In the newest addition to the Library of Congress Crime Classics series, Gelett Burgess’ Astro the Seer proves that he is “The Master of Mysteries.” This collection of short stories, originally published in 1912, features victims of crimes who bring their cases to Astro, who, they believe, finds solutions by consulting their auras and psychic vibrations. In reality, as soon as they leave his office, Astro sheds his turban and robe and assumes the role of a private detective. He interviews witnesses, follows suspects, stakes out hideouts and uses scientific methods of the day. However, Astro’s most effective weapon is his hyper-focused attention to minute details of his clients’ appearance and behavior.
Astro’s methods bring to mind another fictional sleuth: Sherlock Holmes, the creation of Arthur Conan Doyle. The appearance of Doyle’s genre-defining detective launched what Crime Classics editor Leslie S. Klinger calls “a tsunami of Holmes imitators,” of which Astro is a notable representative. Like Holmes, Astro demonstrates a wealth of expertise in many fields, employs a specific meditating method to organize his thoughts and heavily relies on his companion, Valeska Wynne. Unlike Holmes, however, Astro trusts his sidekick with serious tasks and occasionally gives Valeska credit, though he never misses a chance to tease her.
With “The Master of Mysteries,” the Library’s Crime Classics series continues its mission of bringing back to light some of the finest, albeit lesser-known, American crime writing from the 1860s to the 1960s. Drawn from the Library’s collections, each volume includes the original text, an introduction, author biography, notes, recommendations for further reading and suggested discussion questions from mystery expert Leslie S. Klinger.
Crime Classics are published by Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of Sourcebooks, in association with the Library of Congress. “The Master of Mysteries,” published on January 3, 2023.