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The Agony Column

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Published: 1916
Language: English
Wordcount: 24,864 / 69 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 82.4
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 14,857 1073

Notices in the personal column of the London Daily Mail, that romantic institution popularly called "The Agony Column," afford a medium for the introduction of the lovely girl and the hero in the opening of this story. A maze of perplexing circumstances follow, and throughout there is the same originality of treatment that one finds in the author's previous works. Turned into a motion picture The Second Floor Mystery in 1930

Show Excerpt

e lady at least, I said, will understand. He sneered at that. He shook his silly gray head. I will admit he had me worried. But now you have justified my faith in you. Thank you a million times for that!

Three weeks I have been in this huge, ungainly, indifferent city, longing for the States. Three weeks the Agony Column has been my sole diversion. And then--through the doorway of the Carlton restaurant--you came--

It is of myself that I must write, I know. I will not, then, tell you what is in my mind--the picture of you I carry. It would mean little to you. Many Texan gallants, no doubt, have told you the same while the moon was bright above you and the breeze was softly whispering through the branches of--the branches of the--of the--

Confound it, I don't know! I have never been in Texas. It is a vice in me I hope soon to correct. All day I intended to look up Texas in the encyclopedia. But all day I have dwelt in the clouds. And there are no reference books in the clouds.

Now I

Reader Reviews

Average Rating of 4.5 from 19 reviews: *****

A pleasant and a little too edulcorated story. The subject is as original as it is siropy, bad for your teeth.
Nonetheless, it's curious, funny, easy to read, with a plot, or a pretext, the Agony Column, not easy to forget.

Rob Reader

Earl Derr Biggers was a superb mystery writer. He also wrote plays, screen plays, reviews, humor stories and a few travel articles. Born in northern Ohio he attended Harvard and graduated in 1907. He died at age 48 in 1933. His greatest character was of course Charlie Chan. Chan may be the closest to a great Sherlockian detective any American author has ever created. Biggers visited Honolulu and is reputed to have been told of the great Chinese-American detective Chang Apana who worked on the Honolulu police force. Chang was a storied investigator and although there is no evidence Biggers actually met Chang he clearly knew of his achievements.
Unfortunately this book was written prior to the Charlie Chan books and plays and it suffers by comparison. Based on personal columns appearing daily in a London newspaper the story involves a young visiting American who breakfasts in the same hotel restaurant as a visiting American girl and her father. The story contains some humor however the basis of the relationship is the boy writing a letter to the column which is addressed to the girl despite lacking her name. She reads the column and responds. A murder and mystery is interwoven in their letters. It all seems a bit much and my interest abated early in the process. However in deference to the author and his superior later creations I continued to read to the end. I can not honestly recommend the story, however as this is a very early work of mystery for the author it may be a worthy read simply as a comparison to what comes in Biggers more mature works. I would recommend "Seven Keys to Baldpate" and all of the Charlie Chan mysteries to the reader.


BIG smile on my face as I just finished the book. Loved it!
Fast developments and engaging protagonist. Plus I love surprises.


I loved this. It really kept you going until the end.


Great story, fast paced, fun, full of plot twists, highly recommend!


A tale of murder and espionage in pre-WWI London narrated through a series of letters. An excellent mystery written in an interesting style.

Old Eyes

What a hoot - had me turning pages and couldn't stop until I finished!

I was tricked and didn't see the twist coming - had to re-read it!

A real fun read!


An Excellent Book,

Truly enjoyed reading it....

Every letter raises ur curiosity. And the climax was ultimate :-)

Now I am reading other books of Earl Derr Biggers.



I am absolutely pleased to have read this story and now I must seek out the film. It has all the elements of a good mystery and the romance is believable for the time.

I've read a great many mysteries, maybe thousands. This one is well worth remembering.

Budding writers could learn a great deal from the study of these early stories.


Excellent fun! Well-written. In re-telling it to my wife she also got fooled (read it and you will know what I mean).


A great, fun book. And a fast read with humor, adventure and romance. The author's first Charlie Chan book is available as a free download from I'd never read a book by Biggers before, but this one is great fun! And is a great site! The downloads here seem to have a lot cleaner (in terms of transcription errors) than other sites. Great job!


Very reminiscent of Richard Harding Davis's In the Fog.


Yep, it's a light hearted adventure. Nicely done.


I absolutely love this book! I couldn't stop smiling about it, it was so cute! I would recommend this to anyone. It has romance, mystery, and comedy. Who doesn't love that? It has a great twist to the story, which may seem obvious to most, but I have to say I didn't see it coming.

I'm new to this website, and I have to say that this is the best thing ever!!! So many great books to choose from, and all free! Older books are my favorite, so I'm pretty excited about my new "find". :)


Very nicely done. A good read and a good ending!

Iris Zawilski

Highly recommended. Enjoyed every minute of it!

Linda Otto

Such fun! I enjoyed every minute of it. Excellent, short read. Leaves you wanting more.

Gail Greenwood

My mother introduced me to this wonderful "did it really happen" mystery when I was about 15 (around 1962); I loved it then, and still do. My sister (seven years younger) read it when she was in her teens and loved it. We both want the 1916 copy our mother had; it was originally owned by my mother's sister (as indicated by her bookplate). Based on the stamp in the book, she purchased it from The White House Circulating Library in San Francisco, CA, (check-out dates from 1927 and 1928 indicate the book was out most of the time). Our mom and her sister were avid readers.

Lest I give the impression that this is a teen-aged girl's book, my husband read it when age 62 and thoroughly enjoyed it.

There is a lovely romantic story woven tastefully into the intriguing mystery, giving the reader a glimpse into a time when a lady was a lady. The words and style of writing, coming from 1916, are wonderfully appropriate for this book. There are no offensive words or actions, something hard to come by in novels these days. You can share this book with anyone.

If you are looking for a mystery with charm and grace, a good read for the day spent by a cozy fire, and one that will hold you to the last page, select The Agony Column.

Richard Bohan

This is a pretty good short mystery story, set in London in the very first days of the First World War. It involves murder, espionage and the arrest of an innocent man, all presented through letters. It also involves a nice romance inaugurated through the agony colony of the Morning Post.

Like most short stories written at this period, the story involves a twist at the end. Alert readers will spot the twist coming. Those who do not appreciate the O. Henry style of short stories will probably be annoyed.

This is Biggers before his creation of Charlie Chan. Defenitely worth reading for mystery fans



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