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The Dead Letter

Metta Victoria Fuller Victor

Book Overview: 

"The Dead Letter: An American Romance" written by Metta Victoria Fuller Victor under the pseudonym, Seeley Regester, is credited by historians of popular literature to be the first full-length American crime fiction novel. The writing is melodramatic in places and includes opinions typical of the time period, but is an enjoyable, early example of the genre. The novel begins with Richard Redfield, a clerk in the "Dead Letter Office," opening an unclaimed letter. Upon reading the contents, he is convinced that the message relates to the events of a night two years prior when another young man was brutally murdered.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .The key is a common one, which could be easily duplicated, and we are so careless in this quiet community that a thief might enter at almost any hour of the night. Perhaps the same villain dogged poor Henry in hopes of another harvest.”

“You forget that there was no attempt to rob Henry.”

“True—true. Yet the murderer may have been frightened away before he had secured his prize.”

“In which case, he would have returned, as the body remained undiscovered all night.”

“It may be so. I am dizzy with thinking it over and over.”

“Try and not think any more, dear sir,” I said, gently. “You are feverish and ill now. I am going, this afternoon, with the friends to the city, and I will put the police on the watch for the money. We will get the number of the large bill, if possible, from the bank. . . Read More

Community Reviews

There seems to be no synopsis, so I am adding this. The book is from 19th century America. The fiancé of Eleanor Argyll is murdered only a few feet from his beloved's home. Suspicion falls on Mr. Argyll's protégée, the hero of this book, and he is shunned by the family, including the woman he loves.

I don't give out 5 stars too often. This book deserves it. It's basically a murderer mystery with a scoop of drama, a dash of love (not mushy), & a pinch of a ghost story. I was kept interested throughout the entire story. You get drawn into the characters. You want to know what's next. While most o

This is often referred to as the earliest example of the detective novel. It is fairly easy to guess the culprit, but the interesting cast of characters makes it worth the read. Similar in age to books like Lady Audley's Secret, it is an enjoyable story in its own right.

I got on to this book from a book of essays written by mystery writers about mystery novels, called BOOKS TO DIE FOR. (I now have a nice long list of new titles and authors to check out!) This book got my attention as being the first novel-length detective novel written in America, as well as being

Quite enjoyable. I like the older style of mystery writing, so this was my cup of tea, but certainly wouldn't be for everyone. I grew quite emotionally attached to the protagonist and the detective, Mr. Burton. Although it was fairly obvious from the start "who done it," the how and the with whom we

First published in 1867 (apparently) under the male pseudonym Seeley Regester, this detective romance is written in a more lush, descriptive style than we might be used to nowadays, but not overly so. It's a pleasant read, and fairly melodramatic, but not over the top. It does contain a couple insta

This is a very interesting detective story. It's classic murder-mystery, with plenty of twists and turns.
I was staking my guess of who the murderer was pretty early on, but the evidence kept going other directions...I won't say whether I was correct in my guess or not! :)
The only reason I'm not giv

Really 3 and a half. The story and style reminded me of M. E. Braddon and Wilkie Collins. The first few chapters were a bit slower paced and more melodramatic than the rest of the book, and the murderer was pretty obvious to me. That's why I'm not giving it 4 stars. The parts with the detective in i

This novel was somewhat easier to read than many others written in the same era; I did not feel like I had set any endurance records having finished it. There is some romance, some mystery and some travel and while it might not qualify as a "page turner", I did indeed turn the pages to read on....more

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