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The Agony Column
Earl Derr Biggers
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The Agony Column

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  199 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
A Charlie Chan Story
Nook, 0 pages
Published November 30th 2010 by Quality Classics (first published 1916)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 329)
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A few months ago, inspired by a book blogger’s challenge for reading the century, I begun on a project of my own aiming to read a mystery/crime novel published in each of the years of the twentieth century. I decided that I was to read the novels in chronological order and that I would not read the same author twice for the purposes of the project. I soon settled into a pattern of one ‘century of crime’ book a month and already I love the element of ‘pot luck’ that comes with choosing a book bas ...more
Jan 07, 2015 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure, romance
Difficult book to rate. Highly entertaining, but also very frustrating, especially for modern audiences.
The framing device for this story is cute, and it really keeps you guessing as to whether the narrator is actually on the level. It's excellently written and briskly paced, and, at just over a hundred pages, it's smart enough not to overstay its welcome.
But the book lacks tension, because we never know until the end just how much of it was really supposed to have happened. The narrator's goal
Jul 09, 2011 PenNPaper52 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me quite a while to start this book. It appeared to be an old fashioned, slow, artsy type of book which always is difficult for my hyperactive brain to grasp. But whoa!!!!! When I started, it was a gem of a book that I recommend everyone to read. In this age of Facebook, Twitter, the Personals online, the classified section of the local paper is a romantic way to meet your one true love. Geoffrey West has a routine. He picks the paper and walks to a nearby hotel to enjoy his breakfast wh ...more
Jul 23, 2012 Dagny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In England "The Agony Column" was the name of the personal advertisements in newspapers. The story begins in a rather light-hearted way with an American visiting London and being quite taken by an American girl he sees breakfasting with her father at a London Hotel. Since arriving in London he has been fascinated by The Agony Column. He has seen numerous ads placed by persons who saw someone that interested them in passing and requested a meeting. Wondering what he has to loss, he places an ad t ...more
Jan 19, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Daily Mail is gross and pervily misogynistic, from what I understand, and it was just as wretchedly scandalous in the hot summer weeks leading up to World War I in Earl Derr Biggers' The Agony Column, but instead of nip slips, the Daily Mail had a Missed Connections (or "agony column" in British): "I saw you, in white with a scarlet ribbon, alight from the omnibus at Piccadilly and glance playfully at me. Write if your heart went out to this gentleman in a pince-nez," and you could pay five ...more
Sep 01, 2012 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Wanda, Bettie
According to Wikipedia, this book was also published as Second Floor Mystery in 1916.

Free download at Gutenberg Project
Mar 08, 2014 angie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe I'll try to read The Agony Column again when I have more time. I admit to going through it very quickly. It starts off so well and is intriguing at first, but after a while the narrator is a bit too much.

Of course, it might have been my mood. The thought of there being "agony columns" (a personals section where one person tries to track down someone they saw briefly in public, but can't forget) in the Times long before Craig's List and Missed Connections came along pulled me into this.

Mar 02, 2015 Yibbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
Very suspenseful! I've read it twice. Quite a surprise at the end.
Bobby Underwood
Nov 23, 2014 Bobby Underwood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Agony Column is a perfect brew of mystery and romance of the old-fashioned variety. Perhaps no one other than M.M. Kaye blended these two elements as well as Earl Derr Biggers. Forever remembered for his creation of Charlie Chan, the great detective from Hawaii, many of Biggers's other novels and novellas are just as enjoyable. Such is the case here, in this short but satisfying story.

Written in 1916, the Great War very much plays a part in this tale of love, murder and spies. When a young w
Samantha Glasser
Geoffrey West is an American in London. Dining one morning on a plate of fresh strawberries, and taking in the personal ads in the newspaper (aptly nicknamed "The Agony Column"), he spots an American tourist girl with her father, a Congressman from Texas. He notes that she too is reading the Agony Column. Later that day he has an idea to place an ad to catch her attention, and vows to send her a letter each day for a week to win her heart. Each letter becomes more interesting than the previous b ...more
Oct 28, 2009 Scilla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a cross between a love story and a mystery. A young American playwriter, Geoffrey West, is in London just before WWII breaks out. He is eating breakfast in his usual hotel, when the girl of his dreams, Marian, comes in with her father (they are American also)and sits at the next table. He notices she is reading the personals (The Agony Column) in the newspaper, so he submits a message to her asking to meet her. She responds that he has to write her a letter every day for seven days and t ...more
Jul 27, 2014 Jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mystery and Romance

Mystery and Romance

This is a wonderful story by Earl Derr Biggers! It left me eager to read to the end. If you're into mystery, suspense and romance this book will intrigue you and entice you to finish it quickly in order to find out if the young lady chooses to accept the young man.
Mar 06, 2016 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very quick and easy read, nice little mystery. I do not like epistolary novels in general, but in this case, the format is necessary to the story (although it also makes it pretty obvious what's going on.) Even though the framing device is transparent, it's still an enjoyable book.
Richard Ward
Sep 24, 2015 Richard Ward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of vintage murder mysteries.
3 1/2 stars but I genuinely enjoyed it and don't mind rounding up. A pretty short murder mystery by the author who game the world Charlie Chan. A love story is mixed in. It's in the public domain and can be downloaded free for your Kindle or whatever you have. There's at least one free audio version even. Google it.
Ken Nail Jr

Worth the read, even though the prose is deep purple. Romance just before World War 1 opens in Europe. Finis
Oct 02, 2008 Sallie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
I received this book today in the mail, and sat down to see what it was all about. Wow! Aug 1914 London - which I expected since I received from a Maudie, but I kept thinking of Betsy in London in August 1914 and reading the Agony Column. My copy, soon to be on its way to Ann Wallace, was published in 1916. I wonder if Maud got her idea of using it in BATGW from it, or did she all ready know about the AC on her own?

Another mystery ;-}
Nov 27, 2014 Div rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful. What a superb way to woo the girl and I loved how she threw him the challenge and he lived up to it :D
Timothy Ferguson
A novel based on the contents of an agony column in an old English newspaper. Not fair as a modern detective story, but I liked it nonetheless, and brief enough that you can forgive it for breaking the rules, since your commitment to it is low. Has a romantic frame story which works well, I feel.

Originally reviewed on book coasters
Pamela Mclaren
What a fun and different type of story. This is like a play — a story told in letters that begin with an item in a London newspaper agony column — from a man who sort of meets a young woman while dining in a hotel restaurant. Is the story he weaves in the seven letters true, what will happen? This was so good, I only put it down once!
Dec 26, 2013 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting novel from one of the early masters of the genre. Lots of surprises for mystery fans.
Available free in eBook or Audiobook:
Aug 10, 2010 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very engaging and hard to put down. Total surprise of an ending. At first I was angry, but then decided it was OK. (Although written by Biggers, Charlie Chan does not appear in this novel.)
Aug 02, 2012 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, ebook
Mystery-romance that takes place in London just before WWI. The story is very clever, and I was dumbfounded by the ending. 3 1/2 stars.
Marts  (Thinker)
Mar 05, 2012 Marts (Thinker) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, 2012-reads
Quite an interesting classic mystery novel, the title is its most prominent aspect, but the reader would be quite surprised at the plot...
Mike Mikos
Aug 26, 2011 Mike Mikos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting murder mystery from the Pre WWI era. Well written and holds interest. Boy meets girl through a newspaper personal column.
Jun 02, 2010 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is actually a short story rather than a novel. What a clever, amusing story. A quite surprising ending.
Aug 14, 2010 D'face rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a stylish novel, wonderfully written like a Wodehouse mystery. I really enjoyed this little old book.
Mar 05, 2009 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Very entertaining. You will never guess the ending! Listen at for free.
Oct 02, 2011 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perfect old school mystery with fun twists and turns and a bit o' romance, too. Yay!
Tanya Faberson
Oct 13, 2010 Tanya Faberson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A cute little mystery with a good twist at the end. Worth the quick read.
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Earl Derr Biggers was born in Warren, Ohio on August 24, 1884. Years later, while attending Harvard University, Biggers showed little passion for the classics, preferring instead writers such as Rudyard Kipling and Richard Harding Davis. Following his graduation from Harvard in 1907, he worked briefly for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and at Bobbs-Merrill publishers. By 1908, Biggers was hired at the ...more
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