Crimezine Exclusive: World’s first detective novel back in print after 150 years

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Crime Fiction Books
Tags: , , , ,

No trivia fans, the first detective novel wasn’t by Edgar Allen Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or Emile Gaboriau.

The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Felix, [AKA Charles Warren Adams] is believed by The British Library to be the first detective novel ever published,


First Detective—Charles Felix

and it is back in print for the first time in a century-and-a-half. The story features, poisoning, hypnotism, kidnapping and a series of crimes, “in their nature and execution too horrible to contemplate”

It has been suggested that Wilkie Collins’s novel The Moonstone, published in 1868, and Emile Gaboriau’s first Monsieur Lecoq novel L’Affaire Lerouge, released in 1866, were the first detective stories, but the British Library says: The Notting Hill Mystery can truly claim to be the first modern detective novel.

First serialized between 1862 and 1863 in the magazine Once a Week, the novel was published in its entirety in 1863 but has been out of print since the turn of the century. The plot features insurance investigator Ralph Henderson, and his struggle to bring wife killing fraudster Baron R___ to justice.

The book uses letters, diary entries, crime reports, witness interviews, maps and forensic evidence—techniques that would not become common features of detective fiction until the 1920’s. The investigation uncovers a heady collection of villainy, including an evil hypnotist, gypsy-kidnappers, poisoners and murder most foul.

The plot has been described as strikingly modern, ingenious and utterly mad. The British Library first made the novel available via print-on-demand last March, as part of a collection of 19th century novels. While most sold just two to three copies apiece, The Notting Hill Mystery took off following a glowing review in the New York Times. The Notting Hill Mystery is now available as a trade paperback.

The British Library’s new edition  of The Notting Hill Mystery contains photographs of the original 1863 edition, which featured illustrations by George du Maurier, grandfather of  writer and playwright Daphne.

  1. A useful, and interesting news flash. I really appreciated it.

    • tonybulmer says:

      Thanks Keith, you will no doubt be pleased to hear that the long delay on the latest Harlen Coben review has been caused by your comments on the Killer in the Rain collection which I am now re-reading with great enthusiasm and the weather this week in Los Angeles was Chandler appropriate!

  2. Tony Bulmer says:

    Crimezines story on the Notting Hill Mystery has caused a great deal of consternation amongst followers of the Mighty Poe. Let Crimezine reassure you that we remain deeply committed from the bottom of our dark beating hearts —to the work of Poe.
    Please accept this tasty link by way of compensation—

  3. spikey says:

    Edgar Allen Poe wrote the first detective novel. Only a British twat would claim otherwise.

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