The Notting Hill Mystery

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9780712358590: The Notting Hill Mystery

Can you name the first detective novel ever published? For years, many believed it to be Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone, published in 1868. Others speculated it might be Émile Gaboriau’s first Monsieur Lecoq novel, L’Affaire Lerouge. Actually, the firstmodern detective novel predates both of these by several years—Charles Warren Adams’s The Notting Hill Mystery, originally published as an eight-part serial in Once A Week magazine in 1862 under the pseudonym Charles Felix, then as a single-volume novel in 1863 by Bradbury & Evans, is considered to truly be the first.            The Notting Hill Mystery begins in London, where the wife of the sinister Baron R__ dies after drinking from a bottle of acid, apparently while sleepwalking in her husband’s home laboratory. It looks like an accident, until insurance investigator Ralph Henderson learns that Baron R__ took out numerous life insurance policies on his wife. As Henderson investigates the case, he discovers not one, but three murders. Presented as Henderson’s evidential findings—diary entries, family letters, chemical analysis reports, interviews with witnesses, along with a crime scene map—the novel displays innovative techniques that would not become common features of detective fiction until the 1920s.            To the delight of all fans of detective fiction, the British Library makes this landmark text available once again. This handsome new edition also includes George du Maurier’s illustrations, the first edition to do so since the original publication in serial form. 

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About the Author:

Charles Warren Adams wrote under the pseudonym Charles Felix. He was a journalist, traveler, lawyer, and sole proprietor of the firm Saunders, Otley & Co., as well as the author of Barefooted Birdie and Velvet Lawn.


“The book is both utterly of its time and utterly ahead of it.”

(Paul Collins New York Times Book Review)

“[T]he mystery that started them all is as masterful as anything it inspired.”

(Sandra Dallas Denver Post)

“[T]he way [The Notting Hill Mystery] tells its bizarre tale of murder is astonishingly modern.” (Julia Handford Telegraph)

“Engrossing. . . . The Notting Hill Mystery follow[s] the epistolary tradition of police casebooks popular in the mid-nineteenth century, but in presenting the evidence systematically and showing the working of the detective, Adams hit[s] on something central to the detective mystery: the suspense created by revealing one narrative through another.” (Alice Spawls London Review of Books)

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