Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Wall Street Sting

By Edwin Lefèvre (1871-1943).
Harper & Brothers.
1916. 334 pages.
Collection: 4 stories.
Online HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

I. "The Pearls of the Princess Patricia" [The Saturday Evening Post, March 30th, 1912]
II. "The Panic of the Lion" [as "The Panic of the Lion and the Pessimist," The Saturday Evening PostNovember 16th and November 23rd, 1912]
III. "As Proofs of Holy Writ" [The Saturday Evening Post, August 2nd, August 9th, and August 16th, 1913]
IV. "Cheap at a Million" [The Saturday Evening Post, May 2nd, May 9th, May 16th, and May 23rd, 1914]

There's more than one way to steal a boodle:
[Full review] A book of similar ingenuity and good humour contains the new tales of Edwin Lefevre. The central notion is of a "Plunder Recovery Syndicate," which operates by a series of elaborate and outlandish schemes, to the avowed end of "reducing the tainted wealth of our compatriots."
"We operate," runs one of their manifestoes, "only on the rich enemies of society. We regard them as plunder to be recovered."
In devious and unexpected ways this humanitarian organisation achieves its object, whether with the aid of burglary or confidence work, or kidnapping; manipulating a market, or getting control of a great trust company.
There are only four tales in the collection, and two of them are of such length as to be rankable as "novelettes" rather than short stories.
Perhaps the most amusing is the incident of the Klondiker who appears in New York with an alleged seven millions in gold dust, which he causes to be placed in the engine-room of his hotel. A newspaper gets wind of him and takes him up, commends him to the greatest trust company in the city. His boxes of dust are removed to the vaults of the company. He separates twenty and orders them cashed. They are found to contain a million and a half in gold dust, and that amount is placed to his credit.
His read credit for the operation which follows, however, lies in the supposed five or six millions which remain untouched in, as it were, the original package. And of course (only it is not of course till we get to the point) most of the other boxes are filled with junk.
This is Mr. Lefevre's kind of thing, and he has never done it better. — H. W. Boynton, "Some Stories of the Month," THE BOOKMAN (August 1916; go to page 620, right middle)
[Full review] Elaborate indeed were the hoaxes by which the Plunder Recovery Syndicate diverted the loot accumulated by "rich enemies of society" to its own capacious pockets, combining as they did the most finished methods of a clairvoyant, a stock manipulator, and a Raffles.
As artificial studies in inscrutability three of the four are sufficiently amusing, although none of them adds anything to the author's previous revelations of Wall Street psychology.
The superhumanly clever thief who manages to give his depredations a reassuringly retributive cast begins to pall, so many and so motley the guises in which he has reappeared since first we made his acquaintance in Sherwood Forest.
It seems a pity that Mr. Lefevre should have admitted into his work an imitative strain like this, since his idea of a story, always crisply and clearly expressed, has heretofore been indisputably his own. — "Current Fiction," THE NATION (September 14, 1916)

Category: Crime fiction

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