A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
A tea, a musicale, and an evening dance kept Violet Strange in a whirl for the remainder of the day. No brighter eye nor more contagious wit lent brilliance to these occasions, but with the passing of the midnight hour no one who had seen her in the blaze of electric lights would have recognized this favoured child of fortune…
This is a particularly tragic mystery, with a particularly gruesome resolution. Violet Strange, a young New York socialite turned private detective, is asked to investigate an apparent suicide. Mr Hammond is found dead, a bullet through his heart, a gun in his hand, and his young baby smothered beneath his body. Some neighbors only heard one shot, others two. There seem to be two separate bullet holes in the room but only one bullet. Did Mr. Hammond commit suicide, accidentally killing his baby in the process? Or did he try to shield the baby from an intruder who got the better of him?
The tale starts off slowly. We get a kind of reportage from the scene of the crime and some lengthy hemming and hawing while our detective decides whether or not to take the case. But eventually the mystery is redeemed by Violet Strange’s character and interesting methods. After a long night on the town she finds herself at the scene of the crime psychologically mapping out the dead man’s actions and matching them to the physical evidence. In the end Strange is forced to come to a rather disturbing conclusion.
It’s nicely done early detective fiction from the excellent anthology The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime. Give it a try next time your in the mood for some old school mysteries.