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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Martin Hewitt, Investigator, by Arthur Morrison


Martin Hewitt, Investigator
by Arthur Morrison
1894


I suspect that it's no coincidence that the first volume of Martin Hewitt stories appeared in 1894, at a time when there was a bit of a mania afoot for Sherlock Holmes. Morrison banged out two more volumes of Hewitt stories, which were released in 1895 and 1896, though he's apparently better known for his "realistic" fiction about London's lower classes.

After distinguishing himself working for a legal firm Hewitt sets up on his own as a private investigator. He comes across as a more amiable version of Holmes and his Watson is a journalist known as Brett, whose last name does is apparently not given in this volume. For a little more detail about Hewitt, refer to this profile.

The Lenton Croft Robberies
I thought this was the best of the bunch, with a fairly ingenious solution to the crime, albeit one that perhaps was not fairly clued, at least until late in the game. The crimes are a series of jewel robberies at the same house and in each case the thief has left behind a used match.

The Loss Of Sammy Crockett
A competitive runner disappears just before a big match. His footsteps are found approaching a fence and then they disappear. Not a bad one here, but it didn't grab me like the aforementioned.

The Case Of Mr. Foggatt
An almost locked room murder, in which the victim is shot in the head. A half-eaten apple is one of the clues. An interesting yarn with an ending that caught me a bit off guard. Not actually a twist, mind you, just kind of unusual.

The Case Of The Dixon Torpedo
A set of drawings for said torpedo has gone missing, in what is along the lines of an impossible crime, but not quite. Makes use of the innovative (for the time) crime-solving technique of photography.

The Quinton Jewel Affair
More jewelry goes missing here, as the title suggests. This time around Hewitt has to resort to a disguise to help get it all sorted out and shows that he's not averse to throwing a punch or two. One major drawback of this one was the heavy dialect some of the characters were saddled with but that's always been a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

The Stanway Cameo Mystery
Although this is the third of the stories to feature jewel robberies I actually found this to be a refreshing change from the ceaseless murders that are par for the course for so much mystery fiction. It's an intriguing tale that's perhaps not completely fair in the matter of cluing, but was one of the highlights for me even so.

The Affair Of The Tortoise
This was probably my least favorite of the bunch, though I can't completely put my finger on why. There is a murder, apparently the work of someone who feuded with the victim. Before you know it the stiff disappears and it's for good reason, as it turns out.

All in all, an entertaining collection, although perhaps a bit uneven. I'd be quite keen to check out another volume of Hewitt stories if there weren't so many other items in my To Be Read pile.

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