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Lissibith

Inkspot Fancy

Comics and fantasy and sci-fi, oh my!

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Poor, poor gentleman thief

A Thief in the Night - E.W. Hornung

I have few things to thank Tumblr for, but one of them is introducing me to Raffles and Bunny, a gentleman thief and his earnest assistant. A Thief in the Night, the third of the Raffles and Bunny books, collects a number of short stories detailing some of the activities of the two over a span of years.

 

It's somewhat unfortunate that this book is never going to be able to avoid comparisons to Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books, both because of the author (he was Doyle's brother-in-law and dedicated the first book to Doyle), and because of their relative places in fiction history (Raffles being an extremely popular character in his time from what I've read, but the stories not having anywhere near the fame of the Holmes tales either then or in present day). And it's unfortunate because this works much better on its own than it does in Holmes' shadow.

 

The problem is that while the characters are enjoyable, the writing is not as deft, or maybe it's just that the plotting and the details of the cases are not as crisp and complicated. The miracles Raffles pulls off are supposed to make him seem extremely clever, but they only come across as moderately so, and occasionally Raffles will do things that made me wonder where all his vaunted brains are. And you can tell the author even realized this, because he usually makes an attempt to explain the question away, but it often comes across as more of an excusing of the situation than an explanation.

 

All this sounds like complaining, and I guess it is. But overall, the stories are entertaining, with a sort of evil-Robin-Hood sense of humor and a good variety of settings and set-ups. Our narrator, Bunny, is well-meaning and sometimes feels too nice for the life of a cracksman, or burglar and safe-cracker. He seems mostly to be in it for Raffles' sake - either to help him out or to prove himself to that notable. And at times you'll wonder why - Raffles is a gentleman and well aware of his own talents, and as a result is often yanking Bunny's chain to greater or lesser extents. He's actually enough of a jerk at times that I was waiting for Bunny to put his foot down and demand to be treated better, but the moment never came. I guess that's for fanfic.

 

As for this book, I don't think it's the best place to start with the adventures of these two burglars, as it references earlier works in ways that enrich the experience, but I think it's a decent standalone.