I read one of the Violet Strange short stories last year as part of an anthology (I can't remember which one); it was my first introduction to Anna Katherine Green's work and I liked it enough that I wanted to read more. In that story, (The Intangible Clew), Strange showed a distinctive Sherlock Holmes flair, and I was intrigued.
I've found and read a couple of her books and loved them, but it took longer to find a copy of this book - the one I most wanted to read - that was available and affordable. I'd heard it wasn't her best work, and sadly, I have to agree; the first story in fact was just down right rubbish, the second one only a little bit better: more coherent but absurdly plotted.
But Anna Katherine Green did two things - one of them something I've personally not seen before, which accounts for my slightly high rating. The first is that every story got better than the one before it - the improvement in the writing and plotting is obvious, and one of these days I'll sit down and do the google-fu necessary to find out if these stories were early efforts, and therefore show a natural progression in her writing, or if there's some other reason. But as the book goes on the stories get exponentially better.
The second thing that elevated the book for me was that each story was a complete stand-alone short story (except the very last one). Any of them could be read cold and the reader would miss nothing. But when read together, there's a thin plot that holds them all together, and, it turns out, a romance; one that's hardly hinted at in any of the stories until the second-last. The last story isn't really a story at all, but Violet's coda in the form of a letter, explaining her motives for taking on the cases.
This subtle dichotomy made the uneven collection feel more finely crafted than it really was, and in spite of its flaws it feels clever and fresh. The writing is a little more florid than the other AKG books I've read so far, and she breaks the fourth wall constantly; something I didn't mind but occasionally felt a little condescending-ish.
So - not brilliant, not her best work by far, but interesting and worth experiencing and definitely worth the effort I made to read it.