Published by Dover Publications on December 18, 2019
Genres: Anthology, Vintage Mystery, Short Stories
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Enthralled by the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Victorian readers around the world developed a fascination with eccentric detectives and bizarre crimes. Featuring an international array of authors and characters, this compilation of 16 short stories showcases the best of the mysteries inspired by the Baker Street sleuth. Their heroes range from famous figures like G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown and Maurice Leblanc's Arsene Lupin to lesser-known but equally captivating characters.
"The Problem of the Stolen Rubens," by Jacques Futrelle, centers on Professor Van Dusen, also known as The Thinking Machine, whose superior mental powers and dispassionate approach resemble Holmes'. Robert Barr's "The Absent-Minded Coterie" presents French detective Eugène Valmont, a cultured and elegant gentleman . . . but a rather poor investigator. "The Murder at Troyte's Hill," by Catherine L. Pirkis, "The Ninescore Mystery," by The Scarlet Pimpernel author Baroness Orczy, and "Cinderella's Slipper," by Hugh C. Weir, feature a Victorian novelty—a detective heroine. Holmesians and other lovers of old-time mysteries will thrill to these tales of dark deeds and their discovery.
The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of 16 classic detective stories from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries. The detectives are not so much rivals of Holmes as contemporaries. The collection is centered around when the stories were written, but they come from a variety of regions. I’ve read a few of the authors before and a couple of the stories, but several were to me. There were even a couple of female detectives, unusual for the era.
As with most anthologies, I enjoyed some of the stories more than others. The book starts off with “The Great Ruby Robbery” by Grant Allen which was clever and funny, a good combination and a good way to open. “Cinderella’s Slipper” by Hugh C. Weir and his Miss Madelyn Mack also stood out for me. I met Max Carrados in “The Coin of Dionysius” by Ernest Braman. He’s a blind detective, which is unique. Another, this one from America, that I found interesting was “The Angel of the Lord” by Melville Davisson Post. It’s one of the first historical mysteries written, taking place in West Virginia just before the Civil War. Uncle Abner, the main character is a tough, Bible-believing, common-sense backwoodsman. Most of them focus more on the plot and clues than on the characters, which fits with the short page count for each story.
My least favorite of the bunch was “The Divination of the Zagury Capsules” by Headon Hill. Mark Poignand, the detective, keeps an Indian man and his cobras in a backroom. This man, Kala Persad, tells Poignand who the culprit is and then it’s up to Poignand to find the clues. Strange and clearly racist.
Overall, I enjoyed the collection, which is not surprising. The mysteries are tidy and most of the characters are interesting or quirky or both. I found a few new authors to read too, which is one of the main reasons I love mystery anthologies, whether they be vintage or modern.
The Divination of the Zagury Capsules sounds like a good one!
I didn’t love it, but you might.
They’re the kind of mysteries I enjoy.