Saturday, March 5, 2016

"If a Thunderbolt Had Fallen It Could Hardly Have Caused Greater Consternation"

"The Arrest of Captain Vandaleur."
Florence Cusak #2.
By L. T. Meade (Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith, 1844-1914) and Robert Eustace (Eustace Robert Barton, 1868-1943).
First appearance: The Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine, July 1899.
Collected in 21 Mysteries (Kindle Megapack for sale HERE).
Short story (14 pages).
Online at SFFAudio HERE (PDF), ManyBooks HERE, and Prof. David Stewart's collection HERE (PDF).
"I arrest you for conspiracy, and for fraudulently obtaining money by means of a trick."
Concerned about a close friend of hers, Laura Farrell, Florence Cusak seeks Dr. Lonsdale's help in curing her friend's husband, Walter, of a "moral insanity," a gambling addiction that Florence is convinced will eventually result in financial ruin for them both.

The problem is further complicated by the involvement of a bookmaker who feeds Farrell's habit, Mr. Rashleigh, known to the C.I.D. as "a notorious swindler,and by Captain Vandaleur, whom Florence knows "well in connection with more than one shady affair."

To cap it all off, Mrs. Farrell is terminally ill, the result, Lonsdale determines, of psycho-somatic illness brought on by excessive worry. For Florence and the doctor, it's clear that unless they expose the fraud being practiced on Farrell very soon, not only will he be reduced to penury but Laura will almost certainly die of a broken heart . . .
Principal characters:
~ Florence Cusak: Amateur detective and sometime police consultant who keeps her secrets and, in this case, sniffs out the modus operandi.
~ Dr. Lonsdale (the narrator): The Watson of the piece.
~ Walter Farrell: Honorable but foolish.
~ His wife, Laura: On her way to extinction, unless . . .
~ Mr. Rashleigh: He's betting he'll get away with it.
~ Captain Vandaleur: Much too lucky.
~ Inspector Marling of Scotland Yard: He has a loud voice.

Comment: This one taps into several of the the richest veins of Victorian melodrama, with what's at stake very nearly going over-the-top; as for the finale, the less said the better.
- While a crooked bookie operation is at the heart of our story, England has had legal racetrack betting for quite some time:
The first bookmaker in the United Kingdom is considered to be Harry Ogden, who opened a business in the 1790s, although similar activities had existed in other forms earlier in the eighteenth century. Following the Gaming Act 1845, the only gambling allowed in the United Kingdom was at race tracks. The introduction of special excursion trains meant that all classes of society could attend the new racecourses opening across the country. Cash concentrated towards the bookmakers who employed bodyguards against protection gangs operating within the vast crowds. — "Bookmaker," Wikipedia
- The story mentions "flat racing," which you can read about HERE.
- About L. T. Meade: Wikipedia HERE, GAD Wiki HERE, and FictionMags HERE; about Robert Eustace: Wikipedia HERE, GAD Wiki HERE, and FictionMags HERE.
- FictionMags (HERE) lists only four Florence Cusak stories:
   (1) "Mr. Bovey's Unexpected Will" (1899)
   (2) "The Arrest of Captain Vandaleur" (1899)
   (3) "A Terrible Railway Ride: The Story of the Man with the False Nose" (1900)
   (4) "The Outside Ledge" (1900)
- One of Meade and Eustace's most popular works is A Master of Mysteries (1898), which is discussed HERE and online HERE.

The bottom line: "The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business."
John Steinbeck

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