A Critic's Meta Review: 4/5
A Critic's Meta Review: 4/5
E.W. Hornung successfully continues the attraction to a story of a man who led not just a double but a triple life. Emphasizing the contrast of Raffles’ various identities and exploring how he balances them continues to be a major theme of the collection. To the public eye, A.J. Raffles is a man about town, with rooms at the Albany, a reputation for charm, and a taste for Scotch and Sullivan cigarettes. What makes him irresistible, however, is his anti-heroic under-life as a "cracksman", or housebreaker.
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First published in 1901, The Black Mask, also recognized as Raffles: Further Adventures of the Amateur Cracksman, is the second collection of short stories written by E.W. Hornung about a gentleman thief in Late Victorian London.
The book continues the events of the final story of the preceding short story collection. After the reputations of both A.J. Raffles and his companion, Bunny Manders are ruined, Raffles is assumed to have drowned in the Mediterranean and Bunny has spent eighteen months in prison.
The eight stories of the collection detail their reunion and return to crime. However, the popular characters are depicted more as hardened criminals rather than respectable gentlemen. The collection is organized in chronological order but the stories can be enjoyed independently and separately.
The collection begins with a Narrator's Note explaining that Raffles and Bunny are no longer the dapper gentlemen thieves readers once knew, but are now hardened, professional criminals. The eight short stories are summarized as follows:
"No Sinecure": Bunny, recently released from prison and struggling to survive as a writer, answers an advertisement for an older gentleman in need of a male nurse.
"A Jubilee Present": Raffles plans to steal a priceless gold cup from the British Museum. Him and Bunny go to scope out the security.
"The Fate of Faustina": Raffles reveals his time spent as a tramp in Italy for the two years after his supposed death in the Mediterranean.
"The Last Laugh": The Italians who Raffles antagonized while in Italy get their revenge.
"To Catch a Thief": There's a new gentleman burglar in London. Raffles and Bunny plan to make him their third partner.
"An Old Flame": After a woman from Raffles' past recognizes him, she makes an unwelcome attempt to rekindle their past relationship.
"The Wrong House": From their new location in the suburbs, Raffles and Bunny venture out on their bicycles to burgle the vulnerable house of a stockbroker.
"The Knees of the Gods": Raffles and Bunny join the British volunteer forces to fight in the Second Boer War.
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