This book, published in 1908, is the original of a whole class of detective fiction - that of the "armchair detective"; in this case "the old man in the corner", who habitually occupies a corner seat in a tea-shop.
The Old Man relies mostly upon sensationalistic "penny dreadful" newspaper accounts, occasionally visiting a courtroom for extra details. He narrates all this information (while tying complicated knots in a piece of string) to a Lady Journalist who frequents the same tea-shop.
They enjoy an antagonistic relationship, as the Journalist attempts to cut the Old Man's ego down to size and the Old Man trumps her every time.
The mysteries themselves are pretty typical of Edwardian crime fiction, resting on a solid foundation of unhappy marriages and the inequitable division of family property. Other aspects of the time are illustrated by a murder in the London underground system; murder of a female doctor; and two cases involving artists living in "bohemian" lodgings.
Another new and noteworthy feature of these cases: no one is ever brought to justice, and in fact most of the villains cannot be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This is an absolutely wonderful book - a real classic of crime fiction.
EDIT: 3 Jan 08
Created a proper MobiPocket version of the book with full-size pictures, library information, working table of contents link, etc. Uploaded v3.
EDIT: 4 Mar 10
Corrected errors in the HTML. Improved the formatting. Added a new cover picture. Uploaded v4.
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