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The Notting Hill Mystery (paperback)

British Library Publishing
Bibliographic Details:
Paperback, 312 pages, 198 x 130mm, 8 black and white illustrations
Charles Warren Adams
Free UK P&P for orders over £15

The First Detective Novel

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As featured in the Financial Times crime books of the year for 2012.
Detective fiction at its best, The Notting Hill Mystery was first published as an eight part serial between 1862 and 1863 in the magazine Once a Week, written under the pseudonym Charles Felix. It has been widely described as the first detective fiction novel, pre-dating as it does other novels such as Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone (1868) and Emile Gaboriau’s first Monsieur Lecoq novel (1869) that have previously claimed that accolade.

The story is told by insurance investigator Ralph Henderson, who is building a case against the sinister Baron ‘R___’, suspected of murdering his wife in order to obtain significant life insurance payments. Henderson descends into a maze of intrigue including a diabolical mesmerist, kidnapping by gypsies, slow-poisoners, a rich uncle’s will and three murders. Presented in the form of diary entries, family letters, chemical analysis reports, interviews with witnesses and a crime scene map, the novel displays innovative techniques that would not become common features of detective fiction until the 1920s.

Now made available again, with George du Maurier’s original illustrations included for the first time since the original serial publication, this new edition of The Notting Hill Mystery will be welcomed by all fans of detective fiction.

This is the first title in the British Library Crime Classics series.
`It’s a great read, written in a very matter-of-fact way… it’s both utterly of its time and utterly ahead of it`
Paul Collins, New York Times Book Review

`The book’s premise is irresistible. A woman dies after apparently sleepwalking into her husband’s laboratory and drinking from a bottle of acid. An insurance company investigator discovers that the husband had taken out no fewer than five life insurance policies on his wife. As in Columbo, we know the identity of the villain, but we must work out how the investigator will prove his case.`
Jake Kerridge, The Telegraph

`Poisoning, hypnotists, kidnappers and a series of crimes "in their nature and execution too horrible to contemplate": The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Felix, believed to be the first detective novel ever published, is back in print for the first time in a century-and-a-half.`
Alison Flood, The Guardian

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