Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Samuel Lyle, A Very Obscure Criminologist Indeed

By Arthur Crabb.
The Century Company.
1920. 347 pages. $1.90
Collection: 11 stories.
Online HERE, HERE, and HERE.
   1. "A Pleasant Evening"
   2. "Among Gentlemen"
   3. "The Greatest Day"
   4. "A Story Apropos"
   5. "Perception"
   6. "The Alibi"
   7. "Number 14 Mole Street"
   8. "The Raconteur"
   9. "Juror No. 5"
  10. " 'Compromise, Henry?' "
  11. "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt".

According to a New York Times reviewer, "The writer of fiction—mostly cheerful mystery stories—who uses the name of Arthur Crabb on the title-page, is a lawyer whose real name is altogether different, and who, since he was graduated from Harvard, has won a fair-sized following in his literary endeavors."

Full review:
A collection of interesting detective stories. They are scarcely less ingenious than Sherlock Holmes, but they are much more probable.
There is, indeed, not one of the mysterious incidents which might not quite naturally have occurred, and the explanation is as natural as it is surprising when it is furnished.
Additional interest is lent to the stories by some curious studies in psychology illustrating the strange tricks which sometimes faulty memory and sometimes defective perception play in the minds of entirely honest witnesses. — "The New Books," THE OUTLOOK (December 1, 1920)

By Arthur Crabb.
The Century Company.
1921. 261 pages.
Online HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Booklist found GHOSTS "wholesome but not absorbing," while a Boston reviewer wrote: "He pretends to write a detective story and really produces a very pretty little tale of true love."

Three reviews, the first two complete:
George Duncan Webb was advised by his physician to go to Rose Hill, because "nothing ever happens there that could by any possibility excite you or make you use your brain."
But when he arrived, he found there was Marjorie Thurston to excite him, and the mystery of the Brown jewels to exercise his mind.
He promptly fell in love with Marjorie, and almost as promptly found Mrs. Brown's jewels, which had been stolen the year before in such a way that it seemed as if ghosts alone could have been responsible.
Though the jewels were found that did not solve the mystery of their theft, and it was not until Samuel Lyle, criminologist and student of human nature, who was spending his vacation nearby, began to delve into the matter, that it was cleared up. Incidentally he tried to be of some use to Duncan in his campaign for Marjorie. BOOK REVIEW DIGEST: "Reviews of 1921 Books"
The author of the book is on the right tack to become a mystery writer, but he must try to avoid being reprehensibly and unnecessarily mysterious.
Here it is over the theft of jewelry from a seaside house, and as the theft incriminates no one in the story, so it arouses no strong interest, nor can we condole with the loser, as she recovers her loss unexpectedly in an unthought of place.
Arthur Crabb, like most modern fiction writers, has enjoyed reading up on dual personalities and a few other medico-legal points which are styled "psychological problems," and gives the result of his reading.
Why the book is called Ghosts, no one can say. They are not there, either as a cold shadow or a shuddery sigh or a dismal moan; and the stealer of the jewels is [SPOILER], whereas real ghosts can outdo MacSwiney in the fasting way, and "squeak and gibber" (according to Shakespeare) with unalloyed joy.
But another thread running through the story is that of the love affairs of Duncan Webb, the jewel finder, and a young war widow, Marjorie Thurston, with an infant daughter.
When not proposing to her, he is discussing the identity of the robber, and both matters are satisfactorily settled on the arrival of Samuel Lyle, the criminologist, on a visit. He finds the thief easily, and also that it is the clear duty of Marjorie to marry Duncan.
The main defect is that we cannot get interested in that robbery; it is an ordinary one, with a dash of medico-legalism and ruffled courtship to give it a double interest. — NEW YORK MEDICAL JOURNAL (May 18, 1921)
. . . "Ghosts" is a smoothly-written, logical tale, with one of those mild mysteries for the solution of which one is quite willing to wait till the last chapter, a charming heroine, a likable principal character—one cannot call him a "hero"—and a detective, the redoubtable Samuel Lyle, whose skill as a criminologist enables him to get to the core of the puzzle which has stumped everybody else with a facility that is almost ludicrous.
Whether Samuel Lyle will ever become as popular as his prototype, Sherlock Holmes, is extremely doubtful, but he has the collection of personal eccentricities, including a baggy suit of clothes and an impressive taciturnity, which do so much for the detective of fiction, and is altogether an interesting personality. — "The Ghostly and Mysterious," THE NEW YORK TIMES (May 15, 1921)

Category: Detective fiction

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