Elliot Oakes & Paul Snyder

Created by P.G. Wodehouse

P.G. Wodehouse wrote nearly 100 books, almost all of them comic novels. He’s best known, of course, for creating the character of Jeeves, the ultimate valet (or as he would have it, the ultimate “gentleman’s gentleman”), as well as other memorable figures such as the charmingly foppish Psmith, get-rich-quick schemer Ukridge, the loquacious Mr. Mulliner, and the various cloth-headed denizens of Blandings Castle and the Drones’ Club.

Of course, the genial Wodehouse certainly never wrote a genuine hard-boiled detective story in his life in fact, some would say he was patently incapable of such a thing so what is he doing here? Well, virtually every one of Wodehouse’s many stories and novels takes place in the same interconnected little world, and given Wodehouse’s continued reliance on farcical plots involving impersonations, mistaken identities and stolen heirlooms, it’s only natural that a private detective would be called in to sort out at least some of the strange goings-on. And indeed, it turns out that several desperate characters in the Wodehouse canon employed the services of various private eyes over the years.

But Wodehouse’s only stab at an actual, if still somewhat comic, P.I. story would appear to be “Death at The Excelsior,” written quite early in his long career. This tale introduces us to the unjustifiably cocksure English private detective ELLIOT OAKES and his older, theoretically wiser boss PAUL SNYDER, both of whom end up being beaten to the mystery’s (somewhat far-fetched) solution by their elderly female client.

Oakes smiled. “As the medical evidence proved, he died of the bite of a cobra. It was a small cobra which came from Java.”

“Did you see the snake?”

Oakes shook his head.

“Then, how in heaven’s name –“

“I have enough evidence to make a jury convict Mr. Snake without leaving the box.”

Oaks had the evidence, all right. The problem with it was, Oaks was just plain wrong.


  • “Death At The Excelsior” (December 1914, Pearson’s, aka “The Harmonica Mystery,” “The Education of Detective Oakes”, May 1978, EQMM)


  • Death at the Excelsior and Other Stories (2004) Buy this book Kindle it!
    Contains “Death at the Excelsior”


Respectfully submitted by Rudyard Kennedy, with some additional info by Kevin Burton Smith.

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