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The Mystery of a Hansom Cab Paperback – April 11, 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Fergusson Wright Hume, known as Fergus Hume (8 July 1859 – 12 July 1932) was a prolific English novelist.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1484095960
  • ISBN-13: 978-1484095966
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #428,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 30, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are many fun things about this vintage mystery, first published in 1886... The unusual setting in late nineteenth-century Australia. A dramatic murder trial. The rivalry between two clever detectives who will do anything to discredit each other's findings. The love story between the heiress and the handsome young Irishman accused of murder. The way our suspicions keep shifting from one possible murderer to another. And the crime itself - the daring murder of a young man of fashion on a public road in a hansom cab.

The characters have the richness typical of the best Victorian novels. And society itself is an interesting character - frivolous, scandal loving and fickle. There are noble characters for us to admire, dissipated characters for us to despise, quirky detectives, a good old-fashioned lawyer of sterling character, and humorous characters with Dickinsonian eccentricities of speech and appearance.

Ferguson Hume grew up in Australia and worked as a clerk in a law office in Melbourne, but had literary aspirations. The Mystery of a Hansom Cab was self-published, but eventually became the best-selling mystery novel of the Victorian age. Arthur Conan Doyle was influenced by it, yet he put it down as "a slight tale." Perhaps he was a bit jealous, because this is an utterly engaging mystery, full of great gaslight atmosphere and replete with romance.

If you're reading the earliest classics of detective fiction, as I am, you won't want to miss this one. There are many editions around, but this one from Resurrected Press is nicely produced and very readable.
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Format: Paperback
The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1893) by Fergus Hume was one of the most popular mysteries in the nineteenth century, apparently even surpassing the sales of Sherlock Holmes books. While unlikely to attract a wide audience today, this forgotten Australian melodrama should appeal to readers interested in the early development of the mystery story. I gave The Mystery of a Hansom Cab three stars.

Late one night on a lonely street in Melbourne, the driver of a Hansom cab (a horse-drawn, two-wheeled, covered carriage) discovers that his inebriated passenger is dead, having been poisoned with a chloroform-soaked handkerchief. All evidence points to Brian Fitzgerald, "a tall, handsome, fair-haired young man hailing from Ireland". To protect the reputation of a young woman, Fitzgerald refuses to disclose details of his whereabouts at the time of the murder.

In his short introduction Fergus Hume reveals that he carefully patterned his story after the then popular detective stories by Gaboriau. Furthermore, Hume repeatedly visited some of Melbourne's worst slums to find realistic characters for his story, like his memorable Mother Guttersnipe. Hume had hoped to receive some local attention for his first novel; he had no expectation of creating an international best seller.

Dover Publications should be commended for reprinting hard-to find, early mystery and detective stories like The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1893). Dover published this reprint in 1982.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Okay, true, this book has gaps. Some of the characters (Madge and Brian in particular) are very flat, and some of the characters like Mr. Gorby just inexplicably disappear from the text altogether, but nonetheless, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is a surprisingly fast-paced and thrilling read for something marketed as the most popular book of 1885!

Parts of the book remind me of Dickens but parts also remind me of the hard-boiled detective fiction of the 1930's and 40`s. The novel is at one and the same time vintage Victoriana literature and innovative crime fiction. Although, as I said by today`s standards Hume probably could have done better with character development and with more realistic dialogue, it is still easy to see why The Mystery of a Hansom Cab was one of the best selling novels of its time. I`m not ashamed to admit that I couldn`t figure out the plot until the very end and I`m grateful to Resurrected Press for bringing this work back to life in digital e-book form.

Good read for lovers of detective and historical fiction alike!
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Format: Paperback
There is a very good reason why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories about Sherlock Holmes have been available in multiple editions since their creation, while the stories of Mr. Hume have been largely forgotten. This is even aside from the popularity of the character Sherlock Holmes.

Mr. Hume's narrative harks back to the sprawling novels of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens. The story has a stunning opening-- a species of a locked room mystery. A cab driver stops to take on a fare, two men-- one of whom is the worse for the drink. One of his fares leaves him. When the cabbie reaches the second one's location, he discovers that the second man has been murdered. Who else could murdered him than the first man-- and why? However, after that things begin to drag.

There's a large cast of characters, some of whom make an appearance, play their assigned roles, then are seen no more. His characterization is cardboard-- the young upper class man out from England (who makes his fortune by honest, hard labor but who is so self sacrificing that he would go to the gallows rather than betray a trust) is a cliche of romantic literature of the period. That's not to say that there are not some good moments. When one of the two detectives in this case picks up a yellow backed* edition of a book by Zola in the murdered man's room that tells us all we needed to know about the depraved nature of the deceased.

Clues are dropped like lead anvils. There's courtroom drama, a frantic search for the missing witness who can save a man from the gallows, deathbed confessions and gallant heroics.
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