Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, February 7, 2023


 "Case of the Tragedies in the Greek Room" by Sax Rohmer (also published as "The Tragedies in the Greek Room;" first published in The New Magazine (UK), April 1913; included in Rohmer's collection The Dream Detective, Being Some Account of the Methods of Moris Klaw, 1920; reprinted many times, including in the anthologies Baffling Detective Stories by Masters of Mystery (Black, 1928), Great Detective Stories (Black, 1928), 101 World's Great Mystery Stories (Blue Ribbon,1928), and Fifty Famous Detectives of Fiction  (Odham's 1938)

"Sax Rohmer" (1883-1959) was once Arthur Henry Sarfield Ward, whose career spanned from the late Edwardian Era to the age of Gold Medal paperbacks.  Before he was known for creating Dr. Fu Manchu and penning a host of oriental mysteries, he wrote songs for the British music halls and anonymously penned a miscellany of articles (Pause!, 1910), and ghosted a book for Harry Relph, the well-known music hall performer (Little Tich: A Book of Travels and Wanderings, 1911).  Shortly after he began his stories about the diabolical Fu Manchu, he wrote ten stories about Moris Klaw, the Dream Detective; Fu Manchu turned out to to be a far more popular character than Klaw, whose cases -- though bizarre -- relied solely on a single manner of detection:  dreams.

"Case of the Tragedies in the Greek Room" was the first sory in the series, introducing Klaw as a mysterious "antique dealer or something of the kind; got a ramshackle old place by Wapping Old Stairs -- sort of a cross between Jamrach's and a rag shop.  He's lately been hanging about the Central Criminal Court a lot.  Seems to fancy his luck as a criminal investigator.  He's certainly smart, [...] but cranky."  Klaw is tall and stooped.  He could be a very old man who looks young or a young man who is prematurely aged, with "toneless" shaggy brows and scanty beard.  He sprays vebena on his high, bald brow to mask the smell of death around him.  Klaw is assisted by his exotically beautiful daughter Isis.  According to Inspector Grimsby of Scotland Yard, Klaw has had some success in solving crimes.  (To which Isis takes affront with the word "some," asking Grimsby if there was a single case that Klaw did not solve.)

Conway, the night attendant at the Menzies Museum has been found dead in the Greek Room of the museum, his neck broken, his body horrible distorted.  The museum and each of its rooms had been securely locked and there was no conceivable way the murderer could have gained entrance or exit.  Broken glass from a case in the adjoining room indicated that a violent struggle had taken place there and that the killer had flung Conway onto the next room, breaking his neck.  Nothing was missing from either room, but an examination showed that the case containing a valuable Athenean Harp -- the gem of the museum's collection -- had been unlocked.  The harp, whose provenance was unsure, was said to have been taken from a Temple of Pallas, although some experts felt it was a forgery dating back only to medieval Florence -- whatever the case, the worksmanship on the jewel-encrusted golden harp made it priceless; and yet, neither the harp nor its jewels were disturbed.

Enter Moris Klaw, who claims to be able to detect messages in the odic force (that is to say, the ether) around where death has occurred.  From that force he able to draw a "photograph" of what the victim had last seen before death.  He does all of this by sleeping on the exact spot where the victim had died.  Klaw sleeps on a red silk cushion that Isis provides; he does not use a pillow of blanket because they would interfere with the odic force.

Klaw's vision turns out to be of a woman in white holding the Athenean Harp -- the last thing Conway had seen.  He goes off to investigate this clue further, while instructing the museum director to place dry plaster of Paris each night around the case holding the Harp.

Nothing happens over the next few days, and the museum hires another watchman, this time a burly and fearless Scot.  Several weeks pass and we learn that Klaw is out of the country.  Then the new watchman is found dead in the Greek Room, again horribly distorted, again with no visible means for the murderer to enter or exit.  Tiny, naked footprints have been left in the dry dust around the case.

Determined to find out what happened, Grimsby and his men begin spending evenings in the museum, waiting in the darkness for something to happen.  Something does.  There is a loud noise, and Grimsby is discovered lyng unconscious on the floor of the Greek Room, perhaps dead.  In the darkness can be the dim figure of a woman in white who then vanishes...

It's up to Klaw to solve the mystery.  Actually, the locked room part of the puzzle is fairly easy for the reader to solve.  The true and final solution, although well telegraphed, is far more difficult...

Both the magazine appearance of "Case of the Tragedies in the Greek Room" and the collection The Dream Detective are available online.


  1. I'm assembling a GIFT BOX for you--it might be ready by Easter--and Sax Rohmer will be riding shotgun on the other goodies in the box! You can't go wrong with Sax Rohmer!

  2. Love locked room stories. Have never read Rohmer.

  3. I have yet to read a Klaw story, and it's been years since my last Rohmer. Good to know of them!

  4. We have a complete collection of the Moris Klaw stories at