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"The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow" by Anna Katharine Green

The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow may be downloaded for free from our ebook catalog.

It is the noon hour at a museum in New York City. The date: May 23, 1913. The weekday, attendance is light; the attendees are scattered between two floors. Suddenly a cry rings out from the second floor. Scrambling to Section II, the museum director discovers a teenage girl dead with an arrow through her heart. An older woman hovers over her whispering incoherent phrases in the girl's ear and offering incomprehensible answers to the director's questions. She is the only witness to the crime, or accident, as the case may be. How will the feeble, 83 year-old Mr. Gryce unravel this mystery when this witness is apparently insane?

Anna Katharine Green was noted for her scientific approach to the murder mystery. In The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow she breaks more ground with her in-depth study of the psychological interplay between the murderer, the victim and the witnesses. Although more quietly paced, this mystery presents many elements of a current psychological thriller: blind ambition, narcissism, obsession and betrayal. Green adds a peculiar twist with the fact that two heartbroken relatives of the victim sacrifice virtually everything to protect the murderer.

The story leans heavily on the "woman as victim" theme, a concept that may have fallen from favor as the years have passed and women have become more their own persons rather than someone's wife. Here, Green plumbed the depths of women's motivations, leading the reader through a realm more fascinating than the motivations of the actual perpetrator. In doing so, she paints a horrific vision of Gryce's pursuit one somewhat peripheral character for questioning. The chapter is aptly called "Terror" and would make a marvelous movie scene involving a yawning ravine, a narrow and unreliable bridge and a dark, stormy night. More unfathomable than the ravine itself is the reason that the woman, who was in no way suspected of the crime, would make such a desperate attempt to avoid being found and questioned.

A murder mystery by nature actively engages the reader more than a romance or adventure because the reader becomes involved in picking up clues and ultimately predicting the resolution of the story. Green realized this fact and invited the reader to become part of the investigative team, offering a set of diagrams that picture in three dimensions where the victim and each attendee was located at the time that the cry of murder rang out. (These diagrams are included in the ebook and also available as a printable PDF document so that the reader can follow along as locations are mentioned.) The diagrams are interesting to follow, but not all that necessary for the enjoyment of the story.

Hasty Arrow is a satisfying mystery because Green carefully ties up every small clue and explains every motivation in this strange story. When I finished reading the book, the only mystery left in my mind was why Agatha Christie is a household word and Anna Katharine Green is not.


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