The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katherine Green

June 7, 2010 | No Comments

In 1878, nine years before the ‘birth’ of Sherlock Holmes, novelist Anna Katherine Green introduced Ebenezer Gryce to the American reading public in The Leavenworth Case, which became a best-selling sensation, spawning a series starring the eccentric detective. Penguin Books have reissued this classic with a new introduction by Michael Sims, in the hope of raising the profile of a ground-breaking authoress whose prose, although comfortingly purple in true nineteenth century fashion, is anything but turgid in terms of pace and has generous doses of dialogue of the breathless exclamatory variety (“Ah!”, “No!, “Good God!”…) decades prior to TV”s Batman and Robin. Her characters adhere to cosy stereotypes without causing major offense; the lower classes are Irish or foreign, the young ladies (regardless of their virtues or lack thereof) are beautiful, the villain is villainous, the detective a cypher, and the hero is handsome and moral but a wee bit dim – just how we like ’em. A smashing diversion.