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by Anna Katharine Green
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In this elegant drama, Anna Katharine Green, one of the greatest mystery writers of all time, weaves a narrative with her usual consummate skill, and portrays her characters with exceptional sympathy. On the New England seacoast, not far from Boston, lies a staid, picturesque village called Sutherlandtown. In these tranquil surroundings, Agatha Webb and her servant are found murdered. The task of unraveling the mystery begins at once, and suspicion points to a number of persons. Agatha herself had a tragic and troubled past. She suffered the loss of six of her children who died in infancy; some of the people of the village suspected her of complicity in these deaths, while others looked upon her as a victim. Adding to the complexity of the situation, a wealthy local man is being blackmailed by someone who believes that he is guilty of Agatha's murder. The solution of the puzzle is uncovered in an intensely dramatic court scene. In addition to the attraction of the mystery, there is a great love story. One of the detectives in the case, Caleb Sweetwater, was first introduced in a minor role in A Strange Disappearance (1880). Here, the details of his interesting life story are revealed, considerably fleshing out and developing his character. We learn that he was raised in Sutherland-town, maturing into a talented violinist, but constrained to supporting his mother with limited means. He relinquishes his musical career in order to become a detective. In this role he stands out as a trustworthy and conscientious young man, who volunteers his services to a patron in return for past consideration. Sweetwater becomes the hero by ultimately solving the crime in Agatha Webb. He appears again in several other Green novels as Gryce's assistant in the New York Police Department.
The detective did so. A three-edged dagger, with a curiously wrought handle, met his eye. It had blood dried on its point, and was, as all could see, the weapon with which Agatha Webb had been killed.
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