Melville Davisson Post (1869-1930) was born into a prosperous family in West Virginia and practiced criminal and corporate law for several years. However, after the success of his first novel series, he promptly dropped his law career to write full time. He was a prolific writer, penning numerous stories in national magazines like The Saturday Evening Post and The Ladies Home Journal.
He wrote a couple of series and some standalone novels, but it may have been his twenty-plus stories featuring the mystery-solving and justice dispensing West Virginian backwoodsman, Uncle Abner, which helped make Post popular. Ellery Queen called the stories "an out-of-this-world target for future detective-story writers," and the 1941 review of the mystery genre, Murder for Pleasure, declared that Uncle Abner was, after Edgar Allan Poe's Arsène Dupin, "the greatest American contribution" to the cast of fictional detectives.
Uncle Abner is described as "a big, broad-shouldered, deep-chested Saxon, with all those marked characteristics of a race living out of doors and hardened by wind and sun. His powerful frame carried no ounce of surplus weight. It was the frame of an empire builder on the frontier of the empire. The face reminded one of Cromwell, the craggy features in repose seemed molded over iron but the fine gray eyes had a calm serenity, like remote spaces in the summer sky. The man's clothes were plain and somber. And he gave the impression of things big and vast."
Abner is also a Puritan at heart who always carries a Bible in his pocket and has a knack for finding out the truth. As his nephew, Martin, who frequently narrates the stories, says, “for all his iron ways, Abner was a man who saw justice in its large and human aspect, and he stood for the spirit, above the letter, of the truth.” He is a stern authoritarian figure but equally so a kind and compassionate philosopher.
Uncle Abner, Master of Mysteries was the first anthology (1918), and contained 18 Uncle Abner stories all told by Martin. The crimes primarily deal with murder or robbery and start after the crime has been committed and the killer thinks he's gotten away with it. "The Doomdorf Mystery," is the first story in the collection and also one of Post's best known. It features more than one possible suspect who all admit to being the killer, as well as a locked-room scenario ("the wall of the house is plumb with the sheer face of the rock. It is a hundred feet to the river ... but that is not all. Look at these window frames; they are cemented into their casement with dust").
The stories are most definitely of their pre Civil War setting, in that they feature the attitudes toward African-Americans prevalent at the time (with the associated language that today's readers might find offensive). If you can get past that, these are entertaining for the shrewd characterizations, tight plots and for the dispensing of frontier justice in an era that predated American police forces and procedures.