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

Harry “Bunny” Manders is unwilling to face the social disgrace of a bounced cheque and is ready to blow out what little brains he has but before he does so he has one last, slender hope. Maybe A. J. Raffles, renowned cricketer and man-about-town, will show him some kindness in return for services rendered during their schooldays?

Raffles though has his own pecuniary difficulties but he invites Bunny to join him in visiting a “friend” who may be able to help them both even though it is already two o’clock in the morning. It takes some time before the naïve Bunny realises they are engaged in the burglary of a jeweller’s shop. Although he is initially disgusted, he finds crime exhilarating and becomes Raffles’ accomplice in a series of escapades.

E. W. Hornung married a sister of Arthur Conan Doyle and Raffles and Bunny are a deliberate anti-version of Holmes and Watson. Indeed this volume’s dedication is “To A. C. D. This form of flattery”.

I believe Raffles is the first “gentleman thief”(but please correct me if I am wrong) and he was soon to be followed by Arsène Lupin (Maurice Leblanc) and Hercule Flambeau (supporting character in G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories) and other anti-heroes such as The Four Just Men.

The stories included are:

The Ides of March – Raffles saves Bunny’s life and introduces him to a life of crime.

A Costume Piece – Raffles proves to be a master of disguise.

Gentlemen and Players -Raffles is both an amateur and a professional.

Le Premier Pas – Raffles’ first crime – in Australia!

Wilful Murder – Raffles is driven to take extreme measures.

Nine Points of the Law – Bunny steps in where Raffles has failed.

The Return Match – Raffles is visited by an escaped convict.

The Gift of the Emperor – Raffles’ greatest exploit.

Nine Points of the Law is the pick of this collection – overall they are not worth paying too much for but I have downloaded a free version for the Kindle in the past.

Vintage Mystery Challenge

Fulfils “Who – Watson narrator”.

 

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