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Review: The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow by Anna Katharine Green

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  • Mary Reed
    Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to propose a new sub-division of the GAD novel. To wit, works where the crime is committed in a museum, as is the case in
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 2008
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      Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to propose a new sub-division of the
      GAD novel. To wit, works where the crime is committed in a museum, as is
      the case in The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow. Other detections with the
      setting that spring to mind are Van Dine's The Scarab Murder Case and
      The Jew's Breastplate in Conan Doyle's Round The Fire Stories.

      But to return to The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow. Set in May l9l3, the
      novel opens with the death of a young girl on an upper floor of a New
      York museum. She has been killed by an arrow and beside her kneels Mrs
      Ermentrude Taylor, who was in the gallery room when the girl died.
      Further, Mrs Taylor claims she had a psychic vision that her husband had
      also died at the same time as the girl. Even stranger to relate, while
      there are arrows aplenty no bow is anywhere to be seen.

      The museum was immediately locked after the death, keeping visitors and
      staff inside while the authorities were notified. Detective Ebenezer
      Gryce, now 85, and his assistant Sweetwater soon arrive to investigate
      the situation. It is a tangled case: was the death an accident or
      murder? But who would be foolish enough to loose an arrow in a museum?
      On the other hand, what motive could there be for doing away with a girl
      barely in her mid teens?

      After Gryce arrives everyone in the building is sent to stand in the
      same spot as they were when Mrs Taylor's horrified cry alerted them to
      the incident. Suddenly an extra man appears. Where has he sprung from?

      The plot immediately begins to thicken. How does an English visitor, a
      stranger to the victim, come to know her name? Why has the girl's
      travelling companion hastily left their hotel without leaving a
      forwarding address? For that matter what was the well-bred young lady
      doing going about without a chaperone? Where is the bow hidden? How
      could the arrow have been shot without someone in the open galleries
      noticing?

      No less than three floor plans are provided. Readers will need to refer
      to them more than once, because the plot is very dense and the movements
      of those in the museum at the relevant time are vital to solving the
      mystery. Enlightment comes only after much thought and a bit of travel.
      Time and again the investigation comes to a screeching halt, only to be
      picked up again after a bit of cogitation and/or leg work by Gryce,
      Sweetwater, and others.

      My verdict: This novel features what struck me as the saddest ending of
      any mystery I have read this past six months or so, and yet the
      complicated plot has sound psychological underpinnings for the era in
      which it is set, and in some ways even today. Gryce and Sweetwater
      initially suspect different culprits, but the real problem is linking
      the various prime movers to each other and particularly finding the
      motive. Sweetwater's use of carpentry skills aids the investigation in
      an unexpected way!

      Etext: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17763/17763-h/17763-h.htm

      Mary R
      http://home.epix.net/~maywrite/
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