Friday, January 24, 2014

"An Excellent Relaxative for the Tired Mind"

By Fergus Hume.
Cassell Publishing Co.
1894 [UK] 1895 [US]. 190 pages. 50 cents.
Reprinted in 2010.
No e-book available.
Two complete contemporary reviews, one complaining it's too hard:
The latest accession to the Unknown Library is from a well-known writer of "mystery" tales, which one and all show the same constructive hand at work, with a slight variation of detail in the evolution of plot and the analysis of crime.
Of all the mysterious stories that Mr. Hume has written, The Lone Inn approaches more nearly the ironic play of circumstantial evidence and the baffling pursuit of the criminal object sustained until the climax is reached at the end, which gave The Mystery of a Hansom Cab a notorious popularity.
To be sure, the whole interest and interplay of conflicting evidence rests on a well-worn and hackneyed stage property: Felix and Francis Briarfield are twins, and a pair of Dromios whose close resemblance and mistaken identity lead to the tragedy of errors which emanate from the murder of one of the twins—which, Felix or Francis? is a conundrum—at the Lone Inn.
The construction of the story is such as to beguile the ingenuous reader during the first half into a superior sense of sagacity at the apparent transparency of the plot, and he begins to give himself airs with his author. But at a single turn of the wheel, hey, presto! the reader is off the track, groping in the fog into which he has been unsuspectingly inveigled.
There are no loose threads in Mr. Hume's work; the shuttle of his loom works noiselessly and without a break. One may smile sometimes at the simple devices to which he palpably resorts in joining his threads together, but these inartistic flaws, while they would be serious defects in the fine-spun fabric of Sherlock Holmes' scientific brain, are of much less consequence in the coarse web of Mr. Hume's weaving.
The Lone Inn is masterly of its kind, and, better still, is an excellent relaxative for the tired mind pressed hard by the Zeit-geist. — "Novel Notes," THE BOOKMAN (March 1895)
"The Lone Inn," and another tale, "Professor Brankers Secret," which helps to make up the volume, are, we think, too much of the hard conundrum kind to be generally attractive. There should be no difficulty in following a story of this kind with full comprehension as one goes on. This condition is scarcely satisfied here. One criticism on the details of the first plot we may make. Surely the man who tells the story ought to have done, and indeed could have done, but one thing as soon as he found the dead body—give information to the police. — THE SPECTATOR (1 June 1895)
- A previous ONTOS article about Hume is HERE.

Category: Detective fiction

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