Friday, April 22, 2022

Fiction Friday: The Leavenworth Case

Fiction Friday: The Leavenworth Case 

Set in Baltimore, Maryland and Gunnison, Colorado, Ellie’s Escape takes place during 1878. Part of my research is to read catalogs, magazines, and books from the time period. One of the novels that Ellie could have read was The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katherine Green. 

Green was a poet and a novelist, and is credited with being one of the first writers of detective fiction. Her books are known to be well-plotted and legally accurate. She is often referred to as the “mother of the detective novel,” and Agatha Christie indicated in her autobiography that Green influenced her writing. 

The novel was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons and weighed in at 475 pages. It became an immediate bestseller in America and Europe and shot Green to fame. Popular with both men and women, the book was also read by people of all ages. The author’s New York Times obituary stated that The Leavenworth Case was her most famous novel. Unfortunately her work has fallen into obscurity. 

A wealthy retired merchant, Horatio Leavenworth, is shot and killed in his library (shades of Clue, anyone?) Investigator Ebenezer Gryce (who would go on to star in future novels) and lawyer Everett Raymond look into the case and determined that no one could have left the house prior to the discovery of the body, creating what is known as a closed-room mystery. 

By using her knowledge of the criminal and legal industries, Green created a book that was technically accurate and included realistic procedural details. A coroner’s inquest, expert testimony, scientific ballistic evidence, a schematic drawing, and reconstructed letter hearken to future police procedural mysteries. The first “suspicious butler” also plays a role. 

The format includes a narrator who assists the detective, newspaper accounts of the case, wills and a large inheritance, a second murder, and a final confrontation which are aspects that would become standard elements in later detective fiction. Are you familiar with any of Anna Katherine Green’s novels? 


Ellie’s Escape 

She’s running for her life. He needs a trophy wife. They didn’t count on falling in love. 

Ellie Wagner is fine being a spinster school teacher. Then she witnesses a bank hold up and can identify the bandits. Fellow robbery victim Milly Crenshaw happens to run the Westward Home & Hearts Matrimonial Agency so she arranges for Ellie to head West as a mail-order bride. But her groom only wants a business arrangement. Can she survive a loveless marriage? 

Banker Julian Sheffield is more comfortable with numbers than with people, but he’s done well for himself. Then the bank president tells him that in order to advance further he must marry in six weeks’ time. The candid, unsophisticated woman sent by the agency is nothing like he expected, but time is running out. When her past comes calling, does he have what it takes to ensure their future?

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