The Old Man in the Corner - Baroness Emmuska Orczy This is one on my list of Orczy books to read, and if you have a version without the pictures do pop over the the Gutenberg version here and take a look at the one frontpiece illustration (it's the only illustration, actually). Why am I reading Orczy? Ages ago I read the Scarlet Pimpernel and while Orczy is waaaay into the over-the-top melodrama, there's just something about her stories that I want to study. Not that I can quite put my finger on it. I can't say I'm fascinated or enthralled or anything - but I'm usually amused by her. I also am interested in her biography - she did not lead a dull life, that's for certain. It's likely that her prose will bore many folk to tears though, so I don't know that I'd recommend her to everyone.Anyway, this series of stories is about The Old Man, who apparently has no name, and who is forever bumping into our heroine Polly, lady journalist, in a cafe or drug store. In these meetings he proceeds to tell her about a notable mystery (which as a journalist she usually has heard of and has opinions about) and his solution of it. He also has an uncontrollable habit of knotting and unknotting a piece of string while he talks. Yes, symbolism, we get it - untying the mystery, right? But then I never said Orczy was subtle. Also the Old Man is somewhat goofy looking and wears suits that amuse onlookers.Here's the problem, for those of us who like mysteries. Part of the solution of the mystery - in the case of a crime - is usually the bringing of the guilty to justice. But nope, not in these stories. And that is primarily what leaves me annoyed - I like to see the guilty punished - depending on the case of course, and who you end up feeling sympathy for. But so far everyone's getting away with it, and no action occurs to actually solve the case in real life - these are only mental exercises of the Old Man. Currently I'm only half way through the book so perhaps this will change.Here's a conversation between Polly and the Old Man, with the Old Man speaking the first lines quoted:Chapter XXI - The Dublin Mystery(59% in, in my ebook)"...Personally I don't wonder that the police were completely at sea. If a member of that highly estimable force happened to be as clever as the clever author of that forged will, we should have very few undetected crimes in this country.""That is why I always try to persuade you to give our poor ignorant police the benefit of your great insight and wisdom," said Polly, with a smile."I know," he said blandly, "you have been most kind in that way, but I am only an amateur. Crime interests me only when it resembles a clever game of chess, with many intricate moves which all tend to one solution, the checkmating of the antagonist—the detective force of the country. Now, confess that, in the Dublin mystery, the clever police there were absolutely checkmated.""Absolutely." I feel like Orczy is trying to do a Sherlock Holmes here, and though Holmes was very much the bored observer (until there was a puzzle to intrigue him) he also had a strong sense of justice and fairness, such that he would get involved to make the guilty pay, or at least help the innocent who were unjustly accused. The Old Man seems happy just to solve the puzzle and otherwise not get involved. Weird. Though of course there's no reason the police should listen to him if he did go to them (which is probably why he always repeated that bit about being an amateur), but Holmes certainly manged to get around that issue.I should probably also add that it's really obvious what the solution to the mystery is going to be. Mostly because the cast of characters is usually small and thus the guilty party stands out like a sore thumb....I like to post quotes like the following because 1) we need to be reminded how casually certain words were used (especially for people not familiar with this) and 2) I do like to alert people who don't normally read old books to what they may bump into in literature of the times. Chapter XXV - The Prisoner(69% in, in the ebook version)"Do you care for the seaside?" asked the man in the corner when he had finished his lunch. "I don't mean the seaside at Ostend or Trouville, but honest English seaside with nigger minstrels, three-shilling excursionists, and dirty, expensive furnished apartments, where they charge you a shilling for lighting the hall gas on Sundays and sixpence on other evenings. Do you care for that?" Not to most horrible example casual racism - for that I'll point you to my review of The Wisdom of Father Brown....And I did not see the surprise coming! I was all into the pattern of the mysteries and spotting the guilty and - well, let's just say that the end of the series of stories was nicely tied up. Heh.