An old man sits in the corner of a London tea house. It is the early years of the 20th century. In comes a young lady reporter, and a conversation ensues. “Mysteries!” he comments. “There is no such thing as a mystery in connection with any crime, provided intelligence is brought to bear upon its investigation.” At first, the reporter wants to terminate the exchange, swiftly. But she cannot walk away when a notorious unsolved murder becomes the topic of their conversation and this slightly disreputable yet decided character declares that the solution, of course, is obvious! Miss Polly Burton may be dismissive, but she finds herself drawn into the story he presents. And the scene is set. Though best known for The Scarlet Pimpernel, the Hungarian novelist Baroness Orczy was a prolific and versatile writer who could turn her pen to other genres. So, in the social and literary context of the huge success of Sherlock Holmes, she developed a memorable, but nameless character with remarkable powers of detection. The first stories appeared in The Royal Magazine in 1901, and other series followed. The first collection appeared in book form in 1905. Entitled The Old Man in the Corner, it contained a dozen entertaining stories, opening with The Fenchurch Street Mystery, and continuing with The Robbery in Phillimore Terrace, The York Mystery and The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway. Classic diverting crime of its time. Read with a light touch by Martyn Swain.
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