Friday, September 16, 2016

The Suicide Club & Other Stories: Review

The Suicide Club and Other Stories (1878) is a book of short stories by Robert Louis Stevenson. My edition (pictured) is comprised of a set of three stories which originate with events at a so-called Suicide Club and an additional two unrelated stories. The Suicide Club stories have a definite mystery bent--the reader is wondering if the scoundrel who runs the club will receive his comeuppance from our hero, Prince Florizel of Bohemia and his sidekick Colonel Geraldine. The other two may be described, at best, as adventure tales but with very little standard mystery. I had previously read the "Story of the the Young Man with the Cream Tarts," the first of the Suicide Club tales and I now heartily recommend all three. The remaining two stories are fairly solid--giving the entire collection a ★★ rating.

The Suicide Club--where murder and suicide is a game of chance! The club is comprised of a group of desperate men who long for death but can't bring themselves to commit suicide. Behind the club is a scoundrel who will allow them to join for forty pounds. Nightly they sit around the green baize card table and watch, fascinated, as the cards are dealt out.  For the man who receives the ace of spades--death awaits. And the man who receives the ace of clubs? He will be the murderer!

The "Story of the Young Man with the Cream Tarts" was bang on. Terrific, mood-setting descriptions and the denouement was perfect. And I love this quote: "There is every reason why I should not tell you my story. Perhaps that is just the reason why I am going to do so." As well as: "My acquaintance with French was sufficient to enable me to squander money in Paris with almost the same facility as in London. In short, I am a person full of manly accomplishments." Prince Florizel and Colonel Geraldine are, as they are so often, roaming the streets and cafes of London in disguise--seeking amusement. While sitting in a cafe that night, they are accosted my a young man who asks if they will eat any of his cream tarts. If they don't, then he will eat them himself. 

The Prince suspects that there is more to this story than meets the eye and wins the young man's confidence. It seems that the man has come to the end of his rope. He has set out to squander all but his last 40 pounds--he's saving that to pay his entrance fee to a club for people who want to end it all but who don't have the courage to jump or pull the trigger themselves. He and his aide join the young man and discover the scoundrel behind the club. They will chase him down through two more short stories...but will justice prevail?

The remaining two stories "A Lodging for the Night" and "The Sire de Maletroit's Door" are interesting and represent Stevenson's more adventurous and romantic sides than the mysterious. Of the two, I much prefer the latter. "Lodging" follows the adventures of Francis Villon, poet and thief, who finds himself robbed and left in the presence of a dead man. He goes in search of lodging and is welcomed by an elderly man who gives him a bit of a sermon with his dinner. I honestly didn't find the ending to be very satisfying, especially given the overall tone of the story. "The Sire de Maletroit's Door" centers on a fun-loving cavalier who stays out past curfew one night and finds himself followed by the night watch. Rather than face the music, he slips through an unlocked door to avoid a reprimand. He has no idea that the unsecured door was a trap designed to trap the lover of a young woman who lives in the house with her uncle. Uncle takes a severe view of her dalliance, doesn't believe that the cavalier isn't the man in question, and calmly tells him that if he doesn't agree to wed the girl then he will be killed before morning. Will the cavalier take honor to the extreme--dying rather than forcing an unknown and unwanted husband on a lady whose heart belongs to another?


fredamans said...

I love RLS! I should check this one out for sure! Treasure Island is still one of my favorite reads ever.

Anonymous said...

Hello! I'm so happy to see someone else has read RLS's The Suicide Club stories. It was my "great discovery" during last year's #24in48 readathon, when I tweaked the challenge to read 24 "short stories" in 48 hours rather than reading for an actual 24 hours. When the dust settled, "The Story of the Young Man with the Cream Tarts" was my favorite of the readathon.

RLS's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of my favorite novels also, and a re-read would be quite appropriate for R.I.P. now that I mention it. Hmm... :-)

Bev Hankins said...

The Cream Tarts story is really quite good.