By reading several locked room mysteries that refer to other locked room mysteries I have gone from The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo, to The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux, to John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man, to Anna Katherine Green‘s Initials Only.
Initials Only is quite a trip. The murder victim, Edith Challoner, is a fancy society lady with a heart of gold. Unfortunately a heart pierced by a mysterious unfindable weapon though I am pretty sure I know what it is. No one even noticed the wound at first, since she was wearing a giant bouquet of poinsetta flowers pinned to her bosom. There was no blood – then after a few minutes…BLOOD. HMMMMMM. I leave you to imagine the bosom which could pull off a giant poinsetta arrangement.
An inventor, Orlando Brotherson — who is also a skilled, respected anarchist organizer and orator — is in love with Edith, but was scorned and may have sent her a threatening letter. Meanwhile there are some letters he wrote to her, and letters she wrote to someone but never sent, and some entirely different letters from someone else with the initials O.B. who turns out to be Oswald Brotherson, Orlando’s brother, who manages a mill or foundry or something.
No one knew in 1911 how comical this would sound since there is a brand of tampon called O.B. — Bless their hearts.
Sweetwater, the detective, is hot on the anarchist’s trail, becomes his neighbor while working as a skilled carpenter, and spies on him through a hole bored in the wall.
Oswald collapsed from typhoid fever on the same day as Edith’s murder – nearly dies — is nursed back to health by Doris, an 17 year old small town beauty – And Orlando shows up on his doorstep with truckloads of supplies to build his invention in a giant shed.
The invention turns out to be a helicopter (this is 1911, were there actual helicopters yet?!) which for no good reason at all they launch in a hurricane.
BTW I am not done but am pretty sure the inventor killed Edith with a gun that fired an icicle. Just out of arrogance? I mean, he decided just before he went up in the helicopter that really he never loved Edith anyway and 17 year old Doris is his real true love.
Huge props to this book for the poinsettas, dangerous anarchists, helicopter, and icicle gun (will update if that is really what the weapon was!)
Just realized I have no idea what O.B. stands for (the tampon brand) and so looked it up. “The product was named by the gynecologist Judith Esser-Mittag who also developed it. The initials “o.b.” are an abbreviation of the German phrase “ohne Binde.”
p.s. On helicopters: “In July 1901, the maiden flight of Hermann Ganswindt’s helicopter took place in Berlin-Schöneberg; this was probably the first heavier-than-air motor-driven flight carrying humans. A movie covering the event was taken by Max Skladanowsky, but it remains lost.”