The Case of Miss Elliott (Orczy)

The man in the corner is the original armchair detective: a shabby, animated scarecrow who sits in the corner of an A.B.C. teashop, tying endless knots in a piece of string while he unravels tangled skeins. Sherlock Holmes rushes around, nose to the ground like a human bloodhound; the man in the corner reads the newspaper accounts, attends an inquest or a court hearing, then discusses the case with a lady journalist.

The Case of Miss Elliott is the first volume of the Old Man in the Corner tales, but the second series. The detective first appeared in 13 stories in The Royal Magazine (1901); these were not collected in a book until 1909.

Orczy’s tales are models of detective construction. In a mere 20 pages, she gives us a baffling problem, a few suspects with motives and alibis, and an ingenious solution, often relying on disguise or impersonation. They are, moreover, among the earliest fair play mysteries; Orczy gives the reader all the clues, so the reader has a fair chance to solve the puzzle himself. The man in the corner applies logic and common sense, as the intelligent reader should do.

“There are no such things as mysteries,” he explains. “The police call them so, so do the public, but every crime has its perpetrator, and every puzzle its solution. My experience is that the simplest solution is invariably the right one.”

2 thoughts on “The Case of Miss Elliott (Orczy)

  1. The first sentence in the second paragraph makes my head hurt. Perhaps some further explanation as to how the first series was published later than the second series would help.


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