The Grell Mystery

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Author: Frank Froest
Published: 1913
Language: English
Wordcount: 100,718 / 289 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 75.6
LoC Category: PN
Downloads: 3,541
Added to site: 2007.07.31 17769

A man is found mysteriously murdered in the study of his own house, and the investigation has not proceeded very far before the detectives discover that the body is not what of this man at all, but of some one who looks like him, while he himself has disappeared as completely as if he also had been killed... The author has condensed into his 390 pages an amazing lot of surprises, startling incidents, mysteries, baffling clues, and bewildering situations.

Show Excerpt

Yes, then?"

"The room was only dimly lit, sir, and I could see that he was lying on the couch, rather awkwardly, his face turned from me. I thought he might have dozed off, and I went into the room and touched him on the shoulder. My hand came away wet!" His voice rose to a scream. "It was blood--blood everywhere--and he with a knife in his heart."

Foyle leaned over the table. "Where's Ivan?--Russian, I suppose, by the name? He must be about the house somewhere."

"I haven't seen him since he let the lady in," faltered the butler.

The superintendent never answered. Bolt had silently disappeared. For five minutes silence reigned in the little room. Then the door was pushed open violently and Bolt entered like a stone propelled from a catapult.

"Ivan has gone--vanished!" he cried.


Foyle caressed his chin with his well-manicured hand.

"H'm!" he said reflectively. "Don't let's jump to


Average Rating of 4.8 from 5 reviews: *****
Leah A. Zeldes

After asking a friend to lie about his whereabouts, a millionaire is found murdered on the eve of his wedding night.

The author was a prominent British police official, and this interesting mystery offers lots of detail about Scotland Yard procedures of the time, including such information as how they catalogued fingerprints in the days before computer matching, and the differences in the ways British, American and French police interrogated suspects. (One could wish police today were as reluctant to use deadly force as these detectives.)

However, Froest's character development is somewhat less realistic than his police work. The histrionics of the bereaved bride, for example, require some suspension of disbelief. The novel was made into a film in 1917, and it's easy to imagine the melodramatic performance of the actress in that role.


This is an excellent mystery novel written by a Scotland Yard man with a distinguished career. Read the Wikipedia article for Frank Froest to get an appreciatian of his credentials.


This and The Maelstrom are two great detective novels by the same author. They show the real challenge in criminal investigation, the handling of people and of resources. If you are only thrilled by ingenious reasoning (an oxymoron in itself) of the likes of a Holmes, this is not for you. If you are interested in the profession, go for it, not much important has changed since the times of Scotland Yard.


Frank Froest's pre-WWI police detective tale, The Grell Mystery, is an unexpectedly delightful read. The author, a retired Scotland Yarder himself, in the guise of New Scotland Yard's Criminal Investigation Department's (CID) Executive Chief Heldon Foyle, sets out to solve the murder of Robert Grell, American explorer, at the dead man's house at Grosvenor Gardens, London ... the butler found him. There are dozens of twists and turns, starting with the revelation almost at the outset that it's not Grell who was murdered at all though the body was found in Grell's study, wearing his clothes, and carrying his identification.

Occasionally one glimpses Froest's own agenda peeking out from behind the curtains. This was the age of Sherlock Holmes, who was still hugely popular and solving new cases in The Strand Weekly. Froest admonishes us that his detective "rarely wore a dressing-gown and never played the violin". Froest attempts to remove the glamour from detective work and, thankfully, fails: his hero, Heldon Foyle, is constantly front-and-centre, solving riddles, taking death-defying chances in opium and gambling dens, and, since his Watson is entire field force of detectives, giving orders to his agents across London and the countryside.

There is one breathtaking aspect, quite apart from the sheer fun of the plotting, and that is the ripe anti-Semitism which rears its head briefly among the thieves den of the Whitechapel ghetto Foyle enters single-handedly. But that was a reflection of the world in 1913, and of British culture. Nonetheless, the views are so matter-of-factly stated, to modern ears and eyes it is a bucket of cold water. It is, however, quite incidental to the main story and should not deter anyone from investigating an unjustly forgotten detective writer's oeuvre.

Linda Otto

Interesting! Very well worth reading. This is a police procedural (written by a former Scotland Yard Superintendent). Aside from being a very worthy mystery, it was fascinating to read about the police methods of the time--they were very proud of their method of handling this new-fangled thing called fingerprinting. This is written with a more modern feel than the usual melodramatic, and I recommend it!

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