Friday, July 21, 2017

REVIEW: The Best Dr. Thorndyke Detective Stories

The Best Dr Thorndyke Detective Stories
Author: R. Austin Freeman

I have been obsessed with Golden Age detective stories since I was 9 years old and found a box set of five Agatha Christie novels at a neighbor's garage sale. I was immediately hooked on detective stories, spreading out to encompass other greats like Arthur Conan Doyle and more contemporary crime fiction writers like Anne Perry, Robert B. Parker and Michael Connelly. I even delved into the adventurous side with Clive Cussler and the opposite, more gentle sub-genre, the cozy mystery. If there was any sleuthing going on, I was in line, eyes at the ready to read any and all that came my way. Everything from Trixie Belden to Dr. Kay Scarpetta....loved it all!

But, I missed a few great, classic writers while stampeding my way through many great writers of mysteries and mayhem. For instance, I had never read anything by Jacques Futrelle until this year. Futrelle wrote detective stories in the early 1900s. His well-known character, Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Duren, was known as the The Thinking Machine. Futrelle died in the Titanic disaster in 1912 after publishing 7 detective novels and 50 short stories. I eagerly devoured Futrelle's writing, amazed that I had never come across his works before. I had the same feeling when I saw this anthology of Dr. Thorndyke stories available for review. Another great mystery writer that was new to me! I pounced eagerly on the chance to review this "best of'' collection. I'm glad I did!!

R. Austin Freeman wrote 22 novels and 40 short stories starring Dr. John Evelyn Thorndyke from 1907 to 1942. Thorndyke is a doctor who uses his medical knowledge and experience to investigate crimes. Freeman's stories give details about the crime itself first, then follow Thorndyke as he unravels the mystery using scientific methods. I'm not sure how I missed Freeman's work during my 40 years of avid mystery reading....but I'm ecstatic that I have another classic detective character to enjoy! This anthology of stories whetted my appetite for enjoying the other books and stories featuring Dr. Thorndyke.

The 8 stories included in this anthology are: The Case of Oscar Brodski, A Case of Premeditation, The Echo of A Mutiny, The Mandarin's Pearl, The Blue Sequin, The Moabite Cipher, The Aluminum Dagger, and 31 New Inn.

These stories are definitely beautiful examples of the classic detective story, but with an added scientific approach. Lots of detail is given about Thorndyke's experiments and equipment, putting more emphasis on the science behind his sleuthing, rather than just powers of deduction. It's CSI 1900's style. I enjoy Freeman's writing. I found it refreshingly different. He brings his readers along for the crime, first detailing how the suspect commits the criminal act before setting Thorndyke on the trail to ferreting out the facts. It's like a backwards detective story. First he shows us who did it, how and why it was done, then details how Thorndyke can deduce that information from evidence at the crime scene.

I enjoyed all 8 of these stories! Despite their age, the stories remain quite readable and interesting. I found Freeman's style of detective story to be engaging and witty. I am definitely going to read the rest of the Dr. Thorndyke stories!

I highly recommend this anthology of Dr. Thorndyke stories to any fan of classic or golden age detective stories. It's an awesome introduction to a great writer and a fabulous classic detective!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy from Dover Publications via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own**

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