Saturday, 28 December 2019

XYZ by Anna Katharine Green + #FreeBook

XYZ by Anna Katharine Green
Published in America by G P Putnam's Sons in 1883.

X for my 2019 Alphabet Soup Challenge

How I got this book:
Downloaded the free ebook from Project Gutenberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anna Katharine Green (November 11, 1846 - April 11, 1935) was an American poet and novelist. She was one of the first writers of detective fiction in America and distinguished herself by writing well plotted, legally accurate stories. Green has been called "the mother of the detective novel." Green is credited with shaping detective fiction into its classic form, and developing the series detective. In addition to creating elderly spinster and young female sleuths, Green's innovative plot devices included dead bodies in libraries, newspaper clippings as "clews," the coroner's inquest, and expert witnesses. Green was in some ways a progressive woman for her time - succeeding in a genre dominated by male writers - but she did not approve of many of her feminist contemporaries, and she was opposed to women's suffrage.

In this short story, an unnamed detective is sent to a small town, Brandon, in Massachusetts where he hopes to uncover the ringleaders of a counterfeiting scam. Instead, in following his suspicions, he finds himself in the midst of a very different crime altogether.

I'd never heard of Anna Katharine Green prior to stumbling upon this X book for my Alphabet Soup challenge. I certainly had no idea of her legacy as a detective fiction author and, having now read XYZ, I wonder why she isn't as famous as Agatha Christie. Indeed, it's all too possible that Christie was inspired and influenced by Green's writing. Perhaps we need a similar book to Monster, She Wrote, but detailing early female crime fiction authors. Is anyone currently writing this book?

XYZ is an ingenious and cleverly plotted story. It's first person narrator never identifies himself other than to say that he is a detective, so he has a compelling level of mystery surrounding him especially as we learn very little about him as a person. We read his innermost thoughts concerning the investigation as it unfolds, but this isn't a man given to recounting past anecdotes or diverting from his focus. In fact, none of the characters are portrayed in any great depth. Green manages to put across their essential attributes through brief sketches which suits the feel of the story. XYZ is only about fifty pages long so spending more time on description would slow its pace right down. As it is, I felt I knew enough to envisage the people and locations while remaining gripped by the mystery. I very much enjoyed reading XYZ and would happily pick out more Anna Katharine Green books in the future.

Etsy Find!
by Masks And Tiaras in
Crewe, England

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Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Anna Katharine Green / Crime fiction / Books from America


  1. Getting an X is always a huge bonus! It's so hard to find titles or authors for X that you want to read!

    1. Tell me about it! This is the second year Project Gutenberg has come up trumps though :-)

  2. Even though it was a short read it sounds like it was pretty good. I hadn't heard of this author before either.

    1. I like to think of myself as widely read, but there are so many gaps in my knowledge!! And it seems that I just keep discovering more!

  3. Anna Katherine Green is my Mom's favorite author. When I wanted to write a mystery story a few years ago, I read 'The Circular Study' by Anna Katherine Green to learn how.

    The nameless detective was a common trope of mystery writers back then. My favorite is Dashiell Hammett's nameless detective that later came to be known as 'The Continental Operative'. 'Red Harvest' is my favorite.

    1. Thank you for your recommendations :-)
      I look forward to reading them, especially the other Green book