Friday, June 14, 2013

The Amateur Cracksman

The Amateur Cracksman, by E. W. Hornung

It's Raffles, the original gentleman thief!  He's witty, urbane, daring, the best cricket-player around, and a master of disguise.  He steals for a living and for fun, and the more challenging the job, the better he likes it.  This first Raffles book contains eight stories, narrated by the faithful sidekick, Bunny.

Hornung published the stories in 1899.  Fun fact: he was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law and the book is dedicated to him.  I'm going to presume that he picked up some ideas from the Sherlock Holmes stories, but these are really quite different--written in a simpler and more humorous style, and generally not as complex
.  Raffles is, in many ways, an inversion of Holmes, though: Raffles is personable and charismatic, for one thing.  He is also fairly rotten to Bunny much of the time; he's manipulative and secretive, and though Bunny complains (and Raffles repents, only to repeat himself), he puts up with quite a lot.

These are mystery stories told from the other side, and they are quite fun.  I don't like Raffles much, but he's entertaining to read about.  He must have been quite a hit; he starred in a film as early as 1905 and there were several movies made about him.  I suspect him of influencing the character of Lord Peter Wimsey, too.

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