Reading: That Affair Next Door

Reading: That Affair Next Door

Most people are familiar with a certain knitting spinster amateur detective who uses her remembrances of the past to solve mysteries.

What most people don’t realize is she was not the first!

Meet Miss Amelia Butterworth, and no, from what I can find, she’s no relation to the syrup. 😉

This Miss Butterworth is perhaps the first female detective ever written. Her first adventure was by Anna Katharine Green, published in 1897.

It is the eighth novel with Detective Gryce, but the story is told first-person by Miss Butterworth. She is a paragon of virtue and womanhood, and just as much of a gossiping old woman as she claims not to be.

We are first introduced to her in this way:

“I am not an inquisitive woman, but when, in the middle of a certain warm night in September, I heard a carriage draw up at the adjoining house and stop, I could not resist the temptation of leaving my bed and taking a peep through the curtains of my window.”

Her entire wish to solve the mystery is merely to prove to Gryce that she is worth being his assistant, and he seems to enjoy pushing her buttons just to see what she might accomplish.

She describes Gryce at the first as, “of portly build and benevolent aspect; a fatherly-looking man, and not at all the person one would be likely to associate with the police. Yet he could take the lead very naturally, and when he spoke, I felt bound to answer him.”

But then, because it’s a first-person account from her perspective, we get to hear what she really thinks, especially in regards to Detective Gryce, which is often quite funny or snarky.

“I must have shown what was passing in my mind, and he must have seen it reflected on the polished surface of the porcelain he was contemplating, for his lips showed the shadow of a smile sufficiently sarcastic for me to see that he was far from being as easy-natured as his countenance indicated.”

“If the image he had under his eye had not been made of bronze, I am sure it would have become petrified by the look he now gave it. What to me seemed but the natural proposition of an energetic woman with a special genius for his particular calling, evidently struck him as audacity of the grossest kind.”

Her knowledge of clothing proves to be one of her most valuable assets, for example knowing that a certain style of hat was from last summer which means that the dead woman was not from the highest of classes.

“I think she is younger than either you or myself,” I deigned to reply. “Her narrow pointed shoes show she has not yet reached the years of discretion.”

After Miss Amelia Butterworth, Green would go on to create the first girl detective, Miss Violet Strange, inspiring the creation of Nancy Drew and others.

I’ll be sharing more about Anna Katharine Green in the coming months, as my research continues to uncover just how much she is to thank for building the foundations of detective mystery fiction.

Thanks for reading and be sure to come THIS SATURDAY for my presentation!

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