A Murder and a Metaphor: Litkicks Mystery Spot #1

Fiction History Polls and Questions

Can you identify the famous literary work represented in the photograph above? Here are a couple of hints:

• You have definitely read this novel. It's one of the most widely loved novels of all time.

• A person is killed, during one of the novel's climactic scenes, by the forked road near the top right of the photo.

• The vast expanse in the photo's center, which appears to be a work of geometric modern art, provides one of the novel's central metaphors.

This image has been seen before but has never before, as far as I know, been connected to or identified as related to the famous novel it depicts. I had to do some research and make some educated guesses to ascertain the exact spot myself, and I will explain my reasoning in the post to follow.

I spotted this image while browsing a historical map site referred to me on Twitter. The photo was taken in 1924, and I will reveal its source and link to the very cool map website when I reveal the identity of the spot in the next post.

Please post your guesses by commenting. Just to keep it interesting ... I will not publish any comments until I reveal the answer, because it would ruin the fun if a commenter gave it away. I wonder how many of you will guess it!

FOLLOW-UP: the answer is revealed here.

This article is part of the series Litkicks Mystery Spot. The next post in the series is In Gatsby's Tracks: Locating the Valley of Ashes in a 1924 Photo.
161 Responses to "A Murder and a Metaphor: Litkicks Mystery Spot #1"

Weedpatch camp. Grapes of Wrath.

Hooper Ranch. Not Weedpatch. Grapes of Wrath. That's my guess.

by TWJ on

The Great Gatsby

by Sean on

Great Gatsby

I switch my guess to Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men.'

by LightsoverBmore on


Old TJ sees all.

fun game.

by Bill_Ectric on

Heeey, I like this! Mystery Photos... do more, do more!

For this one I guess . . . The Great Gatsby.

Nope. I'm moving my guess back to The Grapes of Wrath. The Hooper Ranch guards killing Casy by the road.

No! I change my guess! Valley of Ashes. The Great Gatsby!

by Logan Riley on

I'm going to guess and say Of Mice and Men

by Levi on

Keep the guesses coming, folks! I'm not going to publish the comments yet, because I don't want to give away the answer, but several of you did get it right (I'm impressed) and several of you also sent good guesses that were incorrect. I'm going to let this ride a little longer before I put up a new post explaining the answer.

by T on

I believe this is an aerial photo of the ash heaps between West Egg and NYC in Fitzgerald's, The Great Gatsby. The crossroads was the spot where Myrtle was killed. Great Post - love a good mystery - can't wai for Part II.

by Jason Chervokas on

A 15-second guess off the top of my head, Gatsby.

This is northern Queens, somewhere between Flushing, Corona, Jackson Heights and Long Island City -- probably New York State Road 25A, Northern Boulevard, and the novel is "The Great Gatsby."

If the form in the middle is the "valley of ashes," then it's The Great Gatsby.

by Jessica on

It's got to be The Great Gatsby -- the ash heaps, right? Great find, Levi, and great game!

The Great Gatsby? Is the photo of the ash heaps?

by Tom W. on

It's the Valley of the Ashes in the Great Gatsby - future home of Shea Stadium, Citi Field and the nearby World's Fair. Fitzgerald's Queensboro Ballad, as it were....

Great photo!

by Susan Adrian on

The Grapes of Wrath?

by jim sleeper on

It's the Great Gatsby. I haven't read it in years, but somehow the clues you provided brought it all together. Jim Sleeper

by Faith on

The Great Gatsby?

by Jurgen on

From the hints, I'll go with the Great Gatsby. Fitting, since I'm in East Egg right now. This seems like a fun series.

by Michael Boccacino on

The Great Gatsby!

To Kill A Mockingbird

by Matt Rowe on

The Great Gatsby.

(Your reference to the 1924 NYC map, which I just heard about the other day, was as important a clue as any of the others.)

by Mark C on

gotta be east egg, long island sound.

by Nate Penn on


by J. Haley on

Great Gatsby, huh?

by Ian on

My best guess is The Great Gatsby. The death you're referring to is the road accident, and this is a picture of the road linking West Egg and East Egg.

by Josh Mrvos on

To Kill a Mockingbird?

Great contest by the way...

by Jovan Mrvos on

"To Kill A Mockingbird"

by Tim on

I'm going to guess that it's from The Great Gatsby, and the field is the ash field below the Dr TJ Eckleburg sign, close to where Myrtle Wilson is killed.

by Tom Flynn on

The Great Gatsby

by Elizabeth Chou on

The Great Gatsby? Mainly because of the first hint.

by Shim on

Is it The Great Gatsby??? This is killing me, I have to know!!!

by Jason on

The Great Gatsby? Is that Long Island?

by Judy Larsen on

is it The Great Gatsby? Right where Myrtle is killed?

by Cynthia on

To Kill a Mockingbird?

by grd on

Great Gatsby, obviously

by Leslie on

To Kill a Mockingbird.

by Matt Shaer on

Great Gatsby.

by Meredith on

To Kill a Mockingbird?

by Margay Roberge on

Anna Kerenina

by C. Godot on

I got your email this morning. What a great puzzle! My deduction: Great Neck, Long Island, i.e. East and West Egg, from The Great Gatsby. That vast area in the middle, situated between the two Eggs, is the valley of ashes. The fork in the road is near where Myrtle is mowed down by Daisy in the yellow car. It took me some thinking to decide this, and it all really turned on your description of the novel - I had to ask myself, What universally beloved novel features a sudden roadside death and is rooted in a specific place based on true geography. As I worked my way down the list of Faulkner novels, I couldn't admit that any are widely loved. I considered the date of the map, and reasoned that unless this was a very rural area, there would have been considerable development since the 1920s. Ah, the Jazz Age, I thought. And BAM! it hit me. I hope I'm right, because the certainty is almost overwhelming. I'm like this with mysteries: if I have any true addiction, a jonesing which I will take to my grave, it is puzzling (and rarely, solving) mysteries.

by kate on

to kill a mockingbird! "macon, GA"

by alison on

The Great Gatsby?

by John Fox on

The Great Gatsby?

by M. Cohen on

Great Gatsby. Would never have guessed it from the photo. It was only the second clue that nailed it down for me. Even the first clue about the metaphor escaped me. Please give us a reminder when you finish up.

by Heather on

The Great Gatsby. Eh? Eh?

by Leigh on


Hmm. This is a tough one. I have no idea actually, but I'm going to stab in the dark and guess _The Great Gatsby_.

Thanks for the fun mystery! Enjoying the site, which I just discovered yesterday.


by Scott on

The Great Gatsby. It's where Myrtle gets run over by the car....I think! lol

by Photopoppy on

That's a very early picture of Flushing Meadows, aka the "Valley of the Ashes" from The Great Gatsby. As for "widely loved", I'm glad SOMEONE liked it.

by Carolyn on

I wish we could see signage! But even without a glimpse of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg's advertisement, I'm going to have to guess F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

by Lindsay Childress on

The Grapes of Wrath

My guess is "The Great Gatsby."

This is great. I'm going to guess it's The Great Gatsby?

by Ryan Beauchesne on

The Great Gatsby

by Lance on

Gatsby. Valley of Ashes, later the site of the NY World's Fair.

by Christopher Lock on

As an English teacher, the first thought is always "Gatsby", and I was searching the site within seconds for those mystical giant spectacles that watched over the grisly comings and goings. This must certainly be the "no man's land" between worlds I read about in my youth, probably a dozen times in various classes. I wonder what they built on it now... and what it was used for at the time.

by Willie Abrams on

The Great Gatsby. And your CAPTCHA is annoying.

by Theresa on

I can't say that I recognize the arial photo immediately, but based on the clues my best guess is this:

The photo shows the location where Myrtle was killed Daisy and Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. This happens when Daisy and Gatsby are zooming off to New York and the "vast expanse" in the center of the photograph must depict the two egg-shaped areas in New York that the narrator recounts. The East and West Egg. The center might also be the Valley of the Ashes...

That's my guess :)

by Donna on

Is this the area depicted in The Great Gatsby?

by John Swift on

The Great Gatsby (the valley of ashes)

by Chloe on


by Homer Purdy on

Monroeville, Alabama, hometown of Harper Lee, author of "To Kill a Mockingbird"

by Jilly Gagnon on

It probably ISN'T The Great Gatsby, but I really want it to be, so there's my guess.

by william popper on

Grapes of Wrath

by Chris LLorca on

Murder at the New York World's Fair?

by angela on

NY city, where twins towers are stood

by David Clayberg on

John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

by Billl C from Wh... on

The Onion Field by Joe Wambaugh

by Dave Linstadt on

I believe this is the Salinas Valley, at the site where Geore killed Lenny in Steinbeck's fabulous "Of Mice and Men."

by Anthony Gerrettie on

This photo screams the Valley of Ashes from The Great Gatsby. It looks like where Myrtle Wilson was killed.

What as wonderful contest.

by Chris LLorca on

...or Great Gatsby?

by Irene on

The Great Gatsby!


Flushing Meadows...

Don't know anything about the book though. ;-(
Looked up the pic on "Tin Eye"! ;-)

by Aaron on

Great Gatsby?

Hurry up and post, the suspense is killing me! : )

by Steven on

Where Myrtle is hit by Daisy's car in GREAT GATSBY?

by Kirb on

Great Gatsby. Scene at the garage where the guy is run over.

by lisa peet on

Are those the train tracks/train yard running through Great Neck, which would make the book you're talking about The Great Gatsby? /straws: clutching at. Google maps is giving me a headache.

Great Gatsby (I may have already posted this)

by Raymond Waters on

Gotta be 'The Great Gatsby" inc. the Valley of Ashes near where Myrtle is run down in front of her husband's garage...

by Joe on

Is it The Great Gatsby? It looks like it might be the Valley of Ashes on Long Island.

by Jessica on

I'm thinking The Great Gatsby when Myrtle gets ran down by Daisy.

by Mandy on

I have my money on The Great Gatsby.

by Jose on

Of Mice and Men

by Bridget on

Huck Finn. Mississippi River. This was fun.

by Valerie Lau on

To Kill a Mockingbird? My first instinct was Of Mice and Men, but I'll go with Harper Lee instead.

by Grace Ashikawa on

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Is this an aerial of the Mississippi River?

by Mike on

This would be the wasteland mentioned in The Great Gatsby, right? The road is on Long Island and connects Manhattan with East Egg/West Egg. The death came by car accident at the fork in the road.

by Cory P on

Well, my guess would either be the Da Vinci Code, or Oedipus the King. Just due to Oedipus's father being murdered where two roads meet.

by amanda Sutton on

a separate peace?

by RT McCown on

The novel : The Great Gatsby.

The fork in the road is where Daisy killed Myrtle with Gatsby's roadster.

by Bill Mizell on

The Great Gatsby - this is the Valley of Ashes (Flushing Meadow)

by Carina T on

The Great Gatsby

by Laurie on

Long Island? The Valley of Ashes? Anybody? Anybody? Gatsby?

by Jackson Marsten on

Could it be from "The Quiet American"

That's the only book from which a murder by a river is coming to me.

by Sean Strauss on

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

It's where Boo Radley kills Bob Ewell! I treasure that book -- every sweet word...

by Sean Strauss on

...or maybe Of Mice And Men, by John Steinbeck? Nahhh... that's not a LOVED novel, as you hinted.

by mollie coyne on

the great gatsby? (when myrtle runs out to the car?)

by Chrissy Martin on

The Great Gatsby - "the Valley of Ashes," site of Myrtle's death

by Amy on

The Grapes of Wrath

Fun idea! Is it The Great Gatsby? And this is the Valley of Ashes and the road where Myrtle was killed?

by Jonathan Cohen on

The Great Gatsby

by Bren on

It's got to be Gatsby, doesn't it? Love the shot - it's beautiful in it's own right. Thanks!

by J Carpenter on

I'm guessing The Great Gatsby

by Rakesh on

North by Northwest

by Randy Gobbel on

This is the Valley of Ashes, from The Great Gatsby, later the site of the New York World's Fair in 1964. I can't claim to be a literary genius, just good at using Google, with search terms like "aerial photo 1924".

by Chad on

Aha! A little research pays off. This is where Myrtle was run down in The Great Gatsby! Great idea; please continue. :)

by Uncle Fester on

I'm guessing the great gatsby...

by Heather Loyd on

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It's Monroeville, Ala., standing in for the fictional Maycomb, Ala.

by cv on

It's the Great Gatsby!

by Cableman on

The Great Gatsby??

That's the Valley of Ashes (now Flushing Meadows Corona Park), from The Great Gatsby. The road is where Myrtle Wilson was killed by the car driven by Daisy Buchanan.

by David Martin on

I quickly thought of "The Great Gatsby" because everyone reads it in high school, it's from the 1920s, and the landscape looks urban, with Long Island coming into thought and Google Maps. The streets in the photo and the rail line remain recognizeable, with the Corona neighborhood on the left (west). Northern parts of the stream remain roughly the same, but the great ash pile was transmogrified into the site for two Worlds Fairs, tennis, and lately the new Mets field, the Jets having fled.

by Anne Papineau on

Death of Myrtle in East Egg, The Great Gatsby

by Adam Briggs on

Of Mice & Men?

by Seth on

I am guessing OF MICE AND MEN.

by L.A. Story on

Is it "The Great Gatsby"? I was going to guess when Myrtle is killed by a car on a fictional Long Island, but wasn't that an accident -- not really a murder? Also, you chose a photo from 1924, and the novel was published in 1925. The metaphor was the ashy wasteland, no? Just a guess, but a great post. Very intriguing!

by Austen on

Great Gatsby??

by Bill on

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

by Charles Seife on

Great Gatsby; crash site in Flushing Meadows

by Chris Copass on

It's the "valley of ashes . . . bounded on one side by a small foul river . . . a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens," from The Great Gatsby.

The "work of geometric modern art," sort of/kind of resembles the chick/face thing on the original 1925 cover, but maybe i just pulled that one out of my ass.

I had a pretty strong suspicion this was the answer, but I had to do some snooping to confirm:


Thank god i figured it out...it's 2:30AM in Ky and i can finally get some sleep

Very nice. I'm definitely bookmarking to see your explanation

by ellen on

Could this be the Valley of Ashes in The Great Gatsby and the road where Myrtle Wilson is run over by Gatsby's car, driven by Daisy?

by Andrew on

Of Mice and Men?

by Joel R. Maasters on

From the Great Gatsby - where Daisy hit Myrtle. "About halfway between West Egg and New York." I hope I'm right. I love that novel dearly and actually wrote a poem about it:


Gatsby's green light conviction—
an enviable certainty
in life's lovesick morass

but it led only to death
with thin dreams
still attached
to a reckless, shirt-sobbing sophisticate

On what path does that leave the rest of us?
Somewhere in between
certainty and death
myopia and omniscience—
life more grey then green—

at least he had a cause, a purpose, a plan—
tainted, hued, and ultimately unattainable,
but a purpose all-encompassing
& his restless, running mind
was clouded not by love’s whos or whys
but by love’s hows—
void of cynicism
and second guess

yet this conviction
is what killed him—
passions tempered,
lesson learned

unless —

unless it’s just the tragedy
of trust in the untrustworthy
& what to take away is this:
Wisely choose your Daisy
believe and make it be

by Matt L. on

The Great Gatsby.

The expanse is the valley of ashes, the desolate expanse between West Egg and New York City in which garageman George Wilson resides with his wife Myrtle (Tom's mistress). Myrtle is later hit by a car and killed, presumably on the stretch of road you've described.

The river pictured is the Flushing River; the large building near the fork in the road appears to resemble the Zucker-Levett chemical factory in an 1891 map found on Wikipedia's entry of Flushing, NY. This area is now Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

by Dan Kleinman on

That's got to be The Great Gatsby, right?

by anonycyber on

The Hound of the Baskervilles.
the English moors.

by Stinkycat on

Of Mice and Men.

I'm guessing that's probably the Salinas river in the picture, though current maps don't show any rail lines crossing over the Salinas or any tributaries like the way that picture indicates.

by julie on

great gatsby?

by Raul Borja on

"The Great Gatsby."

by Tom Jefferis on

My only guess is "The Great Gatsby".

by Tom Murphy on

Slaughterhouse Five?

by D-Man on

The Great Gatsby
On the trip back to East Egg, Gatsby allows Daisy to drive in order to calm her ragged nerves. Passing Wilson's garage, Daisy swerves to avoid another car and ends up hitting Myrtle; she is killed instantly. Nick advises Gatsby to leave town until the situation calms. Gatsby, however, refuses to leave: he remains in order to ensure that Daisy is safe. George Wilson, driven nearly mad by the death of his wife, is desperate to find her killer. Tom Buchanan tells him that Gatsby was the driver of the fatal car. Wilson, who has decided that the driver of the car must also have been Myrtle's lover, shoots Gatsby before committing suicide himself.

by Steve Martin on

I think this place is the valley of the ashes, From The Great Gatsby, where he kills the woman with his car, under the "eyes" of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg.

by Peter Heller on

The intersection where Mrytle Wilson was struck and killed by Daisy Buchanan while driving Gatsby's car (with Gatsby in the passenger seat) in the The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

by Eric Metcalf on

Corona, The Valley of Ashes, The Great Gatsby, the archetype for all subsequent suburban dramas of the New York Metropolitan area: Revolutionary Road, The Ice Storm, Michael Clayton, etc...

Cheers from NYC

by Tim on

Ti Kill A Mockingbird

by Peter on

The Great Gatsby...?

by Andrea Johnson on

My guess - The Great Gatsby.

by CB on

Let's go with Gatsby.

by Levi on

Readers -- I am so impressed that, as of Friday morning, there are 148 comments and 104 of you guessed it right! The answer, if you haven't gathered by now, is "The Great Gatsby" and a detailed explanation is here.

by FAB on

Looks like it's in California's San Joaquin Valley. Based on the dried out hillsides, square plots of lands the houses sit on, and the curling bends of river. But as to which murder or book? No idea.

by judy on

I think it looks like Baghdad and the Tigris river, but I have no idea what novel you're referring to, although I'll be interested to find out.

by Sarah on

I say Gatsby.

by Christina Writes on

Wow! Did someone finally find the rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland?

Another guess for Gatsby. This is fun! More, more!

I changed my mind. I actually think Tom Murphy had it right with "Slaughterhouse-Five." This looks like the planet Tralfamadore to me now -- just before the aliens beamed up Robert Moses.

by Bethany on

Dang, everybody already guessed Myrtle's murder in The Great Gatsby.

by M.J. Macie on

I also think The Great Gatsby. I believe more people have read that book than The Grapes of Wrath.

by Fred on

Valley of Ashes a.k.a. Flushing Meadow, Queens. The north-south road running along the right edge of the photo would be College Point Blvd. The horizontal black line in the center is the L.I. railroad. The east-west road you see in the upper left corner is a cut-off section of Northern Blvd. (Rte. 25A), which in those days would have been the main thoroughfare that connected West Egg (Great Neck) with Manhattan. The section of ash just south of Northern Blvd. that looks like a half-opened fan is the present-day location of Citi Field/Shea Stadium, home of the N.Y. Mets.

I'm guessing The Great Gatsby. If J. G. Ballard was alive, he'd know!

by RPS on

Didn't guess it first, but it is definitley Flushing meadow park area with 7 train running across the middle. Was the ash dump in Gatsby.

by Fred on

I could be wrong, but I don't think that it is the 7 train, which runs along Roosevelt Ave and in 1924 hadn't yet been extended to Willets Point & Main St. I read somewhere that the Roosevelt Ave bridge (over Flushing Creek) was built between 1925-1927. I think that the (white) road you see just north of the railroad (that does not quite extend to Flushing Creek) is Roosevelt Ave. The (black) rail line you see in middle of the picture must be the L.I.R.R., which you will see on a map today if you Mapquest it. The only difference with the railroad is that back then it bridged Flushing Creek, whereas today I believe that it runs past a section of the creek that was filled in (hence no more bridge).

by Levi Asher on

Correct, Fred, it is not the 7 train but rather the Long Island Railroad.

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