The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana

by Jess Nevins

“The Stir Outside the Café Royal: A Story of Miss Van Snoop, Detective” (1898)    

copyright © Jess Nevins 2022

“The Stir Outside the Café Royal: A Story of Miss Van Snoop, Detective” was written by Clarence Rook and first appeared in Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine (Sept. 1898). Rook (1862-1915) was an author and journalist best-known in his lifetime for his Hooligan Nights (1899), the reminiscences of a London thief and burglar.

Nora Van Snoop is a member of the “New York detective force.” She is clever and resolute, and in “The Stir Outside the Café Royal” she takes down Colonel Mathurin, “one of the aristocrats of crime,”1 through a cunning and well-planned scheme. Mathurin had previously killed Van Snoop’s fiancé, and she enlisted with the police to hunt Mathurin down and avenge the murder of her beloved.

“The Stir Outside the Café Royal” is briskly told, with an intelligent plot and an appealing female detective. Like several other late-Victorian female detectives (see: Dorcas Dene, Detective), Van Snoop’s motivation for joining the police force is based on her relationship to a man rather than through her own feelings about crime and criminals. Van Snoop initially seems to be a New Woman, but at the story’s end, when the formerly glamorous and clever Van Snoop has burst into tears and resigned from the police force, the reader has been assured that Van Snoop is not a frightening New Woman at all, but rather just a typical emotional woman.

“The Stir Outside the Café Royal” was notable in its time and has received a significant amount of critical attention and anthologizing. One typical critical opinion is as follows:

One of its earliest tales about a female detective, important to the evolution of Mollie Delamere [in Beatrice Heron-Maxwell’s The Adventures of a Lady Pearl-Broker], is Nora Van Snoop, created by Clarence Henry Rook (1862-1915) in the famous short story “The Stir Outside the Cafe Royal,” published in the Harmsworth in September 1898. The story sets a model for the female detective, albeit several well-known women had preceded its protagonist.2 

“The Stir Outside the Café Royal” was nowhere near the first story, British or American, about a female detective, and it can be reasonably argued that the character type was well-evolved by the time Nora Van Snoop appeared. Nonetheless, “The Stir Outside the Café Royal” quickly became famous and had a lasting influence where previous novels and stories starring female detectives did not.

Recommended Edition

Print: Otto Penzler, ed., The Big Book of Female Detectives. New York: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2018.

Online: (volume 1).


1 Clarence Rook, “The Stir Outside the Café Royal: A Story of Miss Van Snoop, Detective,” Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine (Sept. 1898): 319.

2 Kestner, Sherlock’s Sisters, 135-136.