Although Anna Katharine Green was neither the first woman to publish crime fiction nor the first American to write a detective novel, her efforts were taken as distinctive advances in a genre that had only begun to emerge as a separate literary form. Many of the features with which mystery devotees were to become familiar were utilized in her works. With the wise and methodical detective as a pivotal figure, clues and evidence were adroitly dispersed about her narrative, and from a relatively small number of suspects, solutions that were startling and yet plausible were reached. Many of Green’s novels concerned family crises, where secret marriages, scheming relatives, or missing persons added poignant notes of lurking intrigues; her works were constructed systematically, around factual questions, clearly differentiating themselves from the novels of the mid-Victorian period. Affinities with gothic fiction arose here and there, where Green suggested ghosts and strange footfalls, but these signs became explicable in all cases when crimes and other secrets were laid open. For some time early in her life, Green had written Romantic poetry, and the atmosphere and overtones associated with that genre probably impart some melodramatic qualities to her detective novels. While several influences seem to converge in her work, Green’s crime fiction also promoted relatively new forms of evidence and reasoning.
Particular mention should be made of early reactions...
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