I loved The Leavenworth Case; it was a really good mystery by the “mother of the detective novel.” It is one of the first American mysteries, published nine years before Sherlock Holmes. Mr. Leavenworth, the wealthy client of Veeley, Carr, & Raymond, is mysteriously murdered in his library, with (seemingly) very few clues to go on. Everything seems to indicate Mary, his favorite niece and heiress, or her cousin Eleanore. But everything is more complicated than it seems…and that’s before the second murder.
Ebenezer Gryce is the detective, though Mr. Raymond, one of the lawyers is the narrator, and he takes much of the investigation unto himself. This book wasn’t overwritten at all. Though there are some long descriptions, they all add a lot to the story, and as Michael Sims, editor of The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime (which I want to read also hint hint) points out, it generally moves at a really fast clip. One thing that annoyed me, however, was how Raymond couldn’t conceive of a gentlewoman (Mary or Eleanore) killing Mr. Leavenworth. Sexist. Women can be dangerous. But, that wasn’t annoying enough to detract from how much I enjoyed this book. I got it from the library, but now I really want my own copy. It was that good.
The clues in this one really build up until you have this complicated puzzle, and really, I loved this one. Once I got past the slight sexism (surprising from a female author), this was a great mystery. And, I actually kind of suspected the murderer from the middle of the book, so I was happy about that. This one was not as suspenseful as Agatha Christie, but suspenseful nonetheless. I would really recommend it to fans of Sherlock Holmes or other smart mysteries.