Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Step Back in Time! Review - Blind Man's Bluff by Jacques Futrelle

Blind Man's Bluff
Author: Jacques Futrelle

First off, I have to admit that I was not familiar with Jacques Futrelle until I started reading The Titanic Murders by Max Allan Collins. The Titanic Murders is the first book in Collins' Disaster Mystery series. The main character is Futrelle, an American author who died in the Titanic sinking in 1912.

After enjoying a few chapters of the audio book, I knew I needed to pause and hunt up copies of Futrelle's stories to read. Futrelle was often referred to as the "American Conan Doyle.''  His detective character, Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen was a Sherlock Holmes type detective nicknamed The Thinking Machine. As a huge Sherlock Fan I just had to find out about this Van Dusen fellow. :) I am SO glad that I took the time to research Futrelle!

I was able to find most of Futrelle's work in digital format. I found a listing of 7 novels and 50 short stories. All but two of the novels and stories were easy to find. After digging a bit deeper I found one more novel. But the final book, Blind Man's Bluff, took a bit more ferreting. I'm a completist you see.....if I start finding writings by an author I have to have all of them. That can get a bit difficult when the books are 100+ years old. After a bit more weasling on the internet, I hit pay dirt and found Blind Man's Bluff (or Buff) in a scanned digital copy online -- Huge heart-felt blessings to the New York City Public Library!!!! And, as it was the hardest to find, I read it first!! Other books and stories by Futrelle are available in other spots around the internet. I found my copies from The Gutenburg Project site and in kindle format from I'm sure there are other sites as well.

Total love! I love old books.....the odd, archaic turns of phrase, the imaginings of a bygone just makes me supremely happy. From the first chapter of Blind Man's Bluff (published in 1914
posthumously) I was totally in rapture.

 Basics of the plot: Mr. John Smith of Passaic, New Jersey has traveled to Paris on business. Usually Mr. Smith is the assistant paying teller in a bank, but on this trip he is totally out of his element. He does not speak French. He does not enjoy travel. He frankly just wants to go home to Passaic. Eight days at sea on his passage to France from the United States have made him tired, hungry and sleepy. But, he is also a man on a mission.....and he's determined to complete his quest. He is looking for W. Mandeville Clarke, an officer in the bank where Smith works, to confront him about a theft, perhaps even beat him to a pulp. But first he has to find the man, in a large city where he is incapable of speaking even a single word of the language. Unfortunately the language barrier causes misunderstandings, and Mr. Smith ends up followed and arrested by the Paris police who suspect that he is himself W. Mandeville Clarke. Things only escalate from there. But never fear, the lowly bank clerk is not only intelligent, but quite feisty.

The story is witty and fun to read. At 185 pages, it's a quick enjoyable bit of light detective fiction. Alas, I chose a book that did not feature Futrelle's most famous detective, Van Dusen the Thinking Machine....but I think the lowly bank teller did a fine job of ferreting out information and solving a rather serious situation. The plot is peppered with witty humor and plenty of early 1900s references. When John Smith told a cab driver "Skiddo for you! Twenty three!'' I just had to smile. :) I had to look up some references to actors of the day and other sayings I wasn't familiar with....but the internet is a marvelous thing for quick research. Even after 103 years, this story is still funny, light-hearted and an enjoyable read.

Here is the link to the book for anyone else who wants to read it!;view=1up;seq=1   It's an actual scan of the physical book, so the covers are shown and it has the original old-style formatting and font.

Now that I've read one of Futrelle's books, I'm going to return to listening to The Titanic Murders by Max Allan Collins. After I finish that book (which is awesome,by the way....a great mix of history and fiction! Review coming soon!), I'm going to delve into more Futrelle -- I'm very curious about Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen (with a name like that he has to be brilliant!).

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