Published in 1917 and set in l9l3, the novel opens with the death of a young girl on an upper floor of a New York museum. She's been killed by an arrow and even stranger, while the museum has arrows aplenty, no bow is anywhere to be seen.
Detective Ebenezer Gryce, now 85, and his assistant Sweetwater arrive to investigate. Was the death an accident or murder? But who would be foolish enough to loose an arrow in a museum? On the other hand, what motive could there be for doing away with a girl barely in her mid teens?
After Gryce arrives everyone in the building is sent to stand in the same spot as they were at the time of the incident. Suddenly an extra man appears. Where has he sprung from?
The plot immediately begins to thicken. How does an English visitor, a stranger to the victim, know her name? Why has the girl's travelling companion hastily left their hotel without leaving a forwarding address? For that matter what was this well-bred young lady doing going about without a chaperone? Where is the bow? How could the arrow have been shot without someone in the open galleries noticing?
Readers will need to refer to the floor plans more than once, because the plot is very dense and the movements of those in the museum at the relevant time are vital in solving the mystery. Time and again the investigation comes to a screeching halt, only to be picked up again after a bit of cogitation and/or legwork by Gryce, Sweetwater, and others. The real problem is linking the various prime movers to each other and particularly finding the motive. Sweetwater's use of carpentry skills aids the investigation in an unexpected way!
Etext: Gutenberg at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17763/17763-h/17763-h.htm