This post serves a double purpose: firstly to reassure you that the promised spoiler-heavy discussion about The Box Office Murders, a.k.a. The Purple Sickle Murders (1929) by Freeman Wills Crofts is on the way, and secondly to let you know about the next spoiler-heavy review coming in April.
Having recently made the novel-length acquaintance of both Richard Austin Freeman and his sleuth Dr. John Thorndyke in Mr. Pottermack’s Oversight (1930), I’m keen to meet them both again. So, with a quick survey of the GAD Facebook group suggesting that Freeman’s second novel The Eye of Osiris, a.k.a. The Vanishing Man (1911) would provide a high standard of puzzle for me to get my teeth into, that is where I shall be heading.
My edition, the House of Stratus reprint, leftmost in the above image, summarises the plot thusly on the back cover:
John Bellingham is a world-renowned archaeologist who goes missing mysteriously after returning from a voyage to Egypt where fabulous treasures have been uncovered. Bellingham seems to have disappeared leaving clues, which lead all those hunting down blind alleys. But when the piercing perception of the brilliant Dr. Thorndyke is brought to bear on the mystery, the search begins for a man tattooed with the Eye of Osiris in this strange, tantalisingly enigmatic tale.
7 thoughts on “#633: Spoiler Warning – Coming in April: The Eye of Osiris, a.k.a. The Vanishing Man (1911) by R. Austin Freeman”
Not disappointed here – I will look forward to reading your thoughts on this and The Box Office Murders!
I’m not sure The Eye of Osiris really contains much of a puzzle, or certainly not for anyone who’s read much in the way of golden-age detection. But it was published in 1911, at an early stage of the genre’s development, so much can be forgiven.
You can see Freeman struggling to develop techniques of mystification and misdirection that would allow him to present clues to the reader without giving the game away, and all too often he resorts to simply suppressing the facts that are required to support the deduction. The snail eggs are a particularly annoying example that I still remember from this novel — Berkeley tells us that “though [the snail eggs] appeared to be of no importance in the existing circumstances, I made careful notes” which is like a giant blinking light saying “THERE IS A CLUE HERE” but we are not told what the notes were and thus have no chance to feel that we could or should have figured it out for ourselves. In later novels Freeman develops a wider range of techniques for clue concealment, though he still depends way too much on “Dr Thorndyke makes an observation but refuses to explain its significance for no good reason.”
(The Eye of Osiris is long since out of copyright so anyone wanting to play along can easily get hold of it, for example here at Project Gutenberg Australia.)
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Thanks, Gareth — good to have an alternative perspective, especially as quite a few people in the Facebook group said Osiris was the place to go for a good puzzle. I was surprised myself given the era in which it was written, but then I also trust Douglas Greene to know his way around a puzzle plot…!
Time will tell, but it’s good to have someone pipe up with the contrary view, just so I don’t get too carried away in my hopes 🙂
I remember liking this a couple of years ago, but, must be old age creeping on , I remember nothing of the plot ! You’re spoiler-heavy review might just jog my memory 😊
Osiris is usually cited as one of RAF’s best books. I have not read it myself, but it’s in the pile. Another widely admired one is The Stoneware Monkey. I found when I read him I liked the inverteds much more than the puzzles.
Going on recommendations from various sources I now have Red Thumb, Osiris, New Inn, and D’Arblay — doubtless others shall follow, unless I’ve made a deeply terrible error of judgement. But, based on my experience with Pottermack, it seems like a fairly safe bet that Freeman’s going to be much more my kind of thing than not.
Stoneware is on the reserve list — the next to get if these go well.
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