I added a chart with character names and readings as well as some basic notes to remember who is who to the top post of this thread. It is a wiki so anyone can edit it. Please take care to hide any spoiler notes behind spoiler tags.
Just 24 pages this week! Week 4 thread has opened
The list with the readings for each name is so helpful!
Another short week at 22 pages! Week 5 is open!
Week 6 thread is open! 39 pages this week and an extra poll to vote on what cadence we want to finish out the book on.
Week 7 thread is open! The results of the poll showed a win for a swifter read towards
everyone’s demise the ending so we’ll be reading three chapters this week (6, 7, and 8) totaling 43 pages.
Hey all~ So since (most of) our main characters are nicknamed after real mystery authors, I thought it’d be fun to have a spotlight on each author here for those interested in learning more about them or who wanted to read some of their books. Of the eight authors named at our current week of reading, I personally had only heard of three of them, so this is kind of a fun investigation for me as well, haha. (Please note: because I have not read the vast majority of these, my descriptions may be a bit thin.)
First up is Baroness Orczy. Why her first? Because she’s only got a few mystery stories (afaik) and is therefore easier to research, haha.
Name: Emmuska (Emma) Orczy
Born: Sep. 23, 1865 in Hungary
Died: Nov. 12, 1947 (age 82) in London, England
- The Scarlet Pimpernel (not detective fiction)
Baronss Orczy (pronounced “Or-tsey” according to Wikipedia) was a Hungarian-born author who wrote in English and lived in Britain. She has quite a few novels, short story collections, and translations to her name, but she is overwhelmingly known for “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, an action-adventure story set during the French Revolution.
For our purposes here, I’ve been looking into what mystery the Baroness wrote. It’s surprisingly difficult, as I haven’t found really good documentation of what most of her books are about, and the vast majority that are not The Scarlet Pimpernel series seem to be out of print, unsurprisingly. I think a decent chunk of it should be in public domain at this point, at least.
As I haven’t gone through her novels to check and see what’s what, I’ll instead focus here on her short story collections: the The Old Man in the Corner series, the Lady Molly of Scotland Yard stories, and the Skin o’ My Tooth stories.
The Old Man in the Corner
This series is made up of three books of short stories, all featuring the eponymous Old Man. He’s the very definition of an armchair detective, solving crime while not leaving his seat at a teahouse. A young journalist visits him and tells him about the cases, which he’s able to solve from the details she gives.
Lady Molly of Scotland Yard
This is a collection of 12 short stories all featuring Lady Molly, a female police detective; they are narrated by her Watson-like assistant, Mary. Lady Molly is generally called in when her male colleagues hit an impassable roadblock, and she uses her wits and female intuition to (generally) goad a suspect into revealing more information than they’d like. I’ve read a few of these; they’re very quick, rather wholesome stories (insofar as Lady Molly is held up as a paragon of detective work; she’s very positive and eager to solve crime).
Skin o’ My Tooth
The title is a nickname for our protagonist in these stories, “an ugly, portly, but particularly sharp Irish lawyer who goes to great lengths (even unscrupulous ones) to get his clients off”. He apparently goes off to solve his clients’ cases himself. This Project Gutenberg Australia link gives 12 stories in this collection.
Know any more mystery stories by Baroness Orczy? Notice something here that’s wrong/have more information to add? Let me know! If anyone else wants to write up a mini-biography for our authors, feel free! I’ll probably add one here every so often as I go along with my own research; my goal is to read one mystery novel from each author as we read 十画館の殺人, so there should be plenty to share!
Week 8, a big read this week but we’re nearing the end so things are firing up!
Our next mystery author feature is Edgar Allen Poe!
Name: Edgar Allen Poe
Born: Jan. 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts, US
Died: Oct. 7, 1849 (age 40) in Baltimore, Maryland
- The Raven (poetry)
- The Tell-Tale Heart (short story)
- Many other tales of the macabre
Poe’s not one people usually think of when they think of detective fiction; he’s far more known for his poetry and short stories, which tend to fall into the genre of Gothic horror. However, he’s generally considered one of, if not the, founding fathers of detective fiction. Impressive, considering he accomplished it in only three short stories! These stories are:
- The Murders in the Rue Morgue
- The Mystery of Marie Roget
- The Purloined Letter
and they feature C. Auguste Dupin as our detective. Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, the word “detective” had not been coined when Poe wrote these stories.
Another short one! We’ll be moving into authors who are more properly/widely know as mystery authors, so I’ll need to do my research for them. ^_^;
Two things get mentioned ad nauseum in this book: smoking, and everyone constantly brushing back or ruffling their hair. I’m hard-pressed to think how the latter might be significant (although you never know), but maybe smoking habits do hold a clue? I wanted to update the character list above with everyone’s cigarette brand, but I regrettably haven’t been keeping notes. Can someone remember anything more?
What I have so far:
Brand: セブンスタ - Smoked by: ヴァン、守須, 江南
Brand: セーラム Smoked by: エラリイ
Brand: ラーク Smoked by: ポウ
We’re missing カー, ルルウ, アガサ, オルツィ, 島田 and 紅次朗, I believe.
Out of those, カー definitely smokes, and アガサ also smokes occasionally, but not in public. 島田 has only been seen smoking when he borrowed a cigarette off 江南, I think? He used to be a heavy smoker, though.
For the rest, I’m not sure.
Any additional information much appreciated!
Our next mystery author highlight is Gaston Leroux! (ルルウ’s namesake)
Name : Gaston Leroux
Born : May 6, 1868 in Paris, France
Died : Apr. 15, 1927 (age 58) in Nice, France
- The Phantom of the Opera
Leroux was a French journalist who, as far as my research tells me, never really gained fame as a mystery writer outside of Le mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room), a celebrated locked room mystery. He was apparently well-known in his day as a premier French writer of detective fiction, but interest in his work seems to have severely waned in the decades since. If this Encyclopedia of Science Fiction entry is to be believed, he apparently had no shortage of fantastical elements in (some of) his works.
Leroux’s published novels seem to fall into one of three categories: stand-alone, under his “The Adventures of Rouletabille” series, and under his “Chéri Bibi” series. The Mystery of the Yellow Room falls under the Rouletabille series, featuring protagonist reporter Joseph Rouletabille and consists of seven novels.
His “Chéri Bibi” features protagonist Chéri Bibi, a “young butcher’s apprentice gifted with extraordinary strength”, and is comprised of four books. Looking at the book summary in the above link, it seems to have some Count of Monte Cristo vibes to it…
His standalone works I can’t comment on, other than noting this one snippet I read in the SFE entry: “Le Roi Mystère [“The Mystery King”] (1908 Le Matin ; 1910), deeply influenced by Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo (1844-1845), has supernatural moments.” Influenced by The Count of Monte Cristo?? Sign me up! But I don’t think it has an English or Japanese translation, and I don’t speak French. I wonder how many of his works are influenced by Dumas? I’ve already mentioned two in this short little write-up, after all.
I thought I’d never read any works by Leroux (didn’t even remember the name at first), but when I saw the title “The Mystery of the Yellow Room” I suddenly remembered that indeed I have read that.
That’s one off my list then!
9th and final week thread is a out a bit early as I’ll be traveling the next few days and likely won’t have access to a computer. I am eagerly looking forward to the conclusion
Next up is Ellery Queen. This author is actually the pen name of two other authors, then cousins Daniel Nathan (alias Frederic Dannay) and Manford Lepofsky (alias Manfred Bennington Lee). They have, as far as I can tell, only written works featuring the eponymous detective while writing as “Ellery Queen”, which makes picking one to read pretty easy. As far as I can tell from Google searches, you can probably pick any book and be good; there’s about 40 of them, so you’ve got your pick.
The character Ellery Queen is himself a mystery writer who helps his police detective father solve crime, and his books are apparently classic examples of “fair play” murders, where it is expected that the reader should be able to follow along and piece all the clues together themselves. The authors apparently eventually moved more into scriptwriting, and the focus of their Ellery Queen books shifted as well, moving more towards introspective and psychological themes.
There’s quite a few novels in the Ellery Queen series that were ghostwritten as well, so keep that in mind when you’re picking a book to read.
One more for the day: S. S. Van Dine, pseudonym of Willard Huntington Wright. Better known in his time as an art critic and authority on Nietzsche, he was apparently embarrassed by the success of his mass-market mystery novels.
Name : S. S. Van Dine, (real name: Willard Huntington Wright)
Born : Oct. 15, 1888 in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.
Died : Apr. 11, 1939 (age 50) in New York City, New York, U.S.
- The Benson Murder Case
- “Twenty rules for writing detective stories”
The hero of his most well-known mystery novels is Philo Vance, apparently a rich aristocrat/aesthete; according to Wikipedia, “Vance’s character as portrayed in the novels might seem to many modern readers to be supercilious, obnoxiously affected, and highly irritating. He struck some contemporaries that way, as well.” There are twelve novels in the series, and almost all of them were adapted into film.
Van Dine is also know for his “Twenty rules for writing detective stories”, a critical essay outlining rules that he believed all good detective authors should adhere to:
THE DETECTIVE story is a kind of intellectual game. It is more — it is a sporting event. And for the writing of detective stories there are very definite laws — unwritten, perhaps, but none the less binding; and every respectable and self-respecting concocter of literary mysteries lives up to them. Herewith, then, is a sort Credo, based partly on the practice of all the great writers of detective stories, and partly on the promptings of the honest author’s inner conscience.
I highly recommend giving the list a look. Some of the items are what would you would expect, and others…
- There must be no love interest. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar.
I herewith list a few of the devices which no self-respecting detective story writer will now avail himself of. They have been employed too often, and are familiar to all true lovers of literary crime. To use them is a confession of the author’s ineptitude and lack of originality. (a) Determining the identity of the culprit by comparing the butt of a cigarette left at the scene of the crime with the brand smoked by a suspect.
@omk3 We’re being called out from beyond the grave with some of the speculating that went on.
I feel suitably chastised.
This should likely be a Natively question rather than a bookclub question, but I thought I’d ask here first. Do some of us have drastically different page counts somehow? What’s going on?
When you add a book as reading on natively you can adjust the page count if you like from what’s listed (I guess to allow for people reading different versions?)
For this one I just left it at the default (which I think is the page numbers for the paperback) and updated progress by percentage - but I think the other numbers are the kindle & bookwalker page numbers.
Oh, I didn’t know that, thanks! I never adjust page numbers and always update by percentage too.
Yep! As @sycamore said, it’s probably for different versions. My Kindle version handily shows page numbers, so I adjusted the total pages for myself on Natively to match what the Kindle version showed for easy entry. When the Kindle version doesn’t show page numbers, I’ll just enter percents.
Here’s where you can modify the page number for the book you’re reading, for those who haven’t found it before: