THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1922. Octavo, pp. [1-10] 1-365 [366: blank] [note: first leaf is a blank], inserted frontispiece with illustration by W. Hatherell, original maroon cloth, front and spine panels stamped in green. First U.S. edition. At one time, mystery writer Frederic Dannay's copy with "Barnaby Ross" and "Ellery Queen" written in his hand on the half title page. Includes "The Trees of Pride," a fairly long story concerning the legend and superstitions surrounding a stand of peacock trees, a flamboyant Asian/African species that has been imported to a seaside town in Cornwall. The locals believe them responsible for a spate of recent deaths and disappearances in the town and want to cut them down. The owner of the estate, one of those "advanced" and "enlightened" specimens of modernity that Chesterton loves to attack, refuses. The arrival of an American critic and the local poet he has discovered provide the catalyst for what follows: the disappearance and presumed death of the estate owner after he announces angrily that he is going to spend the night in the grove of demon trees to dispel the local superstitions. The mystery is resolved with a kind of triple reverse as the supernatural gives way to the criminal, which gives way to the humorous, which gives way, once again, to the supernatural. The story has something of the feeling of Chesterton's fantasy masterpiece, THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY, as the reader falls through one trap door after another. The most explicit serious theme here is that elites should not be quick to dismiss a thing just because it is held true by the masses. The background legend from North Africa about the carnivorous peacock trees constitutes a very attractive and potently weird storyette; this and the ambiguity surrounding them in modern Cornwall allow for this story to be classified as fantastic. The contents of this Harper edition differ from those in UK edition published by Cassell in 1922. The Harper edition does not include three stories collected in Cassell edition: "The Garden of Smoke," "The Five of Swords" and "The Tower of Treason." Bleiler (1948), p. 77. Not in Bleiler (1978) or Reginald (1979; 1992). Barzun and Taylor, A Catalogue of Crime 2407. Queen, The Detective Short Story, p. 21. Hubin (1994), p. 159. Some foxing to page edges and several preliminary and terminal leaves, a very good copy overall. (#137493).
"First Edition / K-W" on copyright page.