Author: Fergus Hume
Publisher: Text Publishing
The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, the best selling mystery of the nineteenth century. When a man is found dead in a hansom cab one of Melbourne’s leading citizens is accused of the murder. He pleads his innocence, yet refuses to give an alibi. It falls to a determined lawyer and an intrepid detective to find the truth, revealing long kept secrets along the way. Fergus Hume’s first and perhaps most famous mystery... The Mystery Of A Hansom Cab.
As someone who doesn't really read crime mysteries, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially since it was required university reading for my Australian Literature course.
A body is found murdered in a Hansom Cab, and police soon discover that it's a man named Oliver Whyte. But now the real question is, who on earth is the killer and why was he killed? Through some investigation, detective Mr. Gorby believes it to be Brian Fitzgerald, a man who is said to have despised Whyte for wanting to marry his lover, Madge Frettlby. After a lengthy investigation into the evidence, both for and against, it is determined that Brian is innocent, and that someone is trying to frame him - but who did want Whyte dead, and what secret do the papers stolen from Whyte's pocket reveal?
This was a very enjoyable read, even though I did end up listening to a majority of it via audiobook. I really enjoyed the two opening chapters, the first of which is the newspaper article regarding the event, and the second the evidence report. It was a creative way to introduce the main event of the story, enabling the rest of the book to focus on the mystery of the murderer. By using this way of storytelling, Hume was able to persuade the reader to believe that each of the suspects were the murderer, which I really enjoyed. I definitely didn't see the final result coming, but it all fitted into the story.
The story gave such a great insight into Australian and Melbournian life during the late 1800s, and I could picture the events unfolding in the city. During the few chapters, it felt like the story was based off a true crime, even though no such event had occurred. Hume did an excellent job at pulling the reader into 19th century Melbourne, showing the wealth of the upper-class and the poverty of the back-alley slums.
It's really interesting to see that this book was the bestselling crime novel of the nineteenth century, and not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. I hadn't heard of this book prior to having to study it for university and I'm really glad that I have read it. It's a great piece of Australian literature.
Overall, I highly recommend this book, especially to those who enjoy crime fiction and novels set in Australia. It's such a great mystery novel and you'll be unsure as to who the murderer was for the majority of the story.