Title: The Teahouse Detective: Unravelled Knots
Author: Baroness Orczy
First published in 1926; reprint by Pushkin Vertigo on 24th October 2019
Genre: Mystery; Short Stories
Unravelled Knots is the third and final book in the Teahouse Detective series by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. Miss Polly Burton,a journalist meets the Old Man in the tea house. He is always seen at the corner with a glass of milk and fidgeting a piece of string. He talks about the unsolved mysteries – and how he came to find the missing piece of the puzzle that could have solved the aforementioned mysteries.
I took some time to read this book. Having read the first two books of this series, I found Unravelled Knots to be a little dull and slow. Unravelled Knots is a collection of 13 short stories, initially published in newspapers and magazines. Given the era in which these stories were written – 1920s and before, I am pretty impressed at the quality of the mystery. It goes without saying the Old Man is a sneaky, cunning cat (wolf sounds a bit harsh!). As much as his antics (fidgeting and Mr. Know-it-all) annoys Polly, she patiently listens to his opinions.
Below are the blurbs of 13 stories featured in this book. I wouldn’t say all of them were engrossing. The mystery element seemed a tad dull in some while the endings of some could be easily guessed. My favourite among the lot are The Mystery of the Brudenell COurt, The Mystery of the White Carnation and The Mystery of the Montmarte Hat.
Since this is the final collection of short stories, we see the old man vanish into thin air after discussing A Moorland Tragedy with Polly. Leave it to the old chap to make a dramatic exit! The sneaky little bugger leaves Polly with one last mystery – a mystery whose solution is only known to Polly!
The Mystery of the Khaki Tunic
Miss Clarke and her brother Arthur moved to Meere Village a couple of months ago. Miss Clarke lives a reserved life while Arthur is a ‘wild boy’. One morning, the maid comes over to clean and Miss Clarke is nowhere to be seen. The living room is locked and she smells a gas leak. The police are called in, the door is broken and Miss Clarke is found dead.
The Mystery of the Ingres Masterpiece
La Fiancee` by Ingress, a celebrated picture is currently owned by the Duke and Duchess Paul de Rochecharart. The aftermath of war has taken a toll on them financially and they are looking forward to sell the painting. An American shows interest in the painting and is sold to him for half a million dollars. On the day the American arrives as a guest of the Duke and the Duchess, the painting is stolen.
The Mystery of the Pearl Necklace
An august personage who had been an active and bitter opponent of the communist movement is given a congratulatory gift of an exquisite pearl necklace costing 15,000 Euros. The donors fear they will be stopped from gifting it to her. A young man and his wife are chosen to deliver the gift. An overnight stay in Paris and the next day, the wife claims her husband is missing.
The Mystery of the Russian Prince
A tragedy occurs on the wedding day of Louisa Smithson with the Russian Prince Orsoff. Louisa met Prince Orsoff in Paris. The duo got along well and it was love at first sight. The train carriage in which the Prince was supposed to arrive is found in a state of mess. A bloody palm-print and a bloody ticket stub on the track is the only clue that the prince has been brutally murdered.
The Mysterious Tragedy at Bishop’s Road
Old Mrs Levison lives with her sons and runs a pawn shop. Mama favors the younger son Reuben over Aaron. Now Reuben is a good for nothing. Mrs Aaron Levison and Reuben spend their time dancing and partying. Mama thinks the girl is a bad influence on her favourite on and this resulted in a shouting match many a time. One day, the ladies end up fighting and this time, the old lady retires to her room. The next morning the maid finds the old lady’s room locked and calls for help. When the door is broken, the old lady is found dead in a pool of blood.
The Mystery of the Dog’s Tooth Cliff
The head matron of an institute in Braxmouth is found dead at the bottom of the Dog’s Tooth Cliff. The lover’s walk, a narrow pathway around the cliff is a well-known place in Braxmouth but nobody ventures out at night fearing they might fall to their death. The secretary of the institute is arrested for the murder of the matron. The duo were engaged to be married and a tiff between them seems to be the cause of murder.
The Tytherton Case
Mr Walter Stonebridge, one of the most noted solicitors is expecting a guest late in the evening and asks his butler to retire for the day. The next morning, Walter is found gagged and unconscious and the safe in the room is ransacked. Documents pertaining to a certain rich man is missing from the safe.
The Mystery of the Brudenell Court
Colonel Forburg is dining with his stepchildren and guests when there is a commotion in the house. One of the maids saw an intruder trying to climb up the window. The men of the house go in chase of the thief. Gun shots are heard and a few minutes later, the thief is caught and everybody returns home… every one expect Colonel Forburg. They go in search of him and find him dead – with a bullet to his chest.
The Mystery of the White Carnation
Lady Angele Buckley, the only daughter of the Earl and Countess of Mexfield, was engaged to Captain Denver Shillington, the Australian millionaire. Shillington was supposedly the owner of a vast estate in Australia, on a portion of which rich gold deposits had been discovered lately. Mr Shillington mysteriously disappeared one evening and was never found.
The Mystery of the Montmarte Hat
A terrible row in one of the houses on Wicklow Lane ends with a series of gun shots. The next day, residents of houses 11 and 15 say the gun shot came from the inhabited house 13. The women coerce the local bobby to have a look and soon the police force is called in and the door is broken. A man is lying unconscious near the door in a pool of blood. When he regains his consciousness, he doesn’t remember anything – not even his name or how he came to this house.
The Miser of Maida Vale
Mr Thornton Ashley has two sons – Philips and Charles. Charles is a good for nothing while Philip is a good son. But not so good to get married and have kids – old Mr Ashley desperately wants grandchildren and this causes a rift between Philip and his old man. Philip leaves the house and it is upto Charles to look after his old and ailing father. One morning, Charles receives the news his father is dead. The insurance company wants a postmortem done before they release the payment. Postmortem reveals Thornton Ashley was murdered.
The Fulton Gardens Mystery
Mr Jessup, a wealthy man tells his housekeeper he’s expecting someone and should not be disturbed until the next morning. The next morning, the housekeeper goes into Mr Jessup’s library to find him lying dead. She screams in terror waking up her niece. The girl comes downstairs, takes a look at the dead man and says “Oh, my god! He’s killed him!”
A Moorland Tragedy
Captain Arnott lived with Antonio and his family in Italy during the world war. A bombing swipes out more than half of the village. Antonio’s mother and sister are killed. Antonio is devastated by the tragedy. Captain Antonio feels bad for the poor boy and takes him to Yorkshire. It is in Yorkshire that Antonio falls in love with an English girl and that is when tragedy strikes the quite village.
I received an ARC from Pushkin Vertigo and Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.