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The Big Bow Mystery (1892) is a novel by Israel Zangwill. Although he is frequently recognized as a writer who focused on the plight of London’s Jewish community, Zangwill also wrote works of genre fiction. Originally serialized in The Star, The Big Bow Mystery is a satirical take on the locked room mystery that continues to astound, entertain, and frustrate readers to this day. Having risen through poverty to become an educator and author, Zangwill dedicated his career to the voiceless, the oppressed, and the needy, advocating for their rights and bearing witness to their suffering in some of the most powerful novels and stories of the Victorian era. On a foggy morning in a working-class neighborhood on the East End of London, a landlady rises to light the fire and make a pot of tea. Eventually, Mrs. Drabdump realizes that one of her tenants has overslept, and goes upstairs to wake him. Finding his room locked from the inside, she grows concerned and enlists the help of another tenant. Forcing open the door, they find the man—a prominent activist for worker’s rights—dead in his own bed. When the coroner’s report reveals that the man was neither murdered or killed by his own hand, an investigation is launched involving inept policemen, a major politician, and several strange characters whose peculiarities provide a darkly humorous tint to an otherwise brutal tale of death and urban decay. With a beautifully designed cover and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of Israel Zangwill’s The Big Bow Mystery is a classic of British literature reimagined for modern readers.
Whodunit fans who prefer their murders mysteriously committed behind locked doors will appreciate this reissue of the first impossible crime novel, penned by the unlikely Zangwill (1864-1926)-better known during his lifetime as an ardent British Zionist-in the late 1890s. Widowed landlady Mrs. Drabdump and retired Scotland Yarder Grodman batter down a secured and bolted bedroom door to find Arthur Constant, a hero of the working classes, dead from a cut throat. After suicide is quickly ruled out, the puzzle captures the city's imagination, with theory after theory (some poking fun at Poe's solution to "The Murders in the Rue Morgue") floated in the press, until Grodman himself returns to the lists to try to clear the man condemned to death for the crime. The plot device has been used many times since, but Zangwill deserves credit for inventing it and enlisting it in an entertaining and timeless plot. With a sardonic style and vivid, Dickensian characterizations of Victoria-era London, Zangwill still appeals to contemporary readers.