Thursday, 20 August 2015

Raffles: The Gentleman Thief by Richard Foreman

The Content ReaderThis is a short novel that was given to my by Endeavour Press for reviewing. There are two things already in the title that catch my attention; ‘Raffles’ and ‘Gentleman thief’. Raffles reminds me of the Raffles hotel in Singapore, which leads to a Singapore Sling of course. I was there once and tried it out, lovely! Gentleman thief, don’t we all love them? Arsene Lupin for example. That is why I choose this one to review.  This is definitely another gentleman thief to love.

Richard Foreman has written a series of six short novellas about Raffles. Raffles is initially a creation by E.W. Hornung, who wrote twenty-six short stories and a novella about the adventurer and gentleman thief Arthur J. Raffles and his accomplice Harry “Bunny” Manders between 1898 and 1909. Hornung was the brother-in-law to Arthur Conan Doyle, and he made his characters similar to Holmes and Dr Watson, Raffles being the Holmes and Bunny the Dr Watson. Arthur Conan Doyle was not over enthusiastic about the scenario, mainly because he did not believe in making a thief a hero.  Raffles was, at the time, the second most popular fictional character after Sherlock Holmes.

Of this I did not know anything when I started the book. I was therefore surprised to find it is a very short novel, only about 46 pages, and I was a little bit doubting if this could lead to anything. This is the first of the six stories Foreman wrote in 2011/2012 and it does lead to something. It is a charming and humorous story about the two gentleman thieves. The story is told from Bunny’s point of view. He is admiring Raffles enormously, and has been taught by him to be the assistant in crime. It is all very elegantly written, we encounter several famous people of the time and it is woven into a very neat story.

In this story Bunny is ‘ordered’ to call on Mr Holmes at a specific day. Since Raffles is out of town he has to go there himself. Full of respect for the famous detective he is paralysed when he realises that Holmes knows everything about Raffles’ and his own activities. However, there is a way out. They have to steal a letter from the Hatchett book shop office. It is a letter with a devastating content for a popular politician. If the content is revealed it will be the end of his career.

Raffles, being the gentleman and man of the world that he is, takes it all with a pinch of salt. So one evening the two men set out to save themselves from being caught by Holmes. The narration and dialogue is light, satirical and humorous. Mixed with customs and traditions of the day, including many real life characters, it makes for a very pleasant read. This is as story you can start in the morning going to work and finish on the way home. And you finish it with a smile on your face. And the end might not be what it seems. Who is the most cleverly person in the end?

It teases you to read the other five stories and, of course, go back to the original ones.

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