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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.

Supposed to be the first (or one of the first) American detective novel, this 1864 book is similar in many ways to the brand of Victorian mystery done so well by Anna Katharine Green et al: lashings of drama and sentiment, beautiful tragic women, hunts for missing people, and Deep Dark Secrets—only

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