Monday, September 30, 2013

"A Shilling Shocker"

By Gaston Leroux.
Small, Maynard & Co.
1912. 314 pages.
The full review (unsigned) which follows appeared in THE NATION (April 4, 1912), archived here (scroll down to page 339, middle):
This is a shilling shocker from the hands of the man who wrote that excellent tale, "The Mystery of the Yellow Room." There is comparatively little mystery here, but sensation enough to satisfy the least fastidious taste.
Many of our readers, for instance, have read in history of the amiable Renaissance practice of cutting off a man's ears. But how many modern readers have actually seen "the thing done"? It is done in M. Leroux's book, and with a wealth of detail that is quite fatal to one's appetite for supper.
The main idea of the story is simple enough. The soul of Cartouche, a brigand who attained notoriety under the Regency in France, and a man of a hundred murders, finds reincarnation in the body of M. Theophrastus Longuet, retired manufacturer of rubber stamps, resident in the suburbs of Paris.
M. Longuet, impelled by this metaphysical motive power within him, casts aside his green umbrella at regular intervals to reproduce under modern conditions the career of eighteenth-century Cartouche.
Now and then the thoroughly consistent way in which the scheme is worked out produces its effect.
But the author was evidently hard put to it to spin out a volume of atrocities, and so pads out his story with a rather silly and tedious chapter of mesmeric wonder-working, a journey in the catacombs of Paris, and a bit of detective ratiocination quite in the vein of "The Mystery of the Yellow Room."
THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER is online here. The UNZ index has 12 items for Gaston Leroux.

Category: Detective fiction

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