crackpots...lots of wordplay and meticulous undercutting of common tropes make for lots of fun. But there are Very interesting and amusing early mystery. The stars are for the writing, not the plot. The plot purports to be the point (as the ‘first’ locked room mystery) but it is actually beside the point for today’s reader. Instead, I enjoyed Zangwill's witty approach to satirizing the London of his day. Professional jealousy, exaggerated characters, do-gooders, the justice system, family life, crackpots...lots of wordplay and meticulous undercutting of common tropes make for lots of fun. But there are also interwoven, if lightweight, commentaries on the labor movement of his day, the role of the benefactor, and on the Aesthetic movement as it relates to ‘real life.’ A good summer read. The work first ran serially in a newspaper, and Zangwill later wrote a ‘mendacious’ letter to be published in the paper to the effect that when he started he didn’t know how it would be solved. But he thanked his readers for their suggestions during the duration of his run, as they had helped him craft the ending. Rot, he says in a later introduction, of course in a story like this you have to know how it works from the outset. Also, from Zangwill's introduction to the version available at Project Gutenberg: The Indispensable condition of a good mystery is that it should be able and unable to be solved by the reader, and that the writer’s solution should satisfy.... I like that ‘able and unable’. Well, the first works here, but for us I’m not sure the second(satisfying solution) is true. At any rate, a few samples of the fun: Mr. Constant wished to be woke three-quarters of an hour earlier than ususal...having to speak at an early meeting of discontented tram-men...Why Arthur Constant, B A--white-handed and white-shirted, and gentleman to the very purse of him--should concern himself with tram-men, when fortune had confined his necessary relations with drivers to cabmen at the least, Mrs. Drabdump [his landlady] could not quite make out. He probably aspired to represent Bow in Parliatment, but then it would surely have been wiser to lodge with a landlady who possessed a vote by having a husband alive. [Zangwill apparently being convinced that most wives rule the roost]. In a letter from the deceased upper class do-gooder to a friend on his reading of Schopenhauer: I have been making his [Schopenhauer’s] acquaintance lately. He is an agreeable rattle of a pessimist...What shall one man’s life--a million men’s lives-avail against the corruption, the vulgarity and the squalor of civilization? Sometimes I feel like a farthing rushlight in the Hall of Eblis. Selfishness is so long and life so short. And the worst of it is that everybody is so beastly contented. The poor no more desire comfort than the rich culture...The real crusted old Tories are the paupers in the Workhouse. The Radical working men are jealous of their own leaders, and the leaders of one another. Schopenhauer must have organized a labor party in his salad days. ... “Yes, but what will become of the Beautiful?” said Denzil Cantercot [the Poet]. “Hange the Beautiful!” said Peter Crowl [the very realist cobbler], as if he were on the committee of the Academy. “Give me the True.” Denzil did nothing of the sort. He didn’t happen to have it about him. He [Crowl] prided himself on having no fads. Few men are without some foible or hobby; Crowl felt almost lonely at times in his superiority. He was a Vegetarian, a Secularist, a Blue Ribbonite, A Republican, and an Anti-Tobacconist. Meat was a fad. Drink was a fad. Religion was a fad. Monarchy was a fad. Tobacco was a fad. ...Crowl knew his Bible better than most ministers, and always carried a minutely-printed copy in his pocket, dogs-eared to mark contradictions in the text....Cock-fighting affords its votaries no acuter pleasure than Crowl derived from setting two texts by the ears....

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    The GR description says this was the first locked-room mystery, but it was not. The novel even refers to Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue. But in Poe's and most later mysteries, we are with the detective while s/he performs an investigation. This novel is decidedly different. There is none of that. Instead we get testimony at both the inquest and the trial. We are privy to the thoughts of the population who is outraged and astonished at the murder of a fine young man who also was working to up The GR description says this was the first locked-room mystery, but it was not. The novel even refers to Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue. But in Poe's and most later mysteries, we are with the detective while s/he performs an investigation. This novel is decidedly different. There is none of that. Instead we get testimony at both the inquest and the trial. We are privy to the thoughts of the population who is outraged and astonished at the murder of a fine young man who also was working to uplift the working class. There are letters to newspapers. Was it suicide? How could it be murder with no means of getting in and out of the bedroom? Readers and letter-writers of nineteenth century London newspapers carried on conversations with each other, argued with each others thoughts. It was the equivalent of Twitter and Facebook. There are also a few main characters who help us see what is going on outside of these newspaper conversations. This is short and it took me a couple of chapters to see how Zangwill constructed his novel. Apparently this saw many printings. The edition I read had a preface from Zangwill that was included in an edition published 4 years after it first appeared. In it, he comments on this humor, even saying he now thought it too much humor. While I didn't think it was the best of the novel, it certainly added something to it, for which I was glad. For purists of the mystery genre who want to try to figure out the crime, this will be a disappointment. There is a lot of filler. At first I was exasperated. Then I came to realize it is just different. Published in 1892, the genre had not yet seen the likes of Christie, Sayers, and Allingham who would define crime fiction for many decades. I'm not in the least sorry I read this, but I can't find more than a middlin' 3-stars for it and even that might be a tad generous.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    Possibly the first book length locked room mystery. Very good for it's time. Full review at https://bedfordbookshelf.com/the-big-... Possibly the first book length locked room mystery. Very good for it's time. Full review at https://bedfordbookshelf.com/the-big-...

  7. 5 out of 5

    John

    Published initially as a newspaper serial in 1891, The Big Bow Mystery is generally regarded as the first locked-room mystery novel. (It's retitled in some editions The Perfect Crime to match the title of the 1928 movie based on the book, the first screen adaptation of three.) No one can believe it when mild-mannered Arthur Constant is found dead in his bed one morning in the house where he lodged in Bow, in London's East End. The dead man seemed to have had no enemies: he was a Christian and a s Published initially as a newspaper serial in 1891, The Big Bow Mystery is generally regarded as the first locked-room mystery novel. (It's retitled in some editions The Perfect Crime to match the title of the 1928 movie based on the book, the first screen adaptation of three.) No one can believe it when mild-mannered Arthur Constant is found dead in his bed one morning in the house where he lodged in Bow, in London's East End. The dead man seemed to have had no enemies: he was a Christian and a socialist who practiced what he preached by trying to help the lot of the poor, he was personally generous to a fault, ever polite, ever affable and friendly. A fine, upstanding human being, in other words. Scotland Yard, in the form of over-cocky Inspector Edward Wimp, soon focuses on Constant's fellow lodger, the trade unionist and union organizer Tom Mordaunt, whose movements on the fatal morning were suspiciously complicated and who's one of the few known to have quarreled with Constant, even though they were otherwise the best of friends. Was it possible that Constant had, behind Mordaunt's back, shared the favors -- so to speak -- of Mordaunt's fiancee? The first big problem for Wimp is that, when Constant was found on his bed with his throat slashed open, that bed was in a room whose door was locked and bolted from within and whose windows were likewise; furthermore, the murder weapon, an open razor, was nowhere to be found. How could Constant have been murdered and the murderer escape when the room had been completely secured in this way? Wimp's second big problem is that the man whose job he took over at the Yard, retired Inspector George Grodman, hates his guts. Grodman was among those who discovered the body, and he has his own ideas -- at complete odds with Wimp's -- about who killed Constant and how the "impossible" crime was perpetrated. We're set for a battle of titans . . . The novel's distinctly slow in parts. After the discovery of the corpse, there's what seems an interminable account of the coroner's hearing, a hearing that ends with the coroner roundly proclaiming that both murder and suicide are equally impossible. Things pick up speed a little after this, but there are still a few longueurs to go. The language is as flowery as you might expect -- Zangwill and his editor had, after all, column inches to fill -- and a lot of the jokes that might have seemed side-splittingly funny in their day -- about Helena Blavatsky and her Theosophical teachings, for example -- are likely to be pretty impenetrable for most readers a century and a quarter later. (I'm sure there were plenty that flew right by me without my so much as noticing them.) Although there's a lot about the novel's style that's reminiscent of Dickens, not least the use of funny names for many of the characters -- Crowl, Mrs. Drabdump, etc. -- I found myself more reminded, in terms of the text's recognition of socialism and unionism as forces for improving the lot of the common people, of Robert Tressell's The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists (1914), a novel which, while not published until after the author's death in 1911, seems to have been written quite a few years earlier. Although Tressell's style was (as I recall it some half-century later!) a lot plainer than Zangwill's, there seems a sort of kinship between the two. The solution to the locked-room mystery, when it comes, might seem pretty obvious today, in that the general device has been used countless times since. But Zangwill got there first, and should be applauded for it. A big thank you to my blogging pal José Ignacio Escribano for the timely reminder that it was long overdue that I read this book, a Gutenberg copy of which has been sitting on my e-reader for really quite a few years.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bev

    This reissue of Zangwill's The Big Bow Mystery (also published as The Perfect Crime) also includes Poe's locked room story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." These are thought to be the earliest examples of the locked room novel and short story. The Big Bow Mystery: As mentioned above, it is one of the earliest examples of the locked room mystery. The solution may seem a bit trite to those of us in the 21st Century, but it is good to remember how puzzling and fresh it must have been to readers of t This reissue of Zangwill's The Big Bow Mystery (also published as The Perfect Crime) also includes Poe's locked room story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." These are thought to be the earliest examples of the locked room novel and short story. The Big Bow Mystery: As mentioned above, it is one of the earliest examples of the locked room mystery. The solution may seem a bit trite to those of us in the 21st Century, but it is good to remember how puzzling and fresh it must have been to readers of the London Star in 1891. The story begins at the rooming house of Mrs. Drabdump (gotta love those Victorian names). She has been directed to wake one of her tenants, Mr. Arthur Constant, early so he can make an important meeting. Naturally, she finds that she has overslept and is rushing 'round to prepare breakfast. But when she tries to rouse Constant, she receives no answer. At first she is not too alarmed. The poor man had been suffering from toothache and perhaps he feel into a deep slumber once he finally did get to sleep. But when repeated efforts fail to waken him and a final, violent assault on his door does not bring him out, she feels sure that he must be lying murdered in his bed. She rushes across the street to the home of retired policeman, George Grodman. Grodman succeeds in breaking down the locked and bolted door and a terrible sight is revealed. Constant is lying in bed with his throat cut. He is still warm...so he has not been long dead. The windows are all fastened tight. There is no weapon to be found in the room and no way the culprit could have escaped. Inspector Edward Wimp (snort) of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate officially. But there seems to be no solution. There is no item in the room with which the dead man could have harmed himself, therefore it cannot be suicide. There is no way anyone could have gotten out of the room, therefore it cannot be murder. Eventually, however, clues come Wimp's way that convince him that Tom Mortlake, Constant's fellow tenant and supposed rival, has committed the crime. A trial and conviction follows....but Grodman supplies the final twist that produces the complete solution. This is a well-written and quite witty short novel. The final twist is ingenious for its time. ★★★★ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "The Murders in the Rue Morgue": The classic story credited with starting the whole detective ball rolling. Dupin is a moody, night-loving character. Faced with a seemingly impossible crime, he uses an investigative method--observing everything and discounting nothing...until it can be proven irrelevant or impossible. Definitely a forerunner of Holmes's method: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting portions of review. Thanks.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    Written originally in 1892, The Big Bow Mystery is supposedly the earliest example of a full-length locked-room mystery. The action begins as one Mrs Drabdump, who rents rooms to lodgers in London, goes to wake up one Mr. Constant. She can't wake him up and gets herself completely agitated to the point where she goes across the street to fetch a neighbor for help. Upon breaking down the locked and bolted door in the room, they find Mr. Constant dead. The neighbor, George Grodman, a retired detec Written originally in 1892, The Big Bow Mystery is supposedly the earliest example of a full-length locked-room mystery. The action begins as one Mrs Drabdump, who rents rooms to lodgers in London, goes to wake up one Mr. Constant. She can't wake him up and gets herself completely agitated to the point where she goes across the street to fetch a neighbor for help. Upon breaking down the locked and bolted door in the room, they find Mr. Constant dead. The neighbor, George Grodman, a retired detective, and Inspector Edward Wimp of Scotland Yard start investigating the crime. This book is a bit difficult to read -- very wordy at times. However, if you get the urge to skim it, don't...the clues are all there, many of them within the space of conversations between characters. The characterizations are just okay; I didn't personally get attached to any one character -- the focus of the book is more on the solution to the mystery, although there is an interesting rivalry between Grodman and Wimp, which helps to add a bit to the story. Truthfully, this is really a book for those who a) enjoy historical mysteries, b) who really like locked-room mystery (an ingenious solution awaits the patient), or people curious as to the origins of the genre. It's a bit over wordy for modern readers, and I don't think cozy mystery fans would enjoy it very much. It is a bit funny in places as well. Overall...I'm happy I read it, but it's not one of my favorites in the genre.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    It was 1892. It was originally published as a serial. Some Goodreads reviewers liked it. Others didn't. They were all correct. I give credit to a man who published one well-regarded mystery, and then no more. It was 1892. It was originally published as a serial. Some Goodreads reviewers liked it. Others didn't. They were all correct. I give credit to a man who published one well-regarded mystery, and then no more.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Hilarious, nutty locked-room mystery story written by a 19th century Zionist. One of a kind.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Mrs. Drabdump, of 11 Glover Street, Bow, was one of the few persons in London whom fog did not depress. She went about her work quite as cheerlessly as usual. She is quite a brilliant, gloomy character of a landlady, and the whole of this novel was immensely enjoyable. The actual locked-room mystery was perhaps a little heavy handed, but for a serial written in four weeks -- that had the felicity of responding to some of its reader's guesses within its pages -- it is quite awesome. I loved the no Mrs. Drabdump, of 11 Glover Street, Bow, was one of the few persons in London whom fog did not depress. She went about her work quite as cheerlessly as usual. She is quite a brilliant, gloomy character of a landlady, and the whole of this novel was immensely enjoyable. The actual locked-room mystery was perhaps a little heavy handed, but for a serial written in four weeks -- that had the felicity of responding to some of its reader's guesses within its pages -- it is quite awesome. I loved the nod to Dickens in the names and the form of it, but it is far funnier and stripped of most of the Dickensian sentimentality. There are a number of funny digs at hack writing in here, in the introduction as well as the story. So much written about the East End was written to to uncover and to educate on poverty and working class misery on the one hand, or to titillate with crime and tales of the underworld. It occurred to me halfway through this how wonderful it was to read something without any of those aims. To read something set in the East End because the East End is what the author knew, to involve the whole panoply of East End characters, from landladies to Oxford and Toynbee House gentlemen to labour organisers with political pretensions to hack journalists scrounging their way and their ongoing debates with their friends the cobblers and the ex-detectives. Some theosophy thrown in along with the socialism. It is therefore mocking and irreverent, but compassionate too. Written from the inside as one of this great diverse throng, too often reduced to caricature. That said, there is no doubt where his sympathies lie, which of course I also loved. This is a time of organising to change the world. Near the end he allows himself an aside: A sudden consciousness of the futility of his existence pierced the little cobbler like an icy wind. He saw his own life, and a hundred million lives like his, swelling and breaking like bubbles on a dark ocean, unheeded, uncared for. "The Cause of the People," he murmured, brokenly, "I believe in the Cause of the People. There is nothing else." Israel Zangwill (1864-1926) born in London to immigrant parents, was long a champion of the oppressed. In reading about the suffragettes and East End struggles, his name appears time and time again. He had a complicated relationship to Zionism, wrote numerous books and plays, including a play about America as the 'melting pot' which earned him a letter from Roosevelt. Reading this, I thought to myself he is someone I would have really loved to know, so I shall investigate further at some point -- or read more of his fiction.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Helen Colquett

    Whew this was not a great read... I was enticed by the cover and how it was deemed “ the best murder mystery of its time” on my special edition copy. Welp, it needs to stay in this time. I truly know what it means for a book to be timeless. To further explain, the book was written in a difficult to read way but I could still sort of grasp the plot. I was stubborn and wanted to know how it ended and it was less than satisfying. Life is too short to painfully finish a book, friends.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    This newspaper serial from the 1890s is a decidedly mixed blessing. In my eBook anthology, 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, de This newspaper serial from the 1890s is a decidedly mixed blessing. In my eBook anthology, 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte Wildflower

    I didn't like it. I probably only should have given it one star - but I recognize good prose when I hear it, and it was present several times. The problem was that the characters were flat, the court scenes (which were legion) silly and the whole book just seemed to have been way way longer then the mystery could bear. Given that it was a short book it is not a good indicator... An interesting thing is a lot of information on how different people live, and society works. The interesting lies in it I didn't like it. I probably only should have given it one star - but I recognize good prose when I hear it, and it was present several times. The problem was that the characters were flat, the court scenes (which were legion) silly and the whole book just seemed to have been way way longer then the mystery could bear. Given that it was a short book it is not a good indicator... An interesting thing is a lot of information on how different people live, and society works. The interesting lies in it being written in 1892 and a world apart from our lives today. If you are historically interested, that at least can be a help in getting you through the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    After listening to Adrian Praetzellis's Librivox reading of Treasure Island, I was curious what other books he may have read aloud. I had never heard of Israel Zangwill or The Big Bow Mystery, but the description made me curious. As it turns out, it's absolutely fascinating - drags a bit in the middle, but is well worth it for the incredibly clever ending! After listening to Adrian Praetzellis's Librivox reading of Treasure Island, I was curious what other books he may have read aloud. I had never heard of Israel Zangwill or The Big Bow Mystery, but the description made me curious. As it turns out, it's absolutely fascinating - drags a bit in the middle, but is well worth it for the incredibly clever ending!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Zee

    Listened to the Librivox audio by Adrian Praetzellis while reading along. He tells the story quite well, giving life to characters in a way we otherwise might not appreciate today. Enjoyed the tongue in cheek humor and excellent prose. The plot does ramble, but it's still a fun glimpse back in time. Listened to the Librivox audio by Adrian Praetzellis while reading along. He tells the story quite well, giving life to characters in a way we otherwise might not appreciate today. Enjoyed the tongue in cheek humor and excellent prose. The plot does ramble, but it's still a fun glimpse back in time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elisa

    I guess I should give this first full-length locked room murder mystery the benefit of the doubt being that it was the very first but it was just dumb. The characters are unlikable and, yes, I didn't see it coming but just because the solution made no sense at all. I guess I should give this first full-length locked room murder mystery the benefit of the doubt being that it was the very first but it was just dumb. The characters are unlikable and, yes, I didn't see it coming but just because the solution made no sense at all.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tweety

    Well, talk about surprises! the ending left a me with a creepy feeling. All in all, a good tale.

  20. 5 out of 5

    John Yelverton

    It is really not that great of a mystery with so many red herrings you would think that you were in a fish market. Even the ending is a complete and utter let down for the reader.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kelvin

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a 1892 mystery novel written by British author Israel Zangwill. The story was originally serialized in The Star newspaper in 1891 and was published as a novel in 1892. The story has a setting in a neighborhood in the East End of London called Bow. It has been claimed that this is the first novel length locked room mystery. It is, however, still a relatively short book. I am quite disappointed in the book. While it has a fair dose of humor, I find the book long winded with a lot of extran This is a 1892 mystery novel written by British author Israel Zangwill. The story was originally serialized in The Star newspaper in 1891 and was published as a novel in 1892. The story has a setting in a neighborhood in the East End of London called Bow. It has been claimed that this is the first novel length locked room mystery. It is, however, still a relatively short book. I am quite disappointed in the book. While it has a fair dose of humor, I find the book long winded with a lot of extraneous sidetracks. Oftentimes Zangwill just rambled on. It might have something to do with its origin as a serial story for a newspaper. It probably is also because that kind of writing style was the norm during that period although readers nowadays might find it dated. The book does have a full-length inquest scene as well as a trial scene which are both quite interesting to read. The solution of the locked room mystery itself is quite ingenious. It implicitly noted the influence of Edgar Allen Poe by even making a reference to how this locked room in this case resembles somewhat to The Murders in the Rue Morgue, the famous short story published by Poe in 1841. The story is about the death of Arthur Constant, a labour organizer, in his rooming house at 11 Glover Street in Bow. One morning, his landlady Mrs Drabdump, who was supposed to wake him up and provide him with breakfast, were not able to do so despite repeated knocking on the door. Mrs. Drabdump went to her next door neighbor, the famous retired police detective George Grodman, for help. After Grodman broke down the door (which had been both locked and bolted from the inside) they found the dead body of Constant, lying on his bed with his throat cut. It is a locked room mystery because all the windows and doors are closed and locked and no murder weapon was found inside the room. Mr Edward Wimp of Scotland Yard (a rival of the retired Grodman) finally arrested another lodger in the house Tom Mortlake and Mortlake was convicted of the murder. Right before he was to be executed, in a surprise ending, Grodman met with the Home Secretary and dictated a confession. It turns out Grodman, who had a very successful career as a police detective, is now bored with retirement and dreamt of committing a perfect crime. What Grodman did was he drugged his victim the night before so he could not be awaken in the morning. Grodman correctly guessed that Mrs. Drabdump would go to him to ask for help in breaking down the door. When Grodman entered the room after breaking down the door, he pretended to have discovered a dead body to distract Mrs. Drabdump from looking too closely and took that opportunity to slash Arthur Constant’s throat. Grodman then hid the weapon to create the locked room mystery. After Zangwill invented this kind of solution to a locked room mystery (the victim was incapacitated but still alive when the locked room is unlocked and then killed immediately after entry by murderer and distracted witness), it has been copied by various authors. One interesting book using a similar method is Leo Bruce’s Case for Three Detectives. After Grodman made his confession, he shot himself.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    I recently saw a 1946 film, "The Verdict" which I enjoyed. (It has no connection with the 1982 Paul Newman film of the same name.) In the film the credits state that it was based on an Israel Zangwill novel, "The Big Bow Mystery." The book is considered a pioneer in the locked room mystery genre. It was by no means the first, but it was a trend-setter and it has an ingenious solution. The writing style is very modern in tone and I found it enjoyable. Not for every taste; some readers will find th I recently saw a 1946 film, "The Verdict" which I enjoyed. (It has no connection with the 1982 Paul Newman film of the same name.) In the film the credits state that it was based on an Israel Zangwill novel, "The Big Bow Mystery." The book is considered a pioneer in the locked room mystery genre. It was by no means the first, but it was a trend-setter and it has an ingenious solution. The writing style is very modern in tone and I found it enjoyable. Not for every taste; some readers will find the author's comments about characters and events of the day to be too sarcastic or even condescending, but I think that they were meant good-naturedly. The book appeared in installments. Zangwill wrote in a later introduction, tongue in cheek I think, that readers kept sending in solutions to the mystery and each time they did he revised his plan for the story to eliminate the readers' proposals. In the course of the book there is an inconclusive inquest followed by fictional letters to newspapers proposing solutions to the crime. It's possible that Zangwill used the letters he received from readers as models for the letters he incorporated into the story. If so, the careful reader will find that his remarks in the later introduction were meant jokingly.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Generally considered the first ever "locked room mystery", the book is less about the mystery than it is about the characters involved in the investigation. Extremely well written prose. As the readers, we're afforded little in the way of detail - we're not party to the investigation itself, we don't get to see any clues, we aren't privy to any interviews or depositions, such as they may have been at the time (this book was published in 1892, London). Instead, we get to listen in to the thoughts Generally considered the first ever "locked room mystery", the book is less about the mystery than it is about the characters involved in the investigation. Extremely well written prose. As the readers, we're afforded little in the way of detail - we're not party to the investigation itself, we don't get to see any clues, we aren't privy to any interviews or depositions, such as they may have been at the time (this book was published in 1892, London). Instead, we get to listen in to the thoughts and occasionally the conversations, of the various witnesses and one of the principal investigators, who is outside the police force. As such, most of the enjoyment of the book comes from the intricacies of their observations and musings. The end result may or may not be a surprise, it depends on how close attention you're paying to those various inner monologues, but it's not the result that matters in the last pages anyway.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Phil Noble

    I agree with every word of this review, which appears in “Crime fiction lover”.... “Why should today’s readers open and enjoy Big Bow Mystery? Firstly, because it is a beautifully crafted novel by a master wordsmith. It is not a long read by modern standards, but one in which every page, conversation and observation counts. Secondly, it is wickedly funny. Zangwill may not have been the first to use the humour of cruelty, nor will he be the last. However, in the trial scene – which takes up most I agree with every word of this review, which appears in “Crime fiction lover”.... “Why should today’s readers open and enjoy Big Bow Mystery? Firstly, because it is a beautifully crafted novel by a master wordsmith. It is not a long read by modern standards, but one in which every page, conversation and observation counts. Secondly, it is wickedly funny. Zangwill may not have been the first to use the humour of cruelty, nor will he be the last. However, in the trial scene – which takes up most of the second half of the book – he takes aim at almost every social convention and literary stereotype available to him, and his arrows find the target every time. Thirdly, and most importantly, he fools us. Well, he certainly fooled me. The clues are there, and I will not spoil your fun by telling you what they are, but suffice to say the book ends in explosive fashion.”

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gareth Reeves

    Not horrible by any means, but I felt a bit cheated by the ending. The psychological justification was weak and certain details unbelievable. I would recommend it only to locked-room mystery fans, as it is historically significant (apparently the first novel-length or novella-length work in that genre), and fin-de-siecle academics/completists, since it touches on free education and the Aesthetic (in the character of Denzil Cantacot). There are some touches of light humour, and it keeps you guess Not horrible by any means, but I felt a bit cheated by the ending. The psychological justification was weak and certain details unbelievable. I would recommend it only to locked-room mystery fans, as it is historically significant (apparently the first novel-length or novella-length work in that genre), and fin-de-siecle academics/completists, since it touches on free education and the Aesthetic (in the character of Denzil Cantacot). There are some touches of light humour, and it keeps you guessing until the end, but don't expect a classic. Note: this edition also contains Edgar Allan Poe's short story, 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue', the first locked-room mystery. If you haven't read it, make sure that you do before reading The Big Bow Mystery, as the latter discusses details of the former's twist ending.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brad McKenna

    This has one of the better twists I've read in a murder mystery. It also follows a pattern of mysteries written in the 1890s where the person who catches the culprit explains all the clues the others have missed and how he got to the solution. It's a little different from a Poirot or Holmes story in that the reader really isn't given a chance to put the clues together. The guilty party is presented and then the explanation begins. The story purposefully gets lost in a few characters and their ro This has one of the better twists I've read in a murder mystery. It also follows a pattern of mysteries written in the 1890s where the person who catches the culprit explains all the clues the others have missed and how he got to the solution. It's a little different from a Poirot or Holmes story in that the reader really isn't given a chance to put the clues together. The guilty party is presented and then the explanation begins. The story purposefully gets lost in a few characters and their roles in the labor movement that is gaining steam. And the characters seem to focus on one or two guilty parties. There's even a false reveal. If you like classical mysteries, this is a good one for you.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sara Eames

    This is actually two individual stories - The Big Bow Mystery and The Murders in the Rue Morgue - combined into one volume, so it wasn't initially what I was expecting. However, I did get two reasonable "locked-room" mysteries - one being much stronger than the other - but both very much "of their time". The characters were well-written but the plots moved at a very slow pace - bogged down, in some instances by too much description. The other problem is that during the Big Bow Mystery, the solut This is actually two individual stories - The Big Bow Mystery and The Murders in the Rue Morgue - combined into one volume, so it wasn't initially what I was expecting. However, I did get two reasonable "locked-room" mysteries - one being much stronger than the other - but both very much "of their time". The characters were well-written but the plots moved at a very slow pace - bogged down, in some instances by too much description. The other problem is that during the Big Bow Mystery, the solution to the Murders in the Rue Morgue is given away - so there is no suspense whilst reading the second story as you already know how the murders were committed. However, these are classic murder stories - so if you enjoy this genre, it could be worth a look.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kadie

    As a big fan of “Locked Room Mysteries” I was extremely excited to get my hands on this book featuring two or the earliest known examples of the genre: The Big Bow Mystery and The Murders In The Rue Morgue. And while I throughly enjoyed reading both stories from a historical perspective and for the influence they would have on the literary world, I can’t say that I would ever read them again at a later date. The writing style was old/antiquated and often tedious to wade through and none of the cha As a big fan of “Locked Room Mysteries” I was extremely excited to get my hands on this book featuring two or the earliest known examples of the genre: The Big Bow Mystery and The Murders In The Rue Morgue. And while I throughly enjoyed reading both stories from a historical perspective and for the influence they would have on the literary world, I can’t say that I would ever read them again at a later date. The writing style was old/antiquated and often tedious to wade through and none of the characters were particularly engaging/memorable. So I’d highly recommend both if you’re interested in the history of the mystery literary genre and how it evolved but maybe not if you’re just looking for a cozy armchair mystery to curl up with.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    Although it takes a while to get going (the opening is very overwritten), I came to really enjoy the humour and excellent descriptions in Zangwill's writing. It's especially interesting to read an early murder mystery, as for a good proportion of the book the crime itself isn't centre stage (the variety of characters and events in London are instead), which differs from the majority of Golden Age mysteries. All importantly, I didn't see the reveal coming, though I kicked myself for not having di Although it takes a while to get going (the opening is very overwritten), I came to really enjoy the humour and excellent descriptions in Zangwill's writing. It's especially interesting to read an early murder mystery, as for a good proportion of the book the crime itself isn't centre stage (the variety of characters and events in London are instead), which differs from the majority of Golden Age mysteries. All importantly, I didn't see the reveal coming, though I kicked myself for not having discovered it myself. Luckily, I didn't read the author's preface or introduction beforehand, as apparently there are some clues as to whodunit. If you're a murder mystery fan, this is a fun, light-hearted read that shows just how long some of the tropes of the genre have been around.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Unfortunately, it’s very hard to talk about Zangwill’s genius tale, The Big Bow Mystery, without ruining it. All I have to say is that there is a crucial moral and legal dilemma nested in this story that keeps it fresh and accessible to modern readers as, from a legal perspective, the problem proposed has yet to be fully addressed. The book’s pacing is weird - it starts off strong, slows down and then goes out with a bang. I hesitate giving it four because of this, but I think that because the n Unfortunately, it’s very hard to talk about Zangwill’s genius tale, The Big Bow Mystery, without ruining it. All I have to say is that there is a crucial moral and legal dilemma nested in this story that keeps it fresh and accessible to modern readers as, from a legal perspective, the problem proposed has yet to be fully addressed. The book’s pacing is weird - it starts off strong, slows down and then goes out with a bang. I hesitate giving it four because of this, but I think that because the novella can be read in one sitting, poor pacing can be excused. I strongly recommend The Big Bow Mystery to lovers of mystery and those interested in law. A great read.

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