Introduction

The murder mysteries dealt with in these pages are confined to those belonging to England together with five American tragedies, all of which possess unusual features. It is hardly necessary to point out that one’s interest in a murder is not centred in the murder itself, but in its attendant circumstances, in its environment, and, above all, in its connection with living personages. For these reasons each case in the present compilation has been selected because of its dramatic elements, without which a murder is little more than a brutal, sordid, and repulsive episode. The majority of the cases are unsolved murder mysteries, pure and simple, and speculation as to their solution has not been attempted. One section, “Motiveless Murders,” as its title implies, baffles explanation, and the cases cited form a fascinating group because of their utter blankness. Another section is devoted to “Romantic Tragedies.” In this, romance is so mingled with mystery that it is hard to decide where one ends and the other begins. “Shop Murders” brings its own puzzles, and “Self-convicted Poisoners” embodies surprises which may astonish many who have not followed the operations of these dealers in death. The “Mistakes of Murderers” comprises realistic melodramas which surpass the inventiveness of a master of stagecraft, and “The Last Resource,” embodying as it does the futile efforts of desperate men to conceal the evidence of their guilt, completes a cycle of criminal annals which in some respects may perhaps be claimed as unique.

Charles E. Pearce