Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Workin' on the Railroad

By Francis Lynde.
Chas. Scribner's Sons.
The entire review as it appeared in THE NATION (January 9, 1913), archived here (scroll down to page 36, left at bottom):
This volume continues the history of the inter-mountain railway which played title role in the "Taming of Red Butte Western." Re-christened the Nevada Short Line, that indispensable and now thoroughly regenerate branch of the Pacific Southwestern might have enjoyed deserved prosperity had not its ancient enemy, the avid Transcontinental, marked it for its prey.
Many and fiendish were the devices by which the "pirates of high finance" sought to render the Short Line amenable to assimilation through the depreciation of its stock.
Wrecks were mysteriously incited by fake messages on the train dispatcher's wire, important papers en route to a directors' meeting were intercepted, a tunnel was to be demolished by nitroglycerine, a dam by dynamite, whiskey was surreptitiously fed to men and vitriol to engines, and, these expedients failing, the big system made a last audacious attempt to swallow the little road whole, alive and violently kicking, and to retain it by process of law.
In every case it was Scientific Sprague, the Government soil-tester, and amateur detective, who foiled the agents of the enemy and identified the long arm of criminal enterprise with its directing brain-centre in New York.
In spite of his friendly services to the Nevada Short Line, and his admirable endowments of size, muscle, and modesty, it is doubtful whether Sprague as a personality will strongly impress himself upon the popular mind.
Few readers are likely to share the gaping mystification with which the other people in the story follow his unerring steps towards prevention and detection, or to be as profoundly impressed as is the author by those seizures of sphinx-like immobility in which Sprague did his best thinking.
The "appeal" of the tale lies neither in the mysteries of crime nor the ingenuities of the sleuth, but in an abundance of situations boldly designed to raise the reader's hair with apprehension.
See also the review in THE BOOKMAN (December 1912), archived here (scroll down to page 439, bottom left). SCIENTIFIC SPRAGUE is online here. And Mike Grost, on the GAD Wiki, also discusses this book.

Category: Detective fiction

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