Anna Katherine Green is an author that I didn't discover until I received my Kindle and was looking for freebies to read. She began writing in 1878 and died in 1935. I don't know how I had missed her books before but I'm so glad I found them! I find her referred to as "The mother of the detective novel" so I'm thrilled that so many of her books are available as Kindle freebies. If I ever see them in hardback, they'll be going on my shelves!
That Affair Next Door features a spinster sleuth long before Miss Marple ever came on the scene. Amelia Butterworth is unashamedly interested in her neighbor's affairs. The house next door is supposed to be empty but one night she sees the son of the owner return with a woman. The gentleman leaves but without the woman. The next day the woman is found dead in the house. Miss Butterworth can't help but investigate, especially when it appears that the police believe she, as an older woman, is just in the way in their investigation.
The story has twists and turns and surprises. It has unwanted wives, costume changes, timing issues, all things that become standard in later detective novels. The clues, such as hats and pincushions, are very satisfying as the meanings come to light. Miss Butterworth is a no-nonsense woman with a strong sense of right and wrong, compassion toward those that deserve it and a keen eye. She is the original spinster sleuth on which many pale imitations are based in later years. She feels original, the book feels original and it was a delight to read.