Anna Katharine Green (1846-1935) is considered one of the mothers of the mystery novel. Her 1878 detective story The Leavenworth Case predated Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes by more than a decade, and she went on to establish series characters who were police detectives, elderly lady mystery solvers, and even young women sleuths well ahead of the creation Poirot, Marple, and the indomitable Nancy Drew. (Is it possible that Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody is a nod to Green's Amelia Butterworth, who would have been Peabody's contemporary?)
And of course we are lucky enough now to have virtually all of her works available for free from Project Gutenberg and digitized for Kindle (and probably the other platforms as well).
I had read The Forsaken Inn a couple of years ago, and while It was interesting and entertaining, it didn't quite grab me. But it had sparked my interest in Green's work as one of those prolific and once-popular but now almost forgotten women writers. Reading about her again in Deathly Women (reviewed here) encouraged me to try more of her works, and the Halloween Bingo provided a perfect nudge in that direction.
The Amethyst Box is a novelette published in 1905. My free Kindle edition included The House in the Mist, but I haven't read it yet. As you might guess by my avatar, the former held a special attraction.
The action all takes place from the late evening before to the early morning of the day Miss Gilbertine Murray is to wed young Mr. Sinclair at the ocean-front home of Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong in Newport, Rhode Island. The narrator, Mr. Walter Worthington, is Sinclair's best man; Worthington is also secretly in love with Gilbertine's cousin, Dorothy Camerden. The two young women -- orphaned we know not how -- have been raised by their wealthy but cruelly tyrannical aunt, Mrs. Lansing.
During the pre-wedding festivities, Sinclair displays a tiny box made from an amethyst to some of the young ladies. The box contains a deadly secret, and when the box comes up missing and someone later comes up dead, the two young men must identify the killer, even though each of them suspects the solution will destroy his future happiness.
All told through Worthington's first-person narration, there isn't much discovery of clues, but instead a persuading of the principals to reveal what they know. And of course they know more than they are willing at first to tell. Though the style is dated -- those page-long paragraphs are a bit much -- the puzzle was intriguing enough that I read until my eyes just plain wouldn't focus any longer last night and I reached for the Kindle first thing this morning to finish before I got out of bed.
For the Halloween Bingo I've already re-read some old favorites, which almost feels like cheating, so I was delighted that this short gem took place in Newport and would fit snugly on the "Set in New England" square. leaving the "Genre Mystery" spot open for another new discovery!