Friday, January 29, 2021

Raffles (The Amateur Cracksman)

(The Amateur Cracksman) [1899] by E. W. Hornung

This particular edition includes the original eight stories first published in The Amateur Cracksman with an additional six stories published  under the title The Black Mask (UK)/Raffles: The Further Adventures of the Amateur Cracksman (USA). The connections to Sherlock Holmes and Watson are obvious. Bunny is the faithful chronicler and admirer. Raffles keeps his cards close to his chest--sometimes to the detriment of his plans. He praises Bunny for his loyalty and willingness to do anything necessary in their exploits, but then doesn't share his plans and gets upset when Bunny blunders in where he's not wanted (at least not wanted right at that particular moment). A little bit of communication would have helped the task at hand go a bit smoother...

I expected to like these a great deal more than what I did. I think perhaps the turn the stories took when Raffles starts contemplating (and later committing) murders is what did it. I went in expecting a gentleman thief and tales of outrageously clever heists and it devolved into a romantic thriller and revenge story (with the Italian bits) and a clingy ex-love at the very end. ★★ for the straight robbery stories--I found those to be clever and fun.

"The Ides of March": In which Bunny (Harry) Manders is on his beams end after losing money at cards with Raffles and friends. Raffles soon introduces him to his rather unorthodox methods of raising funds when he himself is a little short of the ready.

"A Costume Piece": Raffles and Bunny attempts to relieve eccentric millionaire Reuben Rosenthall of two diamonds worth fifty thousand pounds a piece don't go quite according to plan.

"Gentlemen & Players": Raffles, the Gentleman Thief, plots to steal a coveted necklace from under the nose of a Scotland Yard man delegated to defend the jewels from another well-known thief. Bunny thinks his friend should concentrate on cricket while the Yard is on the hunt, but those sparkling diamonds and sapphires are difficult to resist....

"Le Premier Pas": Raffles tells Bunny of his first venture into crime...when he impersonated a distant relative in a small town in Australia. It's handy for a thief when you're mistaken for the new bank manager...

"Wilful Murder": When Raffles learns that another sharp dealer has discovered his identity, he believe it will be necessary to kill the man. But fate has a way of taking care of things....

"Nine Points of the Law": When a man's disinherited son sells off a priceless painting, he hires Raffles and Bunny to get it back for him by any means necessary. Who knew that the thing would wind up stolen twice?

"The Return Match": Raffles expects an escaped convict to come visiting to call in a favor. Our gentleman thief will need to be on his toes to escape the police's scrutiny.

"The Gift of the Emperor": The last of the original stories. Our gentleman burglar decides to steal a pearl of great price and boards a German ship to do so. Will he succeed? Will he escape justice? And what of poor Bunny?

"No Sinecure": Poor Bunny--at the end of the "Emperor" he found himself in prison and friendless. He's sure that Raffles has met his doom. But when he's finally set free, he finds himself  employed as a nurse to the mysterious Mr. Maturin. Perhaps his thieving days aren't over after all... [spoiler...they're not]

"A Jubilee Present": Raffles (aka Mr. Maturin) sets his heart on stealing a gold cup from the British Museum. Will the sport of the thing be enough or will he really melt it down for cash?

"The Fate of Faustina": Bunny finally learns what became of his friend after the incident on the German ship. It's a tale of love and murder in Italy....and possibly a revenge to come when it's revealed that Raffles ticked off the head of a nasty Italian gang.

"The Last Laugh":  The Italians come to England to exact their revenge....Bunny arrives in the nick of time and Raffles has the last laugh on his nemesis.

"To Catch a Thief": In the absence (as far as the public officially knows) of the late Raffles, a new gentleman thief has started to ply his trade. Raffles decides it's time to see exactly how good this newcomer is.

"An Old Flame": Raffles' cover as the invalid Mr. Maturin is in danger when an old flame recognizes him and refuses to let him go this time. He'll have to take extreme measures to get her to leave him alone...perhaps even so far as really being buried this time...


Deaths = 5 (one hit with poker; one stabbed; one shot; one poisoned; one fell from height) 

For a short story collection that was supposed to be about the life & crimes of Raffles, the gentleman thief, this had way more deaths than anticipated. For the record--I anticipated none.

1 comment:

Christophe said...

Thanks for saving me from being disappointed, as my expectations were similar to yours.