Monday, September 30, 2013

"The Professional Detective Pitted Against the Amateur"

By Burton E. Stevenson.
Dodd, Mead & Co.
1911. 362 pages. $1.30
The full unsigned review as it appeared in THE NATION (April 11, 1912), archived here (scroll down to page 364, top left):
Mr. Stevenson was wise to stick to the well-known formula of the professional detective pitted against the amateur. Conan Doyle saw its advantage, and Gaston Leroux employed it in the best thing he ever wrote. The device, by setting up an open rivalry, gives the ratiocination intense interest and spurs on the reader similarly to his best efforts.
The mystery centres in a house on lower Fifth Avenue, occupied by Philip Vantine, a bachelor, who has just brought from Europe an antique cabinet.
Oddly enough, the Paris dealers have delivered, in place of the one he bought, what he, as a connoisseur, recognizes to be the original cabinet made by Boule for Madame de Montespan and presented to her by Louis XIV.
While Vantine is talking over the matter upstairs with his lawyer, a Frenchman, unknown to either of them, sends up his card, and is bidden to wait below in a room adjoining that which contains the cabinet. A few minutes later he is found dead from a snake-like bite on his right hand.
That evening Vantine succumbs on the same spot in the same mysterious way, with apparently no witnesses present to tell how it happened.
Grady, the chief of the Detective Bureau, is called in, and Godfrey, the Record man assigned to detective cases, sets to, realizing that he has a chance to make the "scoop" of a life-time.
To the duel between the two men, and more especially to that carried on by Godfrey with "L'lnvincible" of the Parisian criminal world, we must give high praise.
The story is absorbing and has a real climax. Its only weakness concerns the Paris dealers—we leave the reader to discover it.
THE MYSTERY OF THE BOULE CABINET is also online here. For other short reviews, go here.

Category: Detective fiction

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