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Saturday, 7 April 2012

Review: Raffles: The Gentleman Thief

Raffles: The Gentleman Thief
By Richard Foreman
Reviewed by Dawn
Guest Writer for The Baker Street Babes

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This book is currently free to download from Amazon—click HERE for the UK edition, or check your country's Amazon store! Don't miss out!

A fan of Sherlock Holmes? Read E. W. Hornung's stories about the gentleman thief A. J. Raffles and his trusty sidekick Bunny, written lovingly and tounge-in-cheek by Conan Doyle's friend and brother-in-law. A fan of Sherlock Holmes and Raffles? Read Raffles - The Gentleman Thief, by Richard Foreman, because it is the perfect fandom mashup, as we fans would put it.

This new original story by Foreman sees our favorite amateur cracksman Raffles - famous cricket player by day, infamous jewel thief by night - hired by none other than Baker Street's most famous detective Sherlock Holmes. He is, of course, to steal something, a job Holmes characteristically just cannot be bothered with himself. Readers of Hornung's Raffles stories may have wondered where Holmes fits into this universe, if at all. Surely London's most famous thief wouldn't go unnoticed? In the BBC Raffles radio plays Holmes exists in an offhand comment, and in the TV series, Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character in a book, which is obviously a reference for laughs. But in Foreman's short story he is very real. In fact, Holmes finds him more of a useful asset than a threat. Remember that Holmes never particularly cared for morals or political games, and that is exactly what saves Raffles when he is offered a job he cannot resist.

Foreman manages to write in the same spirit and atmosphere as the original Raffles stories, complete with Victorian foggy London, dirty alleys and the frivolous way of upper class life that Raffles despises and yet entertains so easily. He even adds a bit of social awareness, and perhaps a few observations about modern society too; with comments on growing tourism and the popularity of Madam Tussuad's wax museum on Marylebone Street. However, that doesn't take away from Bunny's reflections on the world around him. On the contrary, it's fitting. Raffles was, after all, a kind of unrecognized Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and, if not exactly giving to the poor (except the unfortunate Bunny), then at least ensuring his and Bunny's bachelor lives.

Apart from writing an aloof yet charming Raffles and a devoted and slightly self effacing Harry "Bunny" Manders, Richard Foreman manages to write Holmes and Watson as domestic as ever. They are, by nature of the story, observed by Bunny, who considers them an old married couple, and it shows in his perfectly canonical writing. I cannot recommend this enough for both Raffles and Holmes fans. It will leave you wanting more, and I for one am looking forward to his next instalment.

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