A Critic's Meta Review: 4/5
A Critic's Meta Review: 4/5
The work of E.W. Hornung was incredibly influential in the world of twentieth-century popular fiction. However, many readers face the challenge of overcoming a legal and moral obstacle. Despite being young, healthy, and educated, Raffles and Bunny have turned to a life of crime to deal with their financial burdens. Rejecting traditional means of employment, the characters go to great lengths to protect their personal pride. As a result, Hornung’s work is clear, economical, and thought-provoking.
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Originally published in 1899, The Amateur Cracksman is the original short story collection written by E. W. Hornung. The book features his most famous character, A. J. Raffles, who is described as a gentleman thief living in late Victorian Great Britain. The Amateur Cracksman was well received upon publication and eventually spawned three additional works, including two short story collections, The Black Mask (1901) and A Thief in the Night (1904), as well as a full-length novel, Mr. Justice Raffles (1909).
The protagonist, Arthur J. Raffles, is an influential member of London’s high society as well as a national sporting hero. Raffles regularly represents England as a cricketer in various test matches. He uses these matches as cover to commit a number of burglaries, with the purpose of stealing valuable jewelry from the elite of London for both profit and thrill. Raffles is assisted in his crimes by his young friend, Bunny Manders, who idolizes Raffles as a sportsman. Throughout the novel, both men are constantly under the surveillance of Inspector Mackenzie of Scotland Yard, despite being thwarted in his attempts to pin a number of crimes on Raffles.
The book is organized by a collection of short stories that can be summarized as follows:
"The Ides of March" – Raffles initiates Bunny into a life of crime by taking him along as an accomplice.
"A Costume Piece" – Raffles plans to steal diamonds from a wealthy Reuben Rosenthall.
"Gentlemen and Players" – While in the countryside to play a cricket match, Raffles and Bunny are surprised to discover Inspector Mackenzie of Scotland Yard on an attempt to prevent an expected burglary.
"Le Premier Pas" – Raffles reflects on his first felony, which was committed in Australia.
"Wilful Murder" – On becoming aware that a dealer has discovered his real identity, Raffles devises a plan to murder him.
"Nine Points of the Law" – Raffles and Bunny are tasked by a lawyer to extricate a rare picture bound for Australia.
"The Return Match" – Raffles expects a visit from a convict who escaped from jail.
"The Gift of the Emperor" – Raffles and Bunny board a vessel carrying a famous pearl as a diplomatic gift.