Paul Chadwick | Norvell Page | G.T. Fleming-Roberts | Donald Wandrei | Robert Bloch | William Hope Hodgson | Gerald Findler | Sax Rohmer | Fergus Hume

A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection Home Page

Recommended Works:

Supernatural Detectives

Fergus Hume

The Dwarf's Chamber, and Other Stories

Hagar of the Pawn-shop, The Gypsy Detective (collected 1898)

The Dancer in Red (collected 1906)

William Hope Hodgson

Carnacki the Ghost-Finder (available on-line at Captain Gault (collected 1917) (available on-line at "Bullion!" (1911)

Fantasy (not mystery):

The House on the Borderland (1908) (available on-line at

The Night Land (1912) (Chapters 2, 3) (available on-line at

Carnacki Supernatural Detective and Others (available on-line at

Sax Rohmer

"The Green Spider" (1904) (available on-line at

Gerald Findler

"The House of Screams" (1932)

Weird Menace

Paul Chadwick

The Weird Detective Adventures of Wade Hammond (collected 2006) The Weird Detective Adventures of Wade Hammond, Vol. 2 (collected 2007) Sam Bickle stories

G. T. Fleming-Roberts

Jerry Thacker stories "Sleep No More, My Lovely" (1943)

Donald Wandrei

I.V. Frost and Jean Moray stories

Robert Bloch

Dave Kirby stories

Blood Runs Cold

The Living Demons

Chamber of Horrors

Fear Today, Gone Tomorrow

"Crook of the Month" (1976)

Weird Menace Pulps

Paul Chadwick

Paul Chadwick was an pulp writer, whose work appeared from the 1920's through the early 1950's. He is not to be confused with the contemporary comic book creator Paul Chadwick.

Wade Hammond tales

Chadwick published 39 short stories about detective Wade Hammond (1931 - 1936), in the pulp magazine known first as Detective-Dragnet Magazine, and later as Ten Detective Aces. Ten of these tales have been reprinted in The Weird Detective Adventures of Wade Hammond (collected 2006) and ten more in The Weird Detective Adventures of Wade Hammond, Vol. 2 (collected 2007).

Like his contemporary McKinlay Kantor, Chadwick sometimes wrote about seemingly supernatural situations that are really created by some human. These stories are structured as combination thrillers-cum-detective stories, with both chills and a rational solution at the end. Some of these tales could be classified as impossible crime tales. In the pulps, this approach was known as the "Weird Menace" school.

Chadwick's Wade Hammond tales run a complete gamut of basic structural approaches. They include:

Chadwick is a good storyteller, with a wild and detailed imagination. His solutions can be rather implausible, but they are not boring or skimpy in detail. Both Kantor and Chadwick seem admirably concise in their storytelling, which is something of a contrast to the novella length writers of the hard-boiled school, who are always spinning things out.

"Tarantula Bait" is a gem, with numerous impossibilities. This story is a full example of a true impossible crime tale. It is the best Chadwick story easily available today. One hopes there are other impossible crime tales lurking in Chadwick's output.

Some of Chadwick's backgrounds are close to the settings favored by the Golden Age writers who were his contemporaries, so there is a surprisingly small gulf between his world and that of the Golden Age. Chadwick's detective Wade Hammond is even specially deputized by the Police Commissioner in his tales, and works closely with and is respected by the police, so his relationship with the police parallels those of the Van Dine school. (Of course, Carroll John Daly's characters also often had relations with the Commissioner, so there were pulp antecedents, too.) Hammond's sophistication and luxurious bachelor apartment also recall Van Dine. The artists of "Murder by Minutes" (1932), the opera attendees of "Ghost Fingers" (1932), the show biz vaudeville performers of "Tarantula Bait" (1932) and the radio performers of "Murder on the Air" (1936) are the sort of New Yorkers involved with the arts that the Van Dine school liked as suspects. Had Chadwick's stories like these been collected in book form in the 1930's, he might well be considered a Golden Age author today. Instead, Chadwick went on to create a series of Secret Agent X novels for the pulps.

Wade Hammond is supposedly a newspaper writer, but only in "Skyscraper Horror" do we get even a hint of any current newspaper work he might be engaged in. Hammond mainly moves in a world of Men. In "Murder by Minutes" and "Trance of Terror" we meet gutsy women who sympathetically operate in these dangerous male worlds. These portraits are feminist throughout most of their length; however, both ladies wind up captured by the bad guys and in need of rescue at the end. Hammond is not romantically involved with either woman, and Chadwick never depicts Hammond in romantic pursuits in any of the tales available today. In "Ghost Fingers", Hammond states that he has occasionally had women in his apartment; one suspects that this was supposed to be quite racy in 1932. Some of the stories stress Hammond's friendships with other men. We get the best look at his relationship with homicide policeman Inspector Thompson in "Skyscraper Horror". And Hammond gets involved with the crimes in "Murder by Minutes" and "Trance of Terror" to help out buddies of his.

Chadwick is a very visual writer, and his stories often remind me of the B movie mysteries of the thirties. They would have made good movies of this type, but unfortunately I do not know of any film adaptations of his work. The tales almost seem to be consciously constructed as movie scripts, and seem almost "pre-dramatized", as if their author were hoping for an eventual screen version.

"Tarantula Bait" and "Skyscraper Horror" both take place along the sides of tall buildings. They show the Golden Age fascination with integrating architecture into plots. The rooftop of "Murder by Minutes" and the opera boxes of "Ghost Fingers" are also architectural. "Trance of Terror" takes us to a whole architectural complex.

"Corpse Cheaters" (1935) takes place at a suburban mansion filled with strange and eccentric people. This will be a favorite locale in Merle Constiner's pulp mysteries about The Dean (1940-1945). The story also has elements that anticipate Robert Bloch's novel Psycho (1959).

"The Murder Monster" (1932) is mainly a horror story, about robots run amok. It does have some elements of mystery, however, about remote control of the robot. This anticipates the science fiction mysteries Gardner Fox wrote for his comic book series Adam Strange. Fox's tales involved mysteries about both robots and remote control.

"The Skeleton Scourge" (1934) is the worst Wade Hammond (and Paul Chadwick) tale I've ever read. Its slight mystery elements are not fair play, with a villain picked out of the hat at the end, and the story-telling is mainly an excuse for some unpleasant horror.

Unfortunately, not all of the Wade Hammond stories are actually detective stories. "Dr. Zero" (1933) is essentially a science fiction tale, about another one of those mad scientists who invents a death ray (actually a sinister ball of purple light). This is not an impossible crime tale: at the story's end, the sinister ball of light turns out to be exactly what it seems, a futuristic invention. The hidden identity of the mad scientist is a mystery element, which Chadwick pulls off decently; the dance of suspicion, falling first on one character, then another, is modeled on a similar structure in "Tarantula Bait". Mainly "Dr. Zero" is notable for its vivid descriptions of the attacks by the purple light. The light shows and their vivid color recall effects in the novels of William Hope Hodgson.

The suspects for the role of Dr. Zero are all associated with a local college. Universities seem to show up in American impossible crime writers, more than in other mystery writers of the era. The universities are spooky, and full of strange scientists up to bizarre research. One recalls the university scientists in Horatio Winslow and Leslie Quirk's Into Thin Air (1929). There is perhaps a bit of class attitude here. Unlike today, when half of American adults have some college education, before the GI Bill after W.W.II funded mass education, college was restricted to 1% of the US population.

Non-series stories

"Cross Words for Crooks" (1932) is a little crime story about a hotel bellhop who likes crossword puzzles. It is so tiny it should be dismissible: but actually it is great fun to read. The story has good atmosphere, describing a New York City hotel on Broadway during the Depression. It is one of many pulp magazine (and comic book filler) stories in which an ordinary person gets to show their stuff when they encounter a crime. It's original pulp magazine appearance has a good illustration, which works in a cross-word motif.

Norvell Page

Like Paul Chadwick, Norvell Page was an exponent of the "Weird Menace" school of 1930's pulp writing. The one dreary story I have read, "Satan's Hoof" (1933), seems a lot cruder than Chadwick's work, with plenty of filler in his writing, and lots of mindless hard boiled violence, not to mention some really dated racial stereotypes. Also, its "supernatural" menace seems to be lifted from Chesterton, and is a gimmick that Stuart Palmer knew and cited with credit to that author in The Puzzle of the Red Stallion (1935). Still, there might be better Page stories lurking in the pulps. Then again, there might be worse.

G.T. Fleming-Roberts

G.T. Fleming-Roberts was another 1930's pulp writer who specialized in Weird Menace tales. His "The Death Master" (1935) is a well plotted gem. This story clearly served as the inspiration for Cornell Woolrich's "Graves For the Living" (1937). Woolrich's version, while it draws on the same plot elements as Fleming-Roberts' tale, focuses on suspense and horror, as well as the emotional implications of the situation. It too, is a classic, and I am glad we have both stories.

When the author later sold "Sleep No More, My Lovely" (1943) to Dime Detective magazine, his work was not in the private eye mode, but rather was a suspense oriented mystery with a woman protagonist, a domestic suburban setting, and a whodunit puzzle plot. This suburban marriage story has the feel of what W.S. Gilbert referred to as "unbounded domesticity". It anticipates the Eisenhower era, when "everyone" in America was married, lived in the suburbs, and had 2.6 children, and social life consisted of couples getting together for a barbecue or bridge. It is a million miles away from the urban underworld of much of Dime Detective or Black Mask. This just emphasizes how distinct the pulp traditions of Hard-Boiled and Weird Menace were.

Personal relationships are important in Fleming-Roberts' work. His characters need a social support network, one that involves both friends and family. Issues of trust form important elements of these plots.

There is also sympathy for the disabled, and for minority groups expressed in his work.

Donald Wandrei

Donald Wandrei's tales about scientist detective I.V. Frost, and his courageous woman assistant Jean Moray appeared in the pulp Clues Detective Stories. "The Lunatic Plague" (1936) is an excellent mystery story. Like many of both the Hero and Weird Menace pulps, the style seems much closer to the mainstream detective story than it does to the hard-boiled writers. Frost himself seems closely related to Futrelle's Thinking Machine. There is the same air of great intellect, combined with absent minded detachment, the same making of startling promises to solve crimes by a certain deadline, the same insistence on logic used to solve crimes. At least in this tale, the scientist detective uses logic, not technology, to detect; in this he is also closer to the Thinking Machine, than to such technology oriented detectives as Craig Kennedy or Dr. Thorndyke. The air of logical surrealism in the story telling, the many bizarre details of the crime, also recalls both Futrelle and G.K. Chesterton. If Frost's characters and storytelling recall Futrelle, Frost's use of deduction seems very close to Ellery Queen. Especially pleasant in the solution is Frost's use of analytic skills in the solution to pick out the criminal. This finale shows real logic, and a gift for spotting (and creating as an author) logical relationships.

Half the tale is taken up by the adventure filled sleuthing of Frost's assistant, Jean Moray. This gutsy, two-fisted heroine is one of the least sexist creations of the pulps; she is given a chance to operate on her own far more than Cardigan's Patricia Seward (in Nebel's tales), for instance. Moray gets a chance to use Frost's inventions in her adventures; these high tech crime fighting devices anticipate Batman, and other comic book thrillers. In particular, Moray drives Frost's auto, The Demon, which recalls the Batmobile.

The pulps as a whole seem far more open to women characters than were Black Mask and the hard-boiled school. Black Mask used to bill itself as the "he man magazine", and the hard-boiled school is "coded for gender", as current academese phrases it. The heroes of the hard-boiled tales were men, and heroism and detective work itself were seen as male occupations. This point of view seems just plain sexist. It needs to be stressed that not only was this point of view atypical of mystery fiction as a whole, it was atypical of pulps as a whole.

In this story, as well as in Anderson's Book of Murder (1923 -1929), the police seem to have unlimited resources. If they want to send twenty men to watch a location, they just do it. If they think a night club might be a trouble spot, they can permanently establish a plain clothes man to watch in the lobby every night. This is in contrast with the cliché of 1970's police shows, in which the police are constantly understaffed, and can barely even do the minimum to fight the most heinous crimes. This later cliché found its nadir in the film 48 HRS (1982), in which Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy are sent in single handed to clear out a large gang of cop killing escaped cons from a sleazy hotel. In real life, of course, such cop killers would find themselves under a Waco-style siege. Another less than plausible scene in this movie has the heroes ineffectually shooting at the driver of a high-jacked bus. As the little old lady sitting behind me in the theater asked her husband, why don't they just shoot out the bus' tires? They never do this in the movies, and it would be far more effective at preventing a getaway. Not to mention far less risky to life and limb of innocent bystanders. If I'm ever in a jam, I don't want Nick Nolte to help me. I want the little old lady who sat behind me in the theater.

Robert Bloch

I have included Bloch here because of his weird menace tale, "Death is a Vampire" (1944). However, Bloch is actually sui generis. Bloch was a protégé of H.P. Lovecraft, and most of his work is horror fiction, outside of the scope of this Guide. He oscillates between science fiction and non-fantasy horror. Among his best mystery works are his satirical writings, for which he has a real flair. "Is Betsy Blake Still Alive?", one of his satiric gems, also has a terrific plot.

Supernatural Detectives

William Hope Hodgson


Most of William Hope Hodgson's mystery fiction apparently appeared after he had written his first three fantasy novels (1907, 1908, 1909). Among these books, the best is clearly the middle one, The House on the Borderland (1908). Chapter 2 of his later fantasy book, The Night Land (1912), which describes the monsters besieging the pyramid, also shows real visionary power, although most of this novel is laborious. One can also see traces of this visionary power in "The Stone Ship" (1914), one of his many horror stories set at sea.

Carnacki the Ghost-Finder

His Carnacki the Ghost-Finder mystery stories were published in magazines starting in 1910, and collected in book form in 1913. These described a hunter of alleged "ghosts", which he often, but not always, exposes as hoaxes by human villains. This is not an original plot approach; the Herons had developed a whole series of stories like this before, as had Algernon Blackwood. Hodgson's tales, like his predecessors, fall into the impossible crime approach that was sweeping the mystery world during his era. These tales, in turn, served as ancestors to the "weird menace" pulps of the 1930's, in which apparently supernatural phenomena are ultimately revealed to be the natural work of human agencies. Hodgson had experimented with this approach himself as far back as 1907, with a story called "The Terror of the Water-Tank".

Hodgson's mystery explanations for his "supernatural" phenomena tend to fall in the category of "machines". They resemble the machinery used by magicians to perform stage shows. Hodgson also used such machinery occasionally in his smuggling tales, such as "The Drum of Saccharine" in Captain Gault. So did Fergus Hume in his "supernatural mystery", "The Ghost's Touch". Such machinery was used as well in pulp magazine "weird menace" writers. One can cite Dashiell Hammett's work in Part II of The Dain Curse (1928), Lester Dent's "Hades" (1936), which is in the tradition of Hammett's story, and the main body of weird menace in such 1930's writers as Paul Chadwick and Norvell Page. This gives a certain continuity to the weird story tradition, distinct from the central line of 20th Century impossible crime writing (Leroux, Chesterton, Carr and his successors), which tended to use instead the "rearrangements in space and time approach" analyzed by Carr in his "Locked Room Lecture". It is not clear whether the weird menace writers were directly influenced by Hodgson and his "supernatural mystery" contemporaries, or whether they simply hit upon the same sort of explanation for the apparent supernatural events in their stories. After all, magician's tricks are perhaps the most obvious explanations for supernatural effects.

The real merit of Hodgson's tales is not the fairly perfunctory solutions Hodgson devised for his "supernatural" events, however, but rather the visionary force with which Hodgson conceived and described the events of his tales. "The Horse of the Invisible" (1910), for example, sweeps the reader along into a terrifying series of hallucinatory events. Its power is directly related to the strange visions that appeared in Hodgson's fantasy fiction. In Hodgson's works, visions of strange other worlds, supernatural phenomena, and monstrous supernatural beings appear. These are described with all of the senses: sound, physical touch, sight, including often vivid colors, especially red and green (although no colors appear in "The Horse of the Invisible"). Elaborate geometric patterns and shapes appear too, as well as complex patterns in time. Hodgson's works were contemporary with the abstract art movement of Kandinsky and Mondrian, which was also heavily influenced by theosophy. The complex abstract patterns of his tales, with their strong visual and geometric elements, seem like the products of a related aesthetic impulse.

Some of the Carnacki tales are full blown supernatural stories, with no natural explanation. "The Whistling Room" (1910), for example, is one of Hodgson's best fantasy tales. His analysis of the supernatural events in the tale links it to "The Voice in the Night" (1907), one of his best fantastic short stories, along with the ickier horror tale "The Derelict" (1912).

The first tale in the Carnacki series, "The Gateway of the Monster" (1910), shows some modest merits. A pure supernatural tale, with no mystery, it unites medieval manuscripts with modern technology, especially "The Electric Pentangle", a star made up of vacuum tubes that glow with a pale blue light. This will be extended to a whole set of color organs made up out of vacuum tubes in "The Hog", a kind of successor to "The Gateway of the Monster". The color organs are fascinating, but much of "The Hog" is static, repetitive, and overblown in comparison to the better done "Gateway". Color organs interested theosophists of the day, such as the composer Scriabin, some of whose music is designed to the accompanied by light shows generated on color organs. They also influenced the modernist, abstract movement in painting and film, such as the film color abstractions of Eggling, Ruttman and Fischer. S.S. Van Dine wrote a whole book about how the art of the future would be made up of pure color and light. Another Carnacki tale in the same mode is "The House Among the Laurels" (1910). It shows some mild ingenuity in its mystery features. All of these tales involve the hero and his allies sitting around inside the Electric Pentangle in a haunted house, waiting for manifestations to appear.

Most of the Carnacki tales involve hauntings of one sort or another, and they especially recall Bulwer-Lytton's "The Haunters and the Haunted" (1859), a tale whose "visionary" qualities remind one of Hodgson's own. Especially Hodgson like are the colored bubbles that float in Bulwer-Lytton's tale.

Bullion!: a short story

Hodgson wrote some non-Carnacki mystery tales as well, in a variety of styles. "Bullion!" (1911) is a nice impossible crime tale with much less horror in it than most of Hodgson's works. As a tale with apparent supernatural overtones, it shows much of the same impossible crime technique as the Carnacki stories.

The tale is one of the most "logical positivist" of any Hodgson wrote.

The story shows the same power of 3D visualization as Hodgson's other fiction, and is especially pleasant in this regard. The geometry is some of the most rectilinear of any Hodgson tale, and this seems somehow linked to the cheery nature of the plot. The lack of any color imagery in the story gives it a "white on white" effect, also quite upbeat.

Its subject matter of theft and smuggling aboard ship links it to Hodgson's Captain Gault stories. "Bullion!" contains a great deal of realistic information about shipping and the commercial transport of cargo, anticipating such Freeman Wills Crofts tales as The Loss of the Jane Vosper (1936). Many other Hodgson works about the sea treat it as a purely romantic world of adventure and menace.

It is in the anthology Murder Impossible (1990), edited by Jack Adrian and Robert Adey. (This anthology is known in Britain as The Art of the Impossible.)

The Inn of The Black Crow: a short story

Wilkie Collins' "A Terribly Strange Bed" (1852) was still being imitated sixty years later by Hodgson in "The Inn of The Black Crow" (1915). Hodgson converted Collins' plot into one of his visionary nocturnal landscapes, complete with a strange, complex 3D geometry.

Captain Gault

Among Hodgson's other crime fiction, Captain Gault (collected 1917) is a collection of stories about a smuggler. It comes straight out of the Rogue tradition of Raffles and Arsène Lupin. A story I have read from this collection, "The Red Herring", is neither better nor worse than any other tale of clever rogues of this period. It seems so different from Hodgson's other fiction, however, that I would never have guessed him as its author.

"The Diamond Spy" (1914) is a lively comic tale. It is a burlesque, on ideas that echo Doyle's "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" (1892) from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The story shows an interest in "detectives using disguise", also a feature of Sherlock Holmes and other sleuths of his era. The Rogue writers sometimes also featured disguise.

Gerald Findler

The House of Screams: a short story

Gerald Findler's "The House of Screams" (1932) is a nice little supernatural mystery tale. Apparently it is the work of an amateur British writer. It shows that the supernatural detective story was still flourishing in Britain in the Golden Age. Dorothy L. Sayers "The Bone of Contention" from the 1920's is a much longer example from a much better known detective author; see also Anthony Wynne's "Footsteps".

Findler's story seems to be in the Hodgson tradition. It basically has the form of a supernatural tale, not a detective story. At the end the events are given a realistic, if not too plausible explanation, just as in Hodgson. Like Hodgson, the "supernatural" events involve brilliant sensory patterns, in this case sounds. Hodgson's favorite color green also plays a role, through the curiously shaped green lamps. The house in a remote section of England recalls the equally isolated Irish mansion in Hodgson's fantasy novel The House on the Borderland (1908).

It is in the anthology Murder Impossible (1990), edited by Jack Adrian and Robert Adey. (This anthology is known in Britain as The Art of the Impossible.)

Sax Rohmer

The Dream-Detective

Sax Rohmer's The Dream-Detective was published in book form in 1920, but the stories apparently started appearing in magazines in 1913. The stories come out the impossible crime & science school of that era, psychic detection division. They have a heavy overlay of occultism, but most manage to be fair play detective tales. Rohmer's detective Morris Klaw is an aged psychic; he is assisted by his beautiful and fascinating daughter, Isis. We see here perhaps the ultimate origin of those 1950's monster films with aged scientists and beautiful daughter assistants. The pair also remind one of Martin Gardner's tongue-in-cheek characters of numerologist Dr. Matrix and his daughter, who used to show up in Gardner's Mathematical Games column.

The stories clearly were an influence on C. Daly King's The Curious Mr. Tarrant. They are called "Episodes", as are King's tales. The first piece involves a series of night crimes in a museum; so do two of King's; it centers on a ancient harp, as does one of the King tales. There are also stories in both authors dealing with decapitation. The creepy supernatural atmosphere of the King stories seems very reminiscent of Rohmer's. Both King's and Rohmer's collections end with a story which is straight supernatural fiction. Both writers stress the mysterious nature of their detectives.

Rohmer's work has received positive reviews in many recent histories of crime fiction. A review of his writing is hence mandatory in any broad history of crime writing, such as the present one. However, I differ from some recent commentators in thoroughly disliking his work. The limiting factor in Rohmer's tales is the lack of real mystery, any sort of ingenuity that would puzzle readers. In case after case the solution is obvious. Often times there is only one possible explanation of events, and it is routine. The stories come closest to real mystery in the two tales set at the (fictitious) Menzies Museum, "The Tragedies in the Greek Room" and "The Headless Mummies". Both's solutions have elements of surprise, although neither is at all at classic level. They are also the two stories with the most characterization of Morris Klaw and his daughter. Oddly, they are also the two tales which seem closest to King's later work. Rohmer's stories also suffer from a morbid tone. Their events are relentlessly grim and downbeat. On the plus side, Rohmer's tales show a continuing interest in architecture. Most have complex settings, which are closely integrated into the plots of the stories.

The Green Spider: a short story

"The Green Spider" (1904) is a little Scientific Detection short story. It is no classic, but it is unexpectedly pleasant. The tale is richly detailed, despite its brief length.

Part of the solution anticipates a well-known story of R. Austin Freeman. The concrete details are different, however. The setting of the tale, an English laboratory, also seems Freeman-like. But "The Green Spider" was written before Freeman created his scientific sleuth Dr. Thorndyke.

Fu Manchu

Rohmer went on to create the racist tales of Dr. Fu Manchu. They are some of the most offensive works in all of crime fiction.

Fergus Hume

The Mystery of a Hansom Cab

Influence: A Standard Detective Novel. Fergus Hume's The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886) greatest importance might be in its ordinariness. It is not a great novel, but it is a real modern style detective story way back when. It probably helped solidify the genre, and pave the way for such modern detective novelists as Agatha Christie. The book was an immense best seller, and probably deeply affected what many people of its era thought of as a paradigmatic detective story.

Like most modern detective stories it is a one volume novel (250 pages), and there are no Gaboriau-Green-Doyle style flashbacks to previous histories taking up the second half of the book. The story is all mystery and detection.

Yet it does not focus so relentlessly on the detective and his or her work as do the casebook school and Gaboriau. There is room instead in the book for the development of a series of characters who will serve as suspects, their relationships, and the complex events into which they are drawn, a tangle which forms the substance of the plot. This reminds one very much of the circle of characters who populate a typical Golden Age detective novel, such as Christie or Ngaio Marsh. Intermixed with this there is an investigation of the crime itself, shadowings by the detective of various suspects, and such subsequent mystery staples as an inquest and a trial. This is exactly the mix one finds in an average Golden Age book, and it is still the formula of a "typical" whodunit of today.

One suspects that both Baroness Orczy and Israel Zangwill used Hume as their rough foundation for what a detective story should be. The inquest that opens Hume's novel is a prominent feature in their work too.

Hume is fairly dispassionate. He refers to a murder mystery as a puzzle (start of Chapter 4, near the end of Chapter 7), one of the earliest comparisons of a mystery to a puzzle that I know of. Hume lacks the emotional intensity of earlier writers in the genre. He mainly maintains an attitude of calm interest in unraveling the crime. This too anticipates the Golden Age, as well as such calm writers as Orczy and Zangwill. Certainly he was vastly less dynamic as a storyteller than Doyle.

Ambiguous Relationships. Hume emphasizes a group of fairly normal people who get involved in a mysterious murder, and in which all of them look fairly suspicious. Hume's ability to make the relations of the characters to each other ambiguous, so that events can be interpreted in a multitude of ways, is at the core of the modern detective novel. It is certainly a staple of Christie, and before her Orczy. It allows characters to look suspicious, without actually being guilty, and it allows the author to spring a surprise solution to the mystery at the end of the tale, one that depends on interpreting the relations in the story in a different fashion than they first appeared. A similar ambiguous set of relations propels Hume's pleasantly done tale, "The Greenstone God and the Stockbroker" (1893). Hume's various twists and turns on the relationships are nowhere as clever as Christie's, but they certainly point in the same direction.

Dialogue and Characterization. Hume's dialogue and characterization sometimes reminds one of Agatha Christie. Here for example, the good natured, somewhat superficial Society gossip Felix discusses the crime in Hansom Cab (Chapter 7):

"I consider it reflects great credit on the police, discovering it so quickly".

"Puts one in mind of 'The Leavenworth Case', and all that sort of thing," said Felix, whose reading was of the lightest description. "Awfully exciting, like putting a Chinese puzzle together. Gad, I wouldn't mind being a detective myself."

"I'm afraid if that were the case," said Mr. Frettlby with an amused smile, "criminals would be pretty safe."

This sort of light hearted, gently satirical depiction of Bright Young Things seems especially Christie like. Christie often used constructions like "Felix, whose reading was of the lightest description" in her writing. It bounces the speaker's dialogue off facts about the person's background. It helps the story achieve flow, where the characterization moves along with the conversation. Often in Christie, such constructions suggest the speaker is following some well worn social path, limited by convention and/or superficiality, and is mildly satirical of it.

Ancestors. Hume cites many mystery ancestors in his novel: Poe, Gaboriau (the Preface), Du Boisgobey (the end of Chapter 1, where Hume compares the plot of Hansom Cab to Du Boisgobey's An Omnibus Mystery), Anna Katherine Green (Chapter 7), Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Chapter 8).

Hansom Cab is full of literary references and quotations, mainly to literary figures like Virgil, Thomas Moore, Thackeray, Disraeli, Dickens, Shakespeare, etc. He also quotes Australian writer Marcus Clarke (Chapter 15). Hume, like Poe and Green, thought that books should be full of quotations. I've always enjoyed this style of writing, but it is not in critical favor today.

Hume's Preface states that he used Gaboriau's novels as his model. Well, this is undoubtedly historically true, and yet... The famous, much reprinted quotation from the Preface to Hansom Cab about Hume being influenced by Gaboriau's popularity is very misleading. Hume and Gaboriau resemble each other little as writers, and it is clear that Hume had read many other late 19th Century mystery writers. His book seems very different from Gaboriau, and from Poe and Green. In one way, the difference is just sheer blandness: Hume lacks the distinguishing traits of these writers. He does not have Gaboriau's brilliant deductions from evidence, or his carefully characterized police. He does not have Green's atmosphere of horror, and crimes based on the extremes of passion, or her relentlessly brilliant detective work. He does not deal in the baroque secrets of the Sensation writers. Hume's work is closest to Du Boisgobey, who concentrated on the personal and romantic lives of his suspects.

Description. One area in which Hume does recall Gaboriau is in his lyrical descriptions. The scenes at night wandering around Melbourne are especially beautiful.

Hagar of the Pawn-shop, The Gypsy Detective

Hagar is a young woman who inherits a pawn-shop in London, getting her involved in mysteries and crime situations. Each short story in Hagar of the Pawn-shop, The Gypsy Detective (collected 1898) centers on a client and some object they have left at the pawn-shop.

Hagar is unusual in fiction in being a sympathetic Gypsy heroine.

"The Casket" is as much as romantic drama, as it is a crime tale. Late in the story comes an encounter which Somerset Maugham might have remembered when he wrote "The Letter" (1924). In both short stories, a wealthy adulterous woman is humiliated for her misdeeds by a much lower status but respectable woman. SPOILER. "The Casket" has a final plot twist, that draws on Hume's abilities to create ambiguous relationships.

The Ghost's Touch

Hume's late story, "The Ghost's Touch", shows his involvement in the supernatural detective movement of the era.