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Israel ZangwillIsrael Zangwill (1864 – 1926) was a British humorist and writer, born in London in 1864, to a family of Jewish immigrants from Czarist Russia. 

He had already written a fantastic tale entitled ‘The Premier and the Painter’ in collaboration with Louis Cowen, when he resigned his position as a teacher owing to differences with the school managers and ventured into journalism. He founded and edited Ariel, The London Puck, and did miscellaneous work on the London press.

Zangwill’s work earned him the nickname “The Dickens of the Ghetto”. He wrote a very influential novel ‘Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People’ (1892). The use of the metaphorical phrase “melting pot” to describe the American absorption of immigrants was popularised by Zangwill’s play ‘The Melting Pot’, a big hit in the United States in 1909–10.

Zangwill’s simulation of Yiddish sentence structure in English aroused great interest. He also wrote mystery works, such as ‘The Big Bow Mystery’ (1892), and social satire such as ‘The King of Schnorrers’ (1894), a picaresque novel (which became a short-lived musical comedy in 1979). His ‘Dreamers of the Ghetto’ (1898) includes essays on famous Jews such as Baruch Spinoza, Heinrich Heine and Ferdinand Lassalle.

(Source: Edited from Wikipedia Israel Zangwill)

‘The Big Bow Mystery’ was the first true locked room mystery novel. It has been almost continuously in print since 1891 and has been used as the basis for three films. Unfortunately, Zangwill never wrote more work in this genre, or none appears to have survived.

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Israel Zangwill Locked Room Novel


Big BowThe Big Bow Mystery (1892)
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Available in ebook, paperback & audible formats. Also made into a film.

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Note: The first true locked room novel.

This is the locked room mystery novel that virtually invented the genre. Together with the works of Sheridan Le Fanu, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, and Gaston Leroux, this novel proved to be a critical step in the development of this new form of detective fiction. As noted in the Wikipedia article entitled ‘Locked Room Mystery‘, “It was not until publication of Israel Zangwill’s seminal The Big Bow Mystery (1892) that the hallmark of every great impossible crime – misdirection – made its appearance, introducing a murder technique much emulated since.”

On a foggy day in the Big Bow District of London, Mrs. Drabdump becomes fearful for her lodger. She knocks several times at his door but no answer. She runs to Inspector Grodman and together they break down his door to find the poor man lying in his bed with his throat cut. The door was locked from the inside. Thus begins Israel Zangwill’s classic mystery. 


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