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Dead Men's Money
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About the Author
Joseph Smith Fletcher (7 February 1863 - 30 January 1935) was a British journalist and writer. He wrote more than 230 books on a wide variety of subjects, both fiction and non-fiction. He was one of the leading writers of detective fiction in the "Golden Age".
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Fletcher weaves a dark and complex mystery, and gives us a smart, courageous, warm-hearted hero who experiences various adventures and horrors. The hero of this tale is Hugh Moneylaws, nineteen-year-old clerk to the clever and fatherly lawyer Mr. Lindsey.
Hugh finds a dead body while performing a mysterious errand for a mysterious stranger in a lonely spot late at night. This is just the beginning of a sinister train of events. The very gripping plot encompasses all sorts of puzzling behavior on the part of many people, from the local baronet to the local marine store dealer. There are mysterious appearances and disappearances, carefully planned frauds and spontaneous murders, and dramatic confrontations with thoroughly bad people. Hugh escapes death more than once.
The action centers in a little English town on the border of Scotland. There are lots of great characters. Some have stereotypical Scottish traits. The lawyer is shrewd and observant and keeps his own counsel while getting to the bottom of the crimes. Hugh's widow mother can be sharp-tongued and hates to see money spent. And there's an element of romance. Hugh's devotion to his spunky sweetheart is quite touching.
People have wonderful names, like Moneylaws, Gilverthwaite, Portlethorp and Elphinstone. Although there are motorcars around and lots of riding of bicycles, the story is redolent with the atmosphere of old England.
I loved Dead Men's Money and expect to be reading more by this obscure British novelist.
This Forgotten Books edition is pretty good for a digital reprint. There are some cut-off letters initially, but you can still easily make out the words.
Fletcher, like E. P. Oppenheim and Edgar Wallace, looms above the run of the mill hacks of that era. Their stories are original. They move the plot along nicely, and they don't get caught up in so much of that upstairs/downstairs schism, and M'Lord this and M'Lady that, so common to fiction from the late 19th and very early 20th centuries. They also don't have some super sleuth wrapping everything up in the end so that it all seems so simple to the likes of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. In many cases I see the seeds of modern crime and mystery fiction in the writing of Fletcher. He tells the story through action and dialog, and he doesn't impose an omniscience upon the reader to guide them along through the slow spots and fill in the holes in the plot. After reading this I suggest reading The Middle Temple Murder to fill out your appreciation of Fletcher's style and approach.
I got this one for free on Kindle, all I was out on this story was the time I spent reading it, and I thought that it was time very well spent. If you like a fast paced story with an original plot line I think you will enjoy this.