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The Charing Cross Mystery

Page history last edited by Jon 14 years, 10 months ago

Fletcher, JS - The Charing Cross Mystery (1923)


J. S. Fletcher's The Charing Cross Mystery starts dramatically. Hetherwick, a young barrister, witnesses the sudden death of one of two fellow passengers on the London Underground between St. James's Park and Charing Cross. The dead man’s companion disappears without trace and foul play is suspected.


Yes, it’s a mystery and a story of detection. But in the middle of the book the main mysteries are solved and the rest is more thriller stuff with chasing the culprits. Detection work is done by Hetherwick, the barrister who witnessed the crime, he "had leisure on his hands; also, he was well off in this world's goods, and much more con­cerned with the psychology of his profession than with a desire to earn money by its practice." 


The police investigation is led by Matherfield, who later joins forces with Hetherwick. The barrister’s clerk helps and does a bit of detection on his own. Some other characters interfere and the plot gets confused. There are some old fashioned devices, too, like identical twins or strange poison. The style is dry and the novel lacks care and atmosphere. For instance, though involved in a romance with the daughter of the murdered man, we never learn the Christian name of his amateur detective. And why does the author use similar sounding names for the two protagonists, Hetherwick and Matherfield?


Fletcher may be a bit dull, but if the reader is interested in more than a good plot well told, for instance in setting, in this case London and the industrial North, or in the question how a typical mystery writer of the 1890s adapts to the challenge of Doyle and the beginning of the Golden Age, he will find enough to hold his attention.



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