Saturday, July 25, 2015

BookReview: The Mysterious Card (and) The Mysterious Card Unveiled, by Cleveland Muffett

One of the best mystery stories I've ever read, specially owing to how it is structured. It is written in two parts; the mystery is solved in the second part. The first part takes roughly about a quarter of an hour to read, but leaves the mind hunting hungrily for an answer.

Burwell, a New Yorker in Paris is inconspicuously given a card by a charming, elegant lady passing by his table with a gentleman. The card bore some French words written in purple ink. Not knowing that language, he was unable to make out the meaning. Returning at once to his hotel, he seeks the manager's help in translating the message on the card (roughly 20 words). The manager's face grows rigid as he reads it, and Burwell is asked to leave the hotel immediately. Burwell receives a similar reaction at the next hotel. Relentlessly pursuing the solution to the mystery of the card, he suffers a succession of unfortunate experiences. The story ends without a clear resolution, leaving the readers to ponder the mystery.

The author revealed the solution to this puzzle in the sequel, "The Mysterious Card Unveiled," which he didn't publish until the next year, to keep his readers in suspense. These stories were published in a magazine called The Black Cat, the first part in 1895 and the sequel in 1896.

Interesting Trivia: The magazine publisher in 1912 put the two parts together in one volume, with the second part sealed, and offered a refund to purchasers if they could return the book with the seal still unbroken. I'm not sure anyone actually returned the book without reading the second part.

If you decide to read this, don't cheat--guess a solution to the mystery before reading the sequel.

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