Monday, April 1, 2013

Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman, E.W. Hornung

Raffles: The Amateur CracksmanRaffles: The Amateur Cracksman (Wordsworth Classics)It was about half-past twelve when I returned to the Albany as a last desperate resort. The scene of my disaster was much as I had left it. 

I loved Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman, recommended to me by Goodreads. "A. J. Raffles is undoubtedly a gentleman. He lives in Albany in Piccadilly, and as one of England's finest cricketers. He is courted during the day by the great, the rich and the fashionable, and invited to their houses. By night he robs them. Raffles, The Amateur Cracksman is the account of his adventures told by Bunny Danvers, his admiring accomplice. These classic tales of ingenuity and subtle revenge provide a vivid and thrilling picture of high-class villainy when Victoria was Queen and Britain had an Empire." Raffles is kind of like the opposite of Sherlock Holmes: he's the master criminal to Holmes's master detective. Bunny Danvers is the equivalent of Watson; he's rather thick and not good at crime, but he admires Raffles even though he's not as into crime as Raffles is. Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman ought to be just as much of a classic as Sherlock Holmes; it's just as good. I would hesitate to call it better, but it was still really amusing and interesting. Much like The Twelve Little Cakes, it's shameful that it's gone out of stock on Amazon. I picked up the Wordsworth Classics edition (right) at Orca, though I much prefer the Penguin Classics edition (left). It was not available though. 

The book is kind of a collection of ancedotes, much like Sherlock Holmes's stories. However, each of the stories make reference to the ones beforehand, so it's advisable to read them in order. These stories have humor and adventure. Bunny always comes to assumptions about their robberies and about the mysterious Raffles himself, and he's always wrong. Raffles enjoys berating him for his stupidity. But Bunny's not a bad sort. He has qualms about what they're doing, but he always goes along. Raffles knows exactly how to manipulate him.

Raffles, however, is hardly amateur. He's an expert cracksman, and he always seems to plan for everything. Even in the tightest situations, he keeps his cool, while Bunny blunders about everywhere. (I assume Bunny is a nickname). The stories are interesting and suspenseful. Plus, the writing was way less overwritten than I thought it would be. I wouldn't even call it overwritten at all. It was very similar to Conan Doyle, and I loved it.

A lot of it was also similar to the stories in The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime; most of the robberies involves jewels, jewelry, or fabulous necklaces. Very valuable stuff, in other words, most of it stolen from uber-rich people who totally deserve it. I'm not saying that makes the robbery right. But it certainly makes it less wrong.

This is 19th century crime fiction at its best. Thank you, Goodreads. For once, a website actually gave me a good recommendation, and I, too, recommend this one highly.

Read Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman:
  • if you like mystery and/or crime fiction
  • if you like British fiction
310 pages.
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

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