The gentleman had appeared very drunk when he got into that hansom cab in the small hours of the morning. By the time the cab driver had taken him to his destination, his passenger had died. There was nothing to do but to drive to the nearest police station. And that's exactly what the driver did, thereby passing off to the police the central problem found in The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, by Fergus Hume, originally published in 1886. It is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
Fergus Hume was born in Australia, and The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is set in Melbourne. It doesn't take police very long to determine that the man in the cab had been murdered, a handkerchief soaked in chloroform having been tied over his mouth and nose. Suspicion, not too surprisingly, falls on the mysterious man who helped the victim into the cab in the first place, but who got out soon thereafter, telling the driver to take his passenger home. A couple of rival police detectives will try different approaches to solving the mystery, which will reach both into the highest levels of Melbourne society and the unsavory depths of the city's slums.
According to Wikipedia, Fergus Hume had tried his hand at writing plays, with no success, so he decided to write a novel. According to Hume, "I enquired of a leading Melbourne bookseller what style of book he sold most of. He replied that the detective stories of Gaboriau had a large sale; and as, at this time, I had never even heard of this author, I bought all his works — eleven or thereabouts — and read them carefully. The style of these stories attracted me, and I determined to write a book of the same class; containing a mystery, a murder, and a description of low life in Melbourne." He did so - and published it himself in 1886. He revised it somewhat in 1898, and that is the edition which continues to be available from many different sources, both in print and in e-book formats. Hume went on to write more than a hundred other novels in many different genres, but none has achieved quite the lasting success or fame – or influence, for that matter – of The Mystery of a Hansom Cab. It has been made into a movie several times, the earliest in 1911, the latest TV version in 2012.
The 2015 Bingo Challenge
Continuing my participation in the 2015 Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge. under way at the My Reader's Block blog, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is my entry for the square (second row, third column) calling for one book that has been made into a movie or TV show.