Published in the U.S. under the relatively pedestrian title Raffles: The Further Adventures of the Amateur Cracksman, this is the second collection of adventures of gentleman burglar A. J. Raffles and his school chum, sidekick, and biographer Bunny. These characters seem to have been invented as foils to Holmes and Watson, the celebrated creation of Hornung's friend and brother-in-law Arthur Conan Doyle. Though they are not so well-known today, anyone who reads British fiction written in the first quarter or so of the 20th century must have had their interest piqued by references to Raffles, whose name stood for a while as a proverb for any merry rogue who made off with millions while posing as a sportsman, a magnetic figure of fashion and culture, admired by men and women alike.
In this book, however, Raffles has moved beyond the phase of his career when he plied his criminal craft under the cover of being a celebrated cricket player. Presumed dead since his escape over the side of a cruise ship in The Amateur Cracksman, he has returned to England resolved to stay dead in the eyes of the law. Bunny, meanwhile, has done a bit of time for their joint crimes, and has emerged into a society that does not promise much to a man of his experience. The pair are reunited in the guise of an elderly invalid and his personal attendant, resuming their criminal lifestyle while taking pains to uphold the public's belief that Raffles is dead.
All in all, the eight capers in this volume are cloaked in a vapor of melancholy that sets them apart from the rollicking fun of the previous set. Raffles daringly swipes a priceless artifact from under the very noses of a museum's guards, only to admire its beauty for a while before sending it to Queen Victoria as a jubilee gift—a display of sentiment that even Bunny considers unlike his worshiped friend. One chapter is devoted to the story of a tragic romance with an Italian girl, another to Raffles' narrow escape from gruesome death at the hands of a vengeful crime boss. There is a duel of wits (to the death) with a fellow tradesman; the revival of an "old flame" with a married woman, leading Raffles to fake his death a second time; an interlude of more or less successful burglaries carried out on bicycles, while our rascally heroes hide out under a new identity; and finally—and I mean finally—the Boer War, in which the patriotism in Bunny and Raffles is so stirred up that they risk exposure and death to fight for their country. And these risks become all too real when they recognize a corporal in their unit as an enemy spy.
The end really comes for Raffles in this book, yet somehow it is not the end of the stories published about him. E. W. Hornung went on to write another book of Raffles stories—A Thief in the Night—as well as a novel—Mr. Justice Raffles. The same author wrote a considerable number of other books, which are listed here. And while hard copies of these entertainments can vary from cheap reproductions to expensive used books, the free Kindle book makes for a fiendishly clever way to steal an hour of fun out of a snow day, a rainy afternoon, a dull lunch break, or a holiday at the beach.
Saint Louis USA
Recommended Age: 12+
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