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Max Carrados, the Blind Sherlock Holmes

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle enjoys the once-popular but now largely forgotten detective stories of Ernest Bramah

The name Ernest Bramah may be largely forgotten now, but he created a detective whose popularity rivalled that of Sherlock Holmes (at least so it is rather improbably claimed). Bramah (1868-1942) created Max Carrados, a popular sleuth whose adventures appeared in The Strand magazine, which also published Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. But there is one important difference between Max Carrados and Sherlock Holmes: Carrados is blind.

The complete adventures of Max Carrados, a blind detective who can nevertheless solve crimes thanks to his extraordinary skills at reading things with his fingers and paying attention to the sounds that other people overlook, have recently been reprinted as The Eyes of Max Carrados (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural). Carrados first appeared in 1914 and over the next decade his short stories had many readers in Britain gripped. They still stand up well now. George Orwell was also a fan, claiming that, along with R. Austin Freeman’s Dr Thorndyke stories and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales, the Max Carrados stories are the only detective stories since Edgar Allan Poe that are worth rereading. Read the rest of this entry

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10 of the Best Classic Detective Novels Everyone Should Read

Are these the greatest ever detective novels?

It’s impossible to boil down such a rich and fertile genre as detective fiction to just ten definitive classic novels, so the following list should not be viewed as the ten best detective novels ever written so much as ten classic detective novels to act as great ‘ways in’ to this popular genre of fiction. We’ve tried to allow due coverage to the golden age of detective fiction in the early- to mid-twentieth century, but have also thrown in some earlier, formative classics as well. We’ve avoided spoilers in the summaries of the novels we’ve provided, and have instead chosen to focus on the most curious or interesting aspects of those novels.

Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone. T. S. Eliot called Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone (1868) the first and greatest of the detective novels. It wasn’t technically the first – that honour should probably go to Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s The Trail of the Serpent (1860) – but The Moonstone, which focuses on the theft of the titular gemstone, was one of the most popular and influential detective novels of the Victorian era. All of the ingredients are there: the country house, the handful of likely suspects, the seeming impossibility of the crime, and the sleuth in search of the answer (Sergeant Cuff, although the actual investigation of the crime is something of a team effort). Recommended edition:  Read the rest of this entry

Book Review: David Gemmell, Rhyming Rings

In a new series of posts, Dispatches from the Secret Library, our founder-editor Dr Oliver Tearle considers a surprising title from his bookshelves

When the British fantasy author David Gemmell died in summer 2006, he had been hard at work on Fall of Kings, the final volume in his epic trilogy retelling the story of the siege of Troy from Homer’s Iliad. His widow, Stella, heroically took on the task of completing the novel, working from her late husband’s notes. When Troy: Fall of Kings (Trojan War Trilogy): 3 was published the following year, his legions of fans thought it was the last new David Gemmell title we would ever see published.

The announcement last year that a previously unpublished David Gemmell novel, Rhyming Rings, would be published by Gollancz in 2017, prompted both surprise and excitement. A new Gemmell novel? But this would not be a fantasy, the genre in which he had made his name, but a crime novel. Even more surprising. Gemmell had excelled as a writer of heroic fantasy – if you’re a fan of the genre and have never read his work, I recommend getting hold of Legend, Waylander, and Wolf in Shadow right away – but would Rhyming Rings offer the same sort of addictive reading experience as a Druss or Rigante novel? Read the rest of this entry