Thursday, June 6, 2019

ARC Review: The Old Man in the Corner by Baroness Orczy

The Old Man in the Corner
Author: Baroness Orczy
Series: The Teahouse Detective (Volume 1)
Publication: Pushkin Vertigo (June 11, 2019)

Description: A classic collection of mysteries from the Golden Age of British crime writing, by the author of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Mysteries! There is no such thing as a mystery in connection with any crime, provided intelligence is brought to bear upon its investigation.

So says a rather down-at-heel elderly gentleman to young Polly Burton of the Evening Observer, in the corner of the ABC teashop on Norfolk Street one afternoon. Once she has forgiven him for distracting her from her newspaper and luncheon, Miss Burton discovers that her interlocutor is as brilliantly gifted as he is eccentric - able to solve mysteries that have made headlines and baffled the finest minds of the police without once leaving his seat in the teahouse.

The Old Man in the Corner is a classic collection of mysteries featuring the Teahouse Detective - a contemporary of Sherlock Holmes, with a brilliant mind and waspish temperament to match that of Conan Doyle's creation.

My Thoughts: This was an interesting reading experience. It is compared to Sherlock Holmes which is why I chose to read it, but I was disappointed. The book is a collection of mysteries that all follow the same pattern. Young reporter Polly Burton meets an elderly man at the teashop where she routinely goes for lunch and he gives her the solution to a number of criminal cases that have made headlines and baffled the police.

My main problem with this is that the nameless man never feels any need to share his conclusions with the police and, in fact, seems to admire those criminals who have managed to get away with their crimes. In addition, he solves all of his cases purely in terms of logical evaluations of the circumstances of the crime with no need to bother with pesky details like evidence or proof.

I also found the book rampant with prejudices that would make them impossible to publish in our more sensitive time. I think feminists would be up in arms to read that the detective believes that only a woman would stab a man in the back since no Englishman would ever do so. These stories had it all from classism to sexism and probably any number of other isms.

People curious about mystery fiction from the early 1900s may enjoy this collection.

Favorite Quote:
When I read the account of the murder--the knife! stabbing!--bah! Don't I know enough of English crime not to be certain at once that no Englishman, be he ruffian from the gutter or be he Duke's son, ever stabs his victim in the back. Italians, French, Spaniards do it, if you will, and women of most nations. An Englishman's instinct is to strike and not to stab. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

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