View Cart

"That Affair Next Door" by Anna Katharine Green

That Affair Next Door may be downloaded for free from our ebook catalog.

Returning from a trip abroad, the Van Burnam family enters their New York mansion to find a dead woman on the dining room floor. A curio cabinet has fallen on top of her, crushing her face, and law officers suspect that the victim is the wife of one of the Van Burnam sons. However, the son insists that he does not recognize the victim. How did this woman get into this locked house? Whose are those strange garments she is wearing? What is her hat doing in the closet and a strange, gaudy hat crushed underneath her? Why did the coroner insist that the woman was dead when the curio fell?

The story itself was another fascinating study in human motivations intertwined with bits and pieces of circumstantial evidence that at first make very little sense. True to Green’s style, she calls up and explains each motivation, each piece of evidence with mathematical precision until the mystery unravels, and the perpetrator is punished in a most fitting fashion.

In That Affair Next Door, Mr. Gryce owes much of his success to the main witness, a woman named Miss Amelia Butterworth, who lives next door to the crime scene. Having read about Green’s life and political views at the University of Texas Tarlton Law Library’s “Law in Popular Culture” site, I suspect that Miss Butterworth may have been Green’s alter ego. The story itself is written in first person with Miss Butterworth narrating.

The first thing that struck me regarding the protagonist, Miss Butterworth, was the remarkable contrast between her and the victimized main witness in The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow. Miss Butterworth, a fifty-ish spinster, is well able to take care of herself and has no qualms about helping Mr. Gryce and even conducting some investigation on her own. Any attempt to victimize or take advantage of this woman would have been discovered in a trice and rebuffed with a flourish.

Notwithstanding Miss Butterworth’s self-reliance, Green’s prose offers a window into class and gender roles as they stood in the late nineteenth century. Her vivid descriptions of socially acceptable and unacceptable behavior picture clearly how much society has changed over the past century. One can only speculate regarding what attitudes the author intended to express. Looking into her own life, we see a woman who was successful professionally (she always earned more than her husband), but not inclined to support women’s causes, such as suffrage. The fact that she was able to overcome any barriers to her professional success may have been part of her reason for finding women’s causes unnecessary. As a woman who advised Conan Doyle in his early career and partnered with her husband in designing award-winning furniture she certainly served as the epitome of female success, well able to overcome any obstacles society may have established.

Cover art by Janice Tarver, for sale at Etsy.


Post a Comment

Browse Ebooks by Tag

Support Free Ebooks

If you enjoy our free ebooks, please consider making a donation to offset website costs.
Why donate?

Highest Rated Ebooks