X Y Z by Anna Katharine Green

Published:1883
Goodreads badgePublisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Pages: 52
Format: eBook
Genre: Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

A short detective story

I found this as part of an A-Z reading challenge last year after having little luck tracking down my previous choice for X. I had never read a detective novel at the time and I think this was a very good way to introduce myself into the age old genre. I had of course heard of all the wonderful detective novels and authors but never felt drawn to read them, aside from the feeling that I should read Sherlock Holmes one day. After I finished this short story I did begin looking for other stories of this genre and I am slowly opening myself to this wonderful genre.

X Y Z is a short story written by Anna Katharine Green, and tells the story of a detective who arrives in town in an attempt to investigate counterfeiters possibly connected to a series of mysterious letters addressed only to X Y Z. Set in a small town in Massachusetts, the story takes place in the later parts of the 1800s and begins with one investigation but soon moves into another of mystery and drama. In the course of the investigation an anomaly occurs, tugging at our unnamed detective’s curiosity. This curiosity leads his inquiries and attention to a prominent family in town, who as far as the rumours and secretive nature demonstrate, have mysteries and secrets of their own.

What amused me was that as I started to read I found myself reading it in the voice of the old black and white detective films, including that undeniable accent which made it all the more interesting in my mind. The story is engaging, and despite being short there is a decent well rounded story and character establishment. We are given the details we need for the plot, there is no information in this story that is irrelevant. I am not sure whether this includes the name of our detective, it hardly seems irrelevant, he interacts with enough people in the town, yet Green has omitted his name. Whether to add mystery or to keep her readers in suspense, I don’t know. If you wanted to look deeply into this you could play the idea of the mystery stranger who arrives in town, changes the town and creates a fuss, then leaves again. But isn’t being a stranger enough to do that? Whatever the reason I didn’t find it a bother, you almost forget after a while, there is only one detective to keep track of after all.

The characters in this story are well thought out and planned, and the story unfolded in a way where there were hints and clues and when it all came to a head it was as I imagined it to be. There are just as many gasps and surprises and twists even in a story of this size and there is no doubt it is of the detective genre. The secrets and mysteries are revealed by the end, perhaps not in the way you would imagine, but there are no extravagant twists and turns that make the story more mind bending and complex than it needs to be. Being written in the era it was, it is a basic detective novel where you are given clues and answers with the twists and revelations as you go. It was certainly a good read that certainly sparked my interest in this genre.

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