A love triangle turns deadly in the first full-length detective novel by an American author
Published a decade prior to Anna Katharine Green’s The Leavenworth Case (1878), The Dead Letter concerns the murder of Henry Moreland, whose body is found just a few steps from the home of John Argyll, Esq. Moreland was engaged to Argyll’s daughter, Eleanor, and suspicion soon falls upon the lawyer’s protégé, Richard Redfield. Desperate to clear his name, Redfield seeks the help of Mr. Burton, a famous New York City detective—but the case has more twists and turns than either of the two men could possibly imagine.
Set against the political turmoil of the Reconstruction Era, The Dead Letter is a fascinating historical document, a pioneering work of genre fiction, and a mystery with a cleverly satisfying conclusion.
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The Library of Congress Crime Classics series scores another triumph with this pioneering crime novel originally published in 1866. As editor Leslie Klinger notes, Metta Victor (1831–1885), writing as Regester, "deserves full credit for setting America on the path of crime writing at least as good as that coming out of England." In 1859, Richard Redfield, a clerk in a post office's department dedicated to reviewing undelivered mail, is startled at the contents of a letter signed by "Your disappointed Negotiator," addressed to a John Owen of Peekskill, N.Y. The writer refers to not being able to fulfill Owen's "order," and to an old friend not being able to "tell tales." The date of the missive suggests a link to the unsolved murder of banker Henry Moreland, who was fatally stabbed on his way to visit his fiancée near Peekskill. The new potential clue leads Redfield to seek out the detective who handled the initial inquiries, so the case can be reopened. Fans of Wilkie Collins will feel right at home. More than a literary curiosity, this book merits the new audience it will now receive.