My Book Notes: Unravelled Knots: The Teahouse Detective (s. s.), 1925 by Baroness Orczy

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Pushkin Press, 2019. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: ‎ 1158 KB. Print Length: 273 pages. ASIN: B07YP23TD4. ISBN: 978-1-78227-589-3. Unravelled Knots contains thirteen short stories about the Teahouse Detective, Orzy’s armchair detective who solves crimes for his own entertainment. These stories were first collected in book form and published as Unravelled Knots by T. Hutchinson & Co in 1925.

Another classic collection of mysteries from the Golden Age of British crime writing, by the author of The Scarlet Pimpernel

getimage-183-295x452Description: It has been twenty years since Polly Burton last saw the Teahouse Detective, but one foggy afternoon she stumbles into a Fleet Street café and chances upon the cantankerous sleuth again. The years have not softened his manner, nor dulled his appetite for unravelling the most tortuous of conspiracies, shedding light on mysteries that have confounded the finest minds of the police.

How did Prince Orsoff disappear from his railway carriage in-between stations? How could the Ingres masterpiece be seen in two places at once? And what is the truth behind the story of the blood-stained tunic that exonerated its owner?

From the comfort of his seat by the fire, the Teahouse Detective sets his brilliant mind to work once more.

My Take: Unravelled Knots is the third and last collection of thirteen short stories featuring Baroness Orczy’s Teahouse Detective, following those in The Old Man in the Corner (1908) and in The Case of Miss Elliott (1905). Seven of these stories originally appeared in the London Magazine (1923 – 1924) and five in Hutchinson’s Magazine (1924 – 1925). They were collected in book form in 1925, published as Unravelled Knots by T. Hutchinson & Co.

As we read in the first of the stories, twenty years have passed since Polly Burton saw the Man in the Corner for the last time. By chance, one day, she walks into the Fleet Street teashop again and sees him sitting by the fire, fidgeting with his piece of string. In this manner they renew their former talks. The stories in Unravelled Knots are: “The Mystery of the Khaki Tunic”; “The Mystery of the Ingres Masterpiece”; “The Mystery of the Pearl Necklace”; “The Mystery of the Russian Prince”; “The Mysterious Tragedy in Bishop’s Road”; “The Mystery of the Dog’s Tooth Cliff”; “The Tytherton Case”; “The Mystery of Brudenell Court”; “The Mystery of the White Carnation”; “The Mystery of the Montmartre Hat”; “The Miser of Maida Vale”; “The Fulton Gardens Mystery”; and “A Moorland Tragedy”.

I’m not going to expand more on these stories. Suffice is to say that they follow a similar pattern, but unlike the previous tales, I found them pretty dull and lacking the freshness and novelty that were present in the former ones. I was able to finish reading the book, but actually none of the stories interested me much.

Unravelled Knots has been reviewed, among others, by Jim Noy at The Invisible Event, and Rekha Rao at The Book Decoder.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. T. Hutchinson & Co, UK, 1925)

About the Author: Baroness Orczy (1865 – 1947) was a Hungarian-born British author, best known for the Scarlet Pimpernel novels. Her Teahouse Detective, who features in Unravelled Knots, was one of the first fictional sleuths created in response to the Sherlock Holmes stories’ huge success. Initially serialised in magazines, the stories in theses collections were first published in book form in 1905 and have since been adapted for radio, television and film. All three collections of Teahouse Detective mysteries are available from Pushkin Vertigo: The Old Man in the Corner (1908), The Case of Miss Elliot (1905) and Unravelled Knots. Besides I’ve read “The Glasgow Mystery” (1902), the 13th short story not included in the 1908 collection ​The Old Man In The Corner.

Other detective stories by Baroness Orczy: Lady Molly of Scotland Yard (1910); The Man in Grey (1918); Castles in the Air (1921); and Skin O’ My Tooth (1928).

Pushkin Press publicity page

Unravelled Knots LibriVox

Baroness Orczy at gadetection

Baroness Orczy by Mike Grost

Baroness Orczy (1865-1947) – Emma Magdalena Rosalia Maria Josefa Barbara Orczy

The Golden Age: Baroness Orczy (1865-1947)  by Carol Westron

Unravelled Knots, de la baronesa Orczy

Otra colección clásica de misterios de la Edad de Oro de la escritura policiaca británica, por la autora de The Scarlet Pimpernel

Descripción: Han pasado veinte años desde la última vez que Polly Burton vio al detective de la casa de té, pero una tarde de niebla tropieza con un café de Fleet Street y se encuentra de nuevo con el viejo cascarrabias. Los años no han suavizado sus modales, ni han apagado su apetito por desentrañar la más tortuosa de las conspiraciones, arrojando luz sobre misterios que han confundido a las mejores mentes de la policía.

¿Cómo desapareció el príncipe Orsoff de su vagón de tren entre estaciones? ¿Cómo puede verse la obra maestra de Ingres en dos lugares a la vez ¿Y cuál es la verdad detrás de la historia de la túnica manchada de sangre que exoneró a su dueño?

Desde la comodidad de su asiento junto al fuego, el detective de la casa de té pone su brillante mente a trabajar una vez mas.

Mi opinión: Unravelled Knots es la tercera y última colección de trece cuentos protagonizados por el detective de la casa de té de la baronesa Orczy, que sigue a los de The Old Man in the Corner (1908) y The Case of Miss Elliott (1905). Siete de estos relatos aparecieron originalmente en el London Magazine (1923 – 1924) y cinco en el Hutchinson’s Magazine (1924 – 1925). Fueron recopilados en forma de libro en 1925, publicados como Unravelled Knots por T. Hutchinson & Co.

Como podemos leer en el primero de los relatos, han pasado veinte años desde que Polly Burton vio al Hombre del Rincón por última vez. Por casualidad, un día, vuelve a entrar en la casa de té de Fleet Street y lo ve sentado junto al fuego, jugueteando con su trozo de cuerda. De esta manera renuevan sus conversaciones anteriores. Las historias de Unravelled Knots son: “The Mystery of the Khaki Tunic”; “The Mystery of the Ingres Masterpiece”; “The Mystery of the Pearl Necklace”; “The Mystery of the Russian Prince”; “The Mysterious Tragedy in Bishop’s Road”; “The Mystery of the Dog’s Tooth Cliff”; “The Tytherton Case”; “The Mystery of Brudenell Court”; “The Mystery of the White Carnation”; “The Mystery of the Montmartre Hat”; “The Miser of Maida Vale”; “The Fulton Gardens Mystery”; y “A Moorland Tragedy”.

No voy a ampliar más estos relatos. Basta decir que siguen un patrón similar, pero a diferencia de los cuentos anteriores, los encontré bastante aburridos y carentes de la frescura y novedad que estaban presentes en los anteriores. Pude terminar de leer el libro, pero en realidad ninguna de las historias me interesó mucho.

Sobre el autor: La baronesa Orczy (1865 – 1947) fue una autora británica nacida en Hungría, más conocida por sus novelas sobre La Pimpinela Escarlata. Su detective de la casa de té que aparece en Unraveled Knots, fue uno de los primeros detectives de ficción creados en respuesta al gran éxito de las historias de Sherlock Holmes. Inicialmente serializadas en revistas, los relatos de estas colecciones se publicaron por primera vez en forma de libro en 1905 y desde entonces se han adaptado para la radio, la televisión y el cine. Las tres colecciones de misterio del detective de la casa de té están disponibles por Pushkin Vertigo: The The Old Man in the Corner (1908), The Case of Miss Elliot (1905) y Unraveled Knots (1925). Además, he leído “The Glasgow Mystery” (1902), el decimotercer relato no incluido en la colección de 1908 The Old Man In The Corner.

Otros relatos policiacos de la baronesa Orzy: Lady Molly of Scotland Yard (1910); The Man in Grey [El hombre gris](1918); Castles in the Air [Castillos en el aire] (1921); y Skin O’ My Tooth (1928).

My Book Notes: The Case of Miss Elliott: The Teahouse Detective, 1905 by Baroness Orczy

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Pushkin Press, 2019. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: ‎ 818 KB. Print Length:187 pages. ASIN: B07MLC7JP1. ISBN: 978-1-78227-534-3. These stories were first published as The Case of Miss Elliot by T. Fisher Unwin in 1905.

Every crime has its perpetrator, and every puzzle its solution.

41sjMy6a1ZL.SX316.SY480._SL500_Description: In the corner of the ABC teashop on Norfolk Street, Polly Burton of the Evening Observer sets down her morning paper, filled with news of the latest outrages, and eagerly waits for her mysterious acquaintance to begin. For no matter how ghastly or confounding the crime, or how fiendishly tangled the plot, the Teahouse Detective can invariably find the solution without leaving the comfort of his café seat. What did happen that tragic night to Miss Elliott? Who knows the truth about the stolen Black Diamonds? And what sinister workings are behind the curious disappearance of Count Collini? The police may be baffled, but rare is the mystery that eludes the brilliant Teahouse Detective.

My Take: The Case of Miss Elliott, Baroness Orczy’s first collection of detective stories, was originally published in 1905. In this collection she introduces the reader to her first fictional detective, the old man in the corner, who regularly sits at the same table in the ABC (Aerated Bread Company) tea shop located at the corner of Norfolk Street and The Strand. He drinks milk and eats cheesecake, while playing incessantly with a piece of string, making and unravelling knots. Without even getting up from his seat, he acts as an armchair detective to his regular listener, a young female journalist called Polly Burton. The focus of the stories, states Martin Edwards, is on solving the puzzles rather than on ensuring that the guilty are punished for their crimes. Although The Case of Miss Elliott was the first book in a collection of three, it is chronologically the second one in the series. The Old Man in the Corner, published in 1908, contains the first published stories in 1901-02 in The Royal Magazine. The stories, in the book before us now, were published in the same magazine between 1904 and 1905. The last book in the series, Unravelled Knots, was published much later, in 1925. Martin Edwards has included The Case of Miss Elliott, in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

I would like to quote NIck Fuller here when he claims that: ‘Orczy’s tales are models of detective construction. In a mere 20 pages, she gives us a baffling problem, a few suspects with motives and alibis, and an ingenious solution, often relying on disguise or impersonation. They are, moreover, among the earliest fair play mysteries; Orczy gives the reader all the clues, so the reader has a fair chance to solve the puzzle himself. The man in the corner applies logic and common sense, as the intelligent reader should do.’

It is quite possible, as already noted in some other review before, that one has the impression of having read some of the stories in this volume. I’m not sure if it is because Baroness Orczy’s plots were used by subsequent writers or because she plays fair with the readers providing them all the necessary clues to solve the puzzle.

The twelve short stories in this volume follow the same pattern as in The Old Man in the Corner. The old man in the corner refers to a case that has normally made the first page of the newspapers and has baffled both the police and the public opinion. Somehow the police has arrived to a wrong  conclusion or has not been able to find the real culprit. Next, the old man in the corner offers a detail description of what had happened and, finally, he furnishes in great detail the only logical solution.

The stories in The Case of Miss Elliot are: The Case of Miss Elliott”; “The Hocussing of Cigarette”; “The Tragedy in Dartmoor Terrace”; “Who Stole the Black Diamonds?”; “The Murder of Miss Pebmarsh”; “The Lisson Grove Mystery”; “The Tremarn Case”; “The Fate of the Artemis”; “The Disappearance of Count Collini”; “The Ayrsham Mystery”; “The Affair at the Novelty Theatre”; and “The Tragedy of Barnsdale Manor”.  Some reviews provide a brief summary of each tale, and I find no need to repeat them here. Among my favourite stories are: “The Case of Miss Elliott”; “The Tragedy in Dartmoor Terrace”; “The Tremarn Case”; “The Ayrsham Mystery”; and “The Tragedy of Barnsdale Manor”.

To put it very briefly, I really enjoyed reading it, but I found it would best to read it in small doses rather than in one sitting.

The Case of Miss Elliott has been reviewed, among others by Rekha at The Book Decode, Leah at FictionFan’s Book Reviews, Nick Fuller at The Grandest Game in the World, and Jim Noy at The Invisible Event.

About the Author: Baroness Orczy (1865-1947) Emma (“Emmuska”) Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála Orczy de Orczi, was a Hungarian-born British author, best known for her Scarlet Pimpernel novels. Baroness Orczy was born in Tarnaörs, Hungary, as the only daughter of Baron Felix Orczy, a noted composer and conductor, and his wife Emma. Her father was a friend of such composers as Wagner, Liszt, and Gounod. Orczy moved with her parents from Budapest to Brussels and then to London, learning to speak English at the age of fifteen. She was educated in convent schools in Brussels and Paris. In London she studied at the West London School of Art. Orczy married in 1894 Montague Barstow, whom she had met while studying at the Heatherby School of Art. Together they started to produce book and magazine illustrations and published an edition of Hungarian folktales. Her Teahouse Detective, who features in The Old Man in the Corner, was one of the first fictional sleuths created in response to the Sherlock Holmes stories’ huge success. Initially serialised in magazines, the stories about the Old Man in the Corner were eventually revised and collected in three volumes, of which The Case of Miss Elliot was the second in chronological terms, but the first to be published. Following this The Old Man in the Corner aka The Man in the Corner (1908) and Unravelled Knots (1925) were published.  Besides I’ve read “The Glasgow Mystery” (1902), the 13th short story not included in the 1908 collection ​The Old Man In The Corner.

Pushkin Press publicity page

The Case of Miss Elliot LibriVox

Baroness Orczy at gadetection

Baroness Orczy by Mike Grost

The Case of Miss Elliott, de la baronesa Orczy

Descripción: En la esquina del salón de té ABC en Norfolk Street, Polly Burton del Evening Observer deja su periódico de la mañana, lleno de noticias sobre las últimas atrocidades, y espera con impaciencia que comience su misterioso conocido. Porque sin importar lo espantoso o desconcertante que sea el crimen, o lo diabólicamente complicado de la trama, el detective del salón de té siempre puede encontrar la solución sin abandonar la comodidad de su asiento. ¿Qué le sucedió esa trágica noche a Miss Elliott? ¿Quién conoce la verdad sobre los diamantes negros robados? ¿Y qué siniestros hechos se esconden detrás de la curiosa desaparición del conde Collini? La policía puede estar desconcertada, pero raro es el misterio que se le escapa al brillante detective del salón de te.

Mi opinión: The Case of Miss Elliott, la primera colección de relatos de detectives de la baronesa Orczy, se publicó originalmente en 1905. En esta colección, presenta al lector a su primer detective de ficción, el anciano de la esquina, que se sienta regularmente a la misma mesa en el salón de té ABC (Aerated Bread Company), ubicado en la esquina de Norfolk Street y The Strand. Bebe leche y come tarta de queso, mientras juega incesantemente con un trozo de cuerda, haciendo y deshaciendo nudos. Sin siquiera levantarse de su asiento, actúa como un detective de salón para su oyente habitual, una joven periodista llamada Polly Burton. El énfasis de las historias, afirma Martin Edwards, está en resolver los enigmas en lugar de garantizar que los culpables sean castigados por sus crímenes. Aunque The Case of Miss Elliott fue el primer libro de una colección de tres, cronológicamente es el segundo de la serie. The Old Man in the Corner, publicado en 1908, contiene las primeras historias publicadas en 1901-02 en The Royal Magazine. Las historias, en el libro que tenemos ahora ante nosotros, se publicaron en la misma revista entre 1904 y 1905. El último libro de la serie, Unraveled Knots, se publicó mucho más tarde, en 1925. Martin Edwards ha incluido The Case of Miss Elliott, en The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

Me gustaría citar aquí a NIck Fuller cuando afirma que: “Los cuentos de Orczy son modelos de construcción detectivesca. En apenas 20 páginas, nos ofrecen un problema desconcertante, algunos sospechosos con motivos y coartadas, y una solución ingeniosa, a menudo basada en el encubrimiento o en la suplantación. Además, figuran entre entre los primeros misterios de juego limpio; Orczy le porporciona al lector todas las pistas, para que el lector tenga una oportunidad justa de resolver el enigma por él mismo. El hombre de la esquina aplica la lógica y el sentido común, como debe hacer el lector inteligente“.

Es muy posible, como ya se señaló en alguna otra reseña anterior, que uno tenga la impresión de haber leído algunas de las historias de este volumen. No estoy seguro de si es porque las tramas de la baronesa Orczy fueron utilizadas por escritores posteriores o porque ella juega limpio con los lectores proporcionándoles todas las pistas necesarias para resolver el enigma.

Los doce relatos de este volumen siguen el mismo patrón que en The Old Man in the Corner. El anciano de la esquina se refiere a un caso que normalmente ha salido en la primera página de los periódicos y ha desconcertado tanto a la policía como a la opinión pública. De alguna manera, la policía ha llegado a una conclusión equivocada o no ha podido encontrar al verdadero culpable. A continuación, el anciano de la esquina ofrece una descripción detallada de lo sucedido y, finalmente, proporciona con gran detalle la única solución lógica.

Las relatos de The Case of Miss Elliott son: “The Case of Miss Elliott”; “The Hocussing of Cigarette”; “The Tragedy in Dartmoor Terrace”; “Who Stole the Black Diamonds?”; “The Murder of Miss Pebmarsh”; “The Lisson Grove Mystery”; “The Tremarn Case”; “The Fate of the Artemis”; “The Disappearance of Count Collini”; “The Ayrsham Mystery”; “The Affair at the Novelty Theatre”; y “The Tragedy of Barnsdale Manor”. Algunas reseñas proporcionan un breve resumen de cada relato y no creo que sea necesario repetirlos aquí. Entre mis historias favoritas están: “The Case of Miss Elliott”; “The Tragedy in Dartmoor Terrace”; “The Tremarn Case”; “The Ayrsham Mystery”; y “The Tragedy of Barnsdale Manor”.

Para decirlo muy brevemente, disfruté mucho leyéndolo, pero descubrí que lo mejor sería leerlo en pequeñas dosis en lugar de hacerlo de una sentada.

Sobre el autor: La baronesa Orczy (1865 – 1947) Emma (afectivamente llamada “Emmuska”) Magdolna Rozalia Maria Jozefa Borbala Orczy de Orczi, fue una autora británica nacida en Hungría, más conocida por sus novelas sobre La Pimpinela Escarlata. La baronesa Orczy nació en Tarnaörs, Hungría, hija única del barón Félix Orczy, un destacado compositor y director de orquesta, y su esposa Emma. Su padre era amigo de compositores como Wagner, Liszt y Gounod. Orczy se mudó con sus padres de Budapest a Bruselas y luego a Londres, donde aprendió a hablar inglés a la edad de quince años. Fue educada en colegios religiosos de Bruselas y París. En Londres estudió en la West London School of Art. Orczy se casó en 1894 con Montague Barstow, a quien conoció mientras estudiaba en la Escuela de Arte Heatherby. Juntos comenzaron a producir ilustraciones de libros y revistas y publicaron una edición de cuentos populares húngaros. Su detective del salón de té, que aparece en El viejo en el rincón , fue uno de los primeros detectives de ficción creados en respuesta al gran éxito de las historias de Sherlock Holmes. Las historias sobre El viejo en el rincón, inicialmente serializadas en revistas, fueron finalmente revisadas y recopiladas en tres volúmenes, de los cuales The Case of Miss Elliott  (1905) fue el segundo en términos cronológicos, pero el primero en ser publicado. A continuación se publicaron The Old Man in the Corner, también conocido como The Man in the Corner (1908), y Unraveled Knots (1925). Además, he leído “The Glasgow Mystery” (1902), el decimotercer relato no incluido en la colección de 1908 ​The Old Man In The Corner.

The Glasgow Mystery by Baroness Orczy

royal-magazine-cover-april-1902-reduxHaving read Baroness Orczy’s The Old Man in the Corner and before beginning to read the following book in her series, The Case of Miss Elliott, I just realised that a 13 short story “The Glasgow Mystery” was the only one of the Baroness’s first thirteen Old Man stories never revised for inclusion in the 1909 collection.

You may find it here, as it first appeared in the Royal Magazine in April 1902.

The first story from the second series of “British Cities” Old Man mysteries, “The Glasgow Mystery” provoked hundreds of angry letters from The Royal Magazine’s Scottish readers through its inaccurate account of Scots legal procedure, specifically its depiction of a coroner’s jury. As mentioned in the preface to the “Edinburgh Mystery,” (see link below) Scots law is completely different from English (being largely based on the old Roman legal system), and the coroner’s jury is one of many English legal devices non-existent in Scotland. The Baroness, as a Hungarian, was unaware of this legal divide between the British Isles’ nations, and argued thus successfully to her publishers (who really should have caught the error themselves).

The only lasting result of the controversy was the omission of “The Glasgow Mystery” from the 1908 [9] Old Man in the Corner—a pity, since the story contains a very clever solution. The following text, which will hopefully provoke no outcry today, will give our readers a sample of the different format of the Old Man in the Corner stories in their original Royal Magazine presentation. (Introduction © 2013 by Dan Neyer).


My Book Notes: The Teahouse Detective: The Old Man in the Corner (1908) by Baroness Orczy

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Pushkin Press, 2018. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 4680 KB. Print Length: 224 pages. ASIN: B07JVLGPFD. ISBN: 978-1-78227-524-4. A collection of twelve stories featuring an unnamed armchair detective who appears in a series of short stories written by Baroness Orczy. The character first appeared in The Royal Magazine in 1901 in a series of six “Mysteries of London”. The title, The Old Man in the Corner (U.S. edition: The Man in the Corner) was given to one of the collections of the earliest stories. Although it contains the earliest written stories in the series, they were not collected in book form until 1908 by Hodder & Stoughton , some four years after the chronologically later stories in The Case of Miss Elliott (1905). The last book in the series is the much later Unravelled Knots (1925).

getimage-97-600x921Product Description: Mysteries! There is no such thing as a mystery in connection with any crime, provided intelligence is brought to bear upon its investigation.

So says a rather down-at-heel elderly gentleman to young Polly Burton of the Evening Observer, in the corner of the ABC teashop on Norfolk Street one afternoon. Once she has forgiven him for distracting her from her newspaper and luncheon, Miss Burton discovers that her interlocutor is as brilliantly gifted as he is eccentric – able to solve mysteries that have made headlines and baffled the finest minds of the police without once leaving his seat in the teahouse. As the weeks go by, she listens to him unravelling the trickiest of puzzles and solving the most notorious of crimes, but still one final mystery remains: the mystery of the old man in the corner himself.

The Old Man in the Corner is a classic collection of mysteries featuring the Teahouse Detective – a contemporary of Sherlock Holmes, with a brilliant mind and waspish temperament to match that of Conan Doyle’s creation.

The stories included in this volume are: “The Fenchurch Street Mystery”; “The Robbery in Phillimore Terrace”; “The York Mystery”; “The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway”; “The Liverpool Mystery”; “The Edinburgh Mystery”; “The Theft at the English Provident Bank”; “The Dublin Mystery”; “An Unparalleled Outrage” (The Brighton Mystery); “The Regent’s Park Murder”; “The De Genneville Peerage” (The Birmingham Mystery); and “The Mysterious Death in Percy Street”.

My Take: The Old Man in the Corner is an unnamed armchair detective who appears in a series of short stories written by Baroness Orczy. This volume contains twelve of the stories featuring the mysterious man who sits in the corner of the ABC tea shop fiddling with a piece of string whilst working out the solutions to crimes that have baffled the police. Each case is unfolded during the course of a conversation between the man in the corner and a lady journalist, an ingenious method that avoids the necessity of a clumsy tacked-on explanation of the crime. Apparently Baroness Orczy’s husband advised her to create a detective who was as unlike Sherlock Holmes as it was possible for a detective to be. She certainly succeeded. This rather shabby, very eccentric detective is like no other. And he has no interest in helping the police or the courts to bring criminals to justice and in fact never lifts a finger to do so – for him it is purely an intellectual challenge. Which of course means that both the reader and the lady journalist in the tea shop have to accept on faith the old man’s solution to these criminal puzzles. (Source: Wikipedia)

Julian Symons’ review in Bloody Murder is indeed worth quoting in full:

Originality . . . must be granted to the Old Man in the Corner invented by Baroness Orczy (1865 – 1947). He preceded her better known Scarlet Pimpernel, and appeared in three collections, The Case of Miss Elliott (1905), The Old Man in the Corner (1909) and Unravelled Knots (1925). The Old Man sits in a corner of an ABC teashop consuming glasses of milk and pieces of cheese-cake, endlessly tying and untying knots in a piece of string, and giving his solution of cases that have baffled the police to a girl reported named Polly Burton, who seems never to have read the newspapers, since the Old Man has to describe the background of every case to her in detail. ‘There is no such thing as a mystery in connection with any crime, provided intelligence is brought to bear upon its investigation.’ he says in characteristic Superman style, and he is never seen to move from his seat, although he mentions attending court hearings in several cases. The misanthropic Old Man is concerned solely with demonstrating his own cleverness . He does not care at all about justice, and it is a peculiarity of the stories that in many of them the criminal goes free. ‘Hang such a man! Fie!’ he cries about one murderer, and of another he reflects only that ‘There goes a frightful scoundrel unhung’.
. . .
The writing is quite lively, and some of the stories contain ideas put to better use by other writers, . . .

In few words, Baroness Orczy created the prototype of the armchair sleuth that will be used as an example of other characters as Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, Jorge Luis Borges’ Isidro Parodi and even Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. She was also the first mystery writer to structure her stories around a puzzle and its solution, without putting all the emphasis in a terrifying atmosphere, in methods of fantastic murders and in other very dramatic touches. Which makes her a true forerunner of what it will later be known as The Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

The stories collected in this volume are not (with one exception) the original version published in The Royal Magazine in 1901. They come instead from the book published in 1909 The Old Man in the Corner. For this compilation of the stories, baroness Orczy slightly rewrote twelve of her first thirteen stories in order to adapt them to a semi-novelistic form. In the process, she gave a name (“Polly Burton”) to the Old Man’s confidant (a “Lady Journalist” not identified in the magazine versions of the stories) and incorporated several references to Polly’s personal life that served as a common thread between stories. These alterations also involved the conversion of the stories from first person narration (by the “Journalist”) to third person narration. Finally, several of the stories were divided into two (or more) chapters to hide their story origins.

In conclusion it only remains to me to paraphrase John Grant when he wrote that ‘I found this tremendous fun’. And despite the fact that I only rate it as B, I recommend its reading to all enthusiast of the genre. 

My Rating: B (I liked it)

The Old Man in the Corner has been reviewed, among others at Goodreads (by John Grant), AQ’s Reviews, The Book Decoder,

About the Author: Baroness Orczy (1865-1947) Emma (“Emmuska”) Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála Orczy de Orczi, was a Hungarian-born British author, best known for her Scarlet Pimpernel novels. Baroness Orczy was born in Tarnaörs, Hungary, as the only daughter of Baron Felix Orczy, a noted composer and conductor, and his wife Emma. Her father was a friend of such composers as Wagner, Liszt, and Gounod. Orczy moved with her parents from Budapest to Brussels and then to London, learning to speak English at the age of fifteen. She was educated in convent schools in Brussels and Paris. In London she studied at the West London School of Art. Orczy married in 1894 Montague Barstow, whom she had met while studying at the Heatherby School of Art. Together they started to produce book and magazine illustrations and published an edition of Hungarian folktales. Her Teahouse Detective, who features in The Old Man in the Corner, was one of the first fictional sleuths created in response to the Sherlock Holmes stories’ huge success. Initially serialised in magazines, the stories in this collection were first published in book form in 1908 and have since been adapted for radio, television and film. Two other collections of Teahouse Detective mysteries: The Case of Miss Elliott (1905) and Unravelled Knots (1925), are available from Pushkin Vertigo.

Detective Bibliography: The Case of Miss Elliott (1905); The Old Man in the Corner (1909) aka The Man in the Corner; Lady Molly of Scotland Yard (1910); The Man in Grey (1918); Castles in the Air (1921); Unravelled Knots (1925); The Miser of Maida Vale (1925); and Skin O’ My Tooth (1928).

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jacket, Dodd, Mead & Company (USA), 1909)

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The Old Man in the Corner Full Audiobook by Baroness Orczy

Baroness Orczy at gadetection

Baroness Orczy by Mike Grost

El viejo en el rincón de la Baronesa Orczy

Descripción del producto: Misterios! No existe un misterio en relación con ningún delito, siempre que se aplique la inteligencia en su investigación.

Eso le dice un caballero anciano algo desastrado a la joven Polly Burton del Evening Observer, en un rincón del salón de té ABC en la calle Norfolk una tarde. Una vez que lo ha perdonado por distraerla de su periódico y almuerzo, la señorita Burton descubre que su interlocutor es tan brillante como excéntrico, capaz de resolver misterios que han aparecido en los titulares y que han desconcertado a las mejores mentes de la policía sin tener que abandonar su asiento en el salón de té. A medida que pasan las semanas, ella lo escucha desentrañando los acertijos más complicados y resolviendo los crímenes más notorios, pero aún queda un misterio final: el misterio del viejo en el rincón.

El viejo en el rincón es una colección clásica de misterios protagonizada por el detective del salón de té, un contemporáneo de Sherlock Holmes, con una mente brillante y un temperamento mordaz que iguala a la creación de Conan Doyle.

Las historias incluidas en este volumen son: “El misterio de Fenchurch Street”; “El robo en Phillimore Terrace”; “El misterio de York”; “La misteriosa muerte en el ferrocarril suburbano”; “El misterio de Liverpool”; “El misterio de Edimburgo”; “El robo al banco de previsión inglés”; “El misterio de Dublín”; “Un escándalo incomparable” (El misterio de Brighton); “El crimen de Regent’s Park”; “La nobleza de De Genneville” (El misterio de Birmingham); y “La misteriosa muerte en Percy Street”.

Mi opinión: El viejo en el rincón es un detective de salón anónimo que aparece en una serie de cuentos escritos por la baronesa Orczy. Este volumen contiene doce de las historias que muestran al hombre misterioso que se sienta en el rincón del salón de té ABC jugueteando con un trozo de cuerda mientras encuentra las soluciones a crímenes que han desconcertado a la policía. Cada caso se desarrolla durante el curso de una conversación entre el viejo en el rincón y una periodista, un método ingenioso evita la necesidad de dar una explicación burda y sujeta con alfileres del crimen. Aparentemente, el esposo de la baronesa Orczy le aconsejó que creara un detective que fuera tan diferente a Sherlock Holmes como fuera posible. Ella ciertamente tuvo éxito. Este detective bastante desaliñado y muy excéntrico es diferente a cualquier otro. Y no tiene ningún interés en ayudar a la policía o a los tribunales por llevar a los criminales ante la justicia y, de hecho, nunca levanta un dedo para hacerlo, para él es un desafío puramente intelectual. Lo que, por supuesto, significa que tanto el lector como la periodista del salón de té tienen que aceptar de buena fe la solución del viejo a estos enigmas criminales. (Fuente: Wikipedia)

Vale la pena citar por completo la reseña de Julian Symons en Bloody Murder:

Se le debe otorgar originalidad . . al viejo en el rincón creado por la baronesa Orczy (1865-1947). Precedió a su conocido Pimpinela Escarlata, y apareció en tres colecciones, The Case of Miss Elliott (1905), The Old Man in the Corner (1909) y Unravelled Knots (1925). El viejo se sienta en un ri´ncón del salón de té ABC consumiendo vasos de leche y trozos de tarta de queso, atando y desatando sin parar nudos en un trozo de cuerda, y ofreciendo su solución a casos que han desconcertado a la policía a una joven reportera llamada Polly Burton, que parece no haber leído nunca los periódicos, ya que el viejo tiene que describirle los antecedentes de cada caso en detalle. “No existe un misterio en relación con ningún delito, siempre que se aplique la inteligencia en su investigación”, dice en el estilo característico de Superman, y nunca se ve que se mueva de su asiento, aunque menciona que asistió a audiencias judiciales. En varios casos el viejo misántropo se preocupa únicamente por demostrar su propia inteligencia. No le importa en absoluto la justicia, y es una peculiaridad de las historias que en muchas de ellas el criminal queda libre. ‘¡Colgar a un hombre así! ¡al diablo con él!”, se lamenta por un asesino, y por otro solo refleja que” Ahí va un aterrador sinvergüenza no reconocido”.
  . . .
La escritura es bastante animada, y algunas de las historias contienen ideas que otros escritores utilizan mejor,. . .

En pocas palabras, la baronesa Orczy creó el prototipo del detective de salón que se utilizará como ejemplo de otros personajes como Nero Wolfe de Rex Stout, Isidro Parodi de Jorge Luis Borges e incluso Hercule Poirot de Agatha Christie. También fue la primera escritora de misterio en estructurar sus historias en torno a un rompecabezas y su solución, sin poner todo el énfasis en una atmósfera aterradora, en métodos de asesinatos fantásticos y en otros toques muy dramáticos. Lo que la convierte en una verdadera precursora de lo que más tarde se conocerá como La edad de oro de la ficción detectivesca.

Las historias recopiladas en este volumen no son (salvo una excepción) la versión original publicada en The Royal Magazine en 1901. En su lugar, provienen del libro publicado en 1909 The Old Man in the Corner. Para esta compilación de las historias, la baronesa Orczy volvió a reescribri ligeramente doce de sus trece primeras historias para adaptarlas a una forma casi novelística. En el proceso, le dio un nombre (“Polly Burton”) a la  confidente del viejo (una “joven periodista” no identificada en las versiones de la revista de los relatos) e incorporó varias referencias a la vida personal de Polly que sirvieron como hilo conductor entre cuentos. Estas alteraciones también implicaron la conversión de las historias de la narración en primera persona (por la “periodista”) a la narración en tercera persona. Finalmente, varias de las historias se dividieron en dos (o más) capítulos para ocultar su orígen.

En conclusión, solo me queda parafrasear a John Grant cuando escribió que “la encontré una tremenda diversión”. Y a pesar de que solo la valoro como B, recomiendo su lectura a todos los aficionados al género.

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó)

Sobre el autor: La baronesa Emma (afectivamente llamada “Emmuska”) Magdolna Rozalia Maria Jozefa Borbala Orczy (1865 – 1947) fue una novelista, dramaturga y artista británica de origen húngaro, más conocida por sus novelas sobre La Pimpinela Escarlata. La baronesa Orczy nació en Tarnaörs, Hungría, hija única del barón Félix Orczy, un destacado compositor y director de orquesta, y su esposa Emma. Su padre era amigo de compositores como Wagner, Liszt y Gounod. Orczy se mudó con sus padres de Budapest a Bruselas y luego a Londres, aprendiendo a hablar inglés a la edad de quince años. Fue educada en escuelas conventuales en Bruselas y París. En Londres estudió en la West London School of Art. Orczy se casó en 1894 con Montague Barstow, a quien había conocido mientras estudiaba en la Escuela de Arte Heatherby. Juntos comenzaron a producir ilustraciones de libros y revistas y publicaron una edición de cuentos populares húngaros. Su detective del salón de té, que aparece en El viejo en el rincón , fue uno de los primeros detectives ficticios creados en respuesta al gran éxito de las historias de Sherlock Holmes. Inicialmente serializadas en revistas, las historias de esta colección se publicaron por primera vez en forma de libro en 1908 y desde entonces se han adaptado a la radio, a la televisión y al cine. Pushkin Vértigo ha publicado otras dos colecciones de misterios del detective del salón de té: The Case of Miss Elliott  (1905) y Unravelled Knots (1925).

Colecciones de relatos policiacos: The Case of Miss Elliott (1905); The Old Man in the Corner [El viejo en el rincón] (1909) aka The Man in the Corner; Lady Molly of Scotland Yard (1910); The Man in Grey [El hombre gris](1918); Castles in the Air [Castillos en el aire] (1921); Unravelled Knots (1925); The Miser of Maida Vale (1925); y Skin O’ My Tooth (1928).

Baroness Orczy (1865 – 1947)

OIP (2)Baroness Emma (“Emmuska”) Orczy (September 23, 1865 – November 12, 1947) was a British novelist, playwright and artist of Hungarian origin. She was most notable for her series of novels featuring the Scarlet Pimpernel. Some of her paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. Born Emma Magdalena Rosalia Maria Josefa Barbara Orczy in Tarnaörs, Hungary, she was the daughter of composer Baron Felix Orczy and his wife, Countess Emma Wass. Family friends at their Hungarian estates included Gounod, Liszt, and Wagner. Her parents left Hungary in 1868, fearful of the threat of a peasant revolution. They lived in Budapest, Brussels, and Paris, where Emma studied music without success. Finally, in 1880, the family moved to London where they lodged with their countryman Francis Pichler at 162 Great Portland Street. Orczy attended West London School of Art and then Heatherley’s School of Fine Art, where she met her future husband, Montague Maclean Barstow, whom she married in 1894. (Source: Wikipedia)

Orczy was an early pioneer of the detective story, with no fewer than three series characters: The Old Man in the Corner, an armchair detective who unravels mysteries, along with knotted pieces of string, in the Lyons corner tea-shop for a young woman journalist, and who reappears in Unravelled Knots; Skin O’ My Tooth, the nickname given to an elderly and unconventional lawyer, and Lady Molly of Scotland Yard. Many of Orczy’s books are now available through Project Gutenberg and Gutenberg Australia.

She became a founder member of the Detection Club, established in 1930, although by that time her main claim to literary fame lay in her stories about Sir Percy Blakeney, alias the Scarlet Pimpernel. (Source: Martin Edwards)

Detective Bibliography: The Case of Miss Elliott (1905); The Old Man in the Corner (1909) aka The Man in the Corner; Lady Molly of Scotland Yard (1910); The Man in Grey (1918); Castles in the Air (1921); Unravelled Knots (1925); The Miser of Maida Vale (1925); and Skin O’ My Tooth (1928).

The Old Man in the Corner is an unnamed armchair detective who appears in a series of short stories written by Baroness Orczy. He examines and solves crimes while sitting in the corner of a genteel London tea-room in conversation with a female journalist. He was one of the first of this character-type created in the wake of the huge popularity of the Sherlock Holmes stories. The character’s moniker is used as the title of the collection of the earliest stories featuring the character.

The character first appeared in The Royal Magazine in 1901 in a series of six “Mysteries of London”. The following year he returned in seven “Mysteries of Great Cities” set in large provincial centers of the British Isles. The stories are told by an unnamed lady journalist who reports the conversation of the ‘man in the corner’ who sits at the same table in the A.B.C. teashop. For the book, twelve were rewritten in the third person, with the lady journalist now named Polly Burton. The title, The Old Man in the Corner (U.S. edition: The Man in the Corner) was given to one of the book collections of the earliest stories. Although it contains the earliest written stories in the series, they were not collected in book form until four years after the chronologically later stories in The Case of Miss Elliott (1905). The last book in the series is the much later Unravelled Knots (1925).

The Old Man relies mostly upon sensationalistic newspaper accounts, with the occasional courtroom visit, and relates all this while tying complicated knots in a piece of string. The plots themselves are typical of Edwardian crime fiction, resting on a foundation of unhappy marriages and the inequitable division of family property. Other period details include a murder in the London Underground, the murder of a female doctor, and two cases involving artists living in “bohemian” lodgings. Another new and noteworthy feature is that no one is ever brought to justice. Though the villains are identified by the narrator (who disdains to inform the police), most cannot be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

(Source: Wikipedia)

2476(Source: Facsimile Dust Jacket, Dodd, Mead & Company (USA), 1909)

Mysteries! There is no such thing as a mystery in connection with any crime, provided intelligence is brought to bear upon its investigation.

So says a rather down-at-heel elderly gentleman to young Polly Burton of the Evening Observer, in the corner of the ABC teashop on Norfolk Street one afternoon. Once she has forgiven him for distracting her from her newspaper and luncheon, Miss Burton discovers that her interlocutor is as brilliantly gifted as he is eccentric – able to solve mysteries that have made headlines and baffled the finest minds of the police without once leaving his seat in the teahouse. As the weeks go by, she listens to him unravelling the trickiest of puzzles and solving the most notorious of crimes, but still one final mystery remains: the mystery of the old man in the corner himself.

The Old Man in the Corner is a classic collection of mysteries featuring the Teahouse Detective – a contemporary of Sherlock Holmes, with a brilliant mind and waspish temperament to match that of Conan Doyle’s creation. (Source: Pushkin Press)

John Grant’s review The Old Man in the Corner at Goodreads here.

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