It is hardly unusual for doctors to specialize in certain areas of medical practice. It is, perhaps, a bit less usual to hear one's specialty described as "the surgery of crime." Yet that's the way author H. C. Bailey describes the area of specialization of his creation, Reggie Fortune:
“The Criminal Investigation Department, solicitors, and others dealing with those experiments in social reform which are called crimes, by continually appealing to his multifarious knowledge and his all-observant eye, turned Dr. Reginald Fortune, general practitioner at Westhampton, into Mr. Fortune of Wimpole Street, specialist in – what shall we say? – the surgery of crime. And Reggie Fortune, though richer for the change, was not grateful. He liked ordinary things, and any day would have gladly bartered a murder for a case of chicken-pox. This accounts for his unequalled sanity of judgment.”
That was in 1920, when Reggie Fortune made his first book appearance in Call Mr. Fortune, a collection of six short stories by H. C. Bailey. That collection is the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
Reggie Fortune didn't appear in very many novels. His many appearances in short stories, however, were quite popular. In the first short story in this book, called “The Archduke’s Tea,” we are introduced to Reggie Fortune. He is taking over his father’s medical practice temporarily while the senior Mr. Fortune is away. Reggie is summoned to the London residence of the Archduke Maurice of Bohemia. The archduke has been struck by a motor car and is unconscious; could Mr. Fortune please come at once. Reggie answers the call, only to find a great deal more mystery than he bargained for.
If you listen to that audio review on the podcast, you will hear brief rundowns of the other five stories contained in Call Mr. Fortune. The stories all are quite well done. I must admit that Reggie Fortune can be a bit of a drag sometime - always dropping his 'g's is a very irritatin' and even provokin' habit, as is his tendency to moan and groan a lot when he speaks. Also, as is often the case with mysteries from the early years of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, there are occasional mention of racial and gender attitudes in ways that may make a modern reader wince. On the whole, however, these stories are quite enjoyable. Call Mr. Fortune is available in e-book editions from The Mysterious Press/Open Road Media.
The 2015 Bingo Challenge
Continuing my participation in the 2015 Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge. under way at the My Reader's Block blog, Call Dr. Fortune is my entry for the square (fifth row, first column) calling for one medical mystery (or features Dr. or nurse).