M. McDONNELL BODKIN “The Hidden Violin.” Short story. PI Dora Myrl. First appeared in Dora Myrl, the Lady Detective (Chatto, UK, hardcover, 1900). Reprinted in The Big Book of Female Detectives, edited by Otto Penzler (Black Lizard, US, 2018).

   This very short story was probably not the lead one in the collection it first appeared in (see above), since it gets right down to business with no discussion at all as to how Dora Myrl got started as a professional detective way back in the year 1900.

   And the business at hand is an “impossible” crime: how it is that a stolen Stradivarius violin can be heard being played in a locked room, but when anyone knocks and is invited in, there is no violin to be found, no matter how diligent the search.

   The solution is simple but nonetheless rather clever, and what’s more, clues for readers to solve the case on their own are all there to be discovered. Nicely done!

Bio-Bibliographic notes:   The author, Matthias McDonnell Bodkin (1850-1933), was an Irish nationalist politician as well as a noted author, journalist and newspaper editor, and barrister. (Follow the link above to his Wikipedia page.)

   Besides the collection of a dozen stories that “The Hidden Violin” appears in, Dora Myrl also shared top billing in the novel The Capture of Paul Beck (Unwin, 1909) and makes a cameo appearance in the collection Young Beck (Unwin, 1911).

   What is most assuredly a first, if indeed not unique in the annals of PI fiction, when Dora finds herself in competition with another detective by the name of Paul Beck in solving the case they are both working on. The book was the aforementioned The Capture of Paul Beck, and in it they end up falling in love and getting married.