The complete short story casebook of the blind rival of Sherlock Holmes In the pages of the influential Strand Magazine, there was a time when Ernest Bramah’s stories of crime and detection, featuring the blind detective Max Carrados, appeared alongside those about the world’s most renowned fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, and received equal critical acclaim. George Orwell considered the Max Carrados stories to be among the finest detective fiction published since the genre’s creation by Edgar Allan Poe. The first Carrados stories appeared in 1914 as the Great War erupted and although they have not endured in the public imagination to the same degree that Holmes and Watson have, they were phenomenally popular and occasionally out-sold Conan Doyle’s stories in book form. In common with Holmes and his Dr. Watson, wealthy and urbane Carrados operated with his own indispensible partner, the slightly shady Mr. Carlyle, and was further assisted by his manservant Parkinson and his secretary Mr. Greatorex. His blindness, caused by an accident, made Carrados very distinctive, and from his base at ‘The Turrets,’ Richmond, London, he relied solely on his heightened powers of sensory perception to solve the mysteries which come his way. This Leonaur Original collects all twenty six of the Max Carrados short stories into a satisfying volume with all the ingredients of period detective fiction at its very finest. A treasure-trove of enjoyment that will be welcomed by all aficionados of the Golden Age of Crime and Detective fiction.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
It was more than a week after his introduction to Carrados that Lieutenant Hollyer had a summons to present himself at The Turrets again. He found Mr Carlyle already there and the two friends awaiting his arrival.
“I stayed in all day after hearing from you this morning, Mr Carrados,” he said, shaking hands. “When I got your second message I was all ready to walk straight out of the house. That’s how I did it in the time. I hope everything is all right?”
“Excellent,” replied Carrados. “You’d better have something before we start. We probably have a long and perhaps an exciting night before us.”
“And certainly a wet one,” assented the lieutenant. “It was thundering over Mulling way as I came along.”
“That is why you are here,” said his host. “We are waiting for a certain message before we start, and in the meantime you may as well understand what we expect to happen. As you saw, there is a thunderstorm coming on. The Meteorological Office morning forecast predicted it for the whole of London if the conditions remained. That was why I kept you in readiness. Within an hour it is now inevitable that we shall experience a deluge. Here and there damage will be done to trees and buildings; here and there a person will probably be struck and killed.”
“It is Mr Creake’s intention that his wife should be among the victims.”
“I don’t exactly follow,” said Hollyer, looking from one man to the other. “I quite admit that Creake would be immensely relieved if such a thing did happen, but the chance is surely an absurdly remote one.”
“Yet unless we intervene it is precisely what a coroner’s jury will decide has happened. Do you know whether your brother-in-law has any practical knowledge of electricity, Mr Hollyer?”
“I cannot say. He was so reserved, and we really knew so little of him——”
“Yet in 1896 an Austin Creake contributed an article on ‘Alternating Currents’ to the American Scientific World. That would argue a fairly intimate acquaintanceship.”
“But do you mean that he is going to direct a flash of lightning?”
“Only into the minds of the doctor who conducts the post-mortem, and the coroner. This storm, the opportunity for which he has been waiting for weeks, is merely the cloak to his act. The weapon which he has planned to use—scarcely less powerful than lightning but much more tractable—is the high voltage current of electricity that flows along the tram wire at his gate.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Lieutenant Hollyer, as the sudden revelation struck him.
“Some time between eleven o’clock tonight—about the hour when your sister goes to bed—and one-thirty in the morning—the time up to which he can rely on the current—Creake will throw a stone up at the balcony window. Most of his preparation has long been made; it only remains for him to connect up a short length to the window handle and a longer one at the other end to tap the live wire. That done, he will wake his wife in the way I have said. The moment she moves the catch of the window—and he has carefully filed its parts to ensure perfect contact—she will be electrocuted as effectually as if she sat in the executioner’s chair in Sing Sing prison.”
“But what are we doing here!” exclaimed Hollyer, starting to his feet, pale and horrified. “It is past ten now and anything may happen.”
“Quite natural, Mr Hollyer,” said Carrados reassuringly, “but you need have no anxiety. Creake is being watched, the house is being watched, and your sister is as safe as if she slept tonight in Windsor Castle. Be assured that whatever happens he will not be allowed to complete his scheme; but it is desirable to let him implicate himself to the fullest limit. Your brother-in-law, Mr Hollyer, is a man with a peculiar capacity for taking pains.”
“He is a damned cold-blooded scoundrel!” exclaimed the young officer fiercely. “When I think of Millicent five years ago——”
“Well, for that matter, an enlightened nation has decided that electrocution is the most humane way of removing its superfluous citizens,” suggested Carrados mildly. “He is certainly an ingenious-minded gentleman. It is his misfortune that in Mr Carlyle he was fated to be opposed by an even subtler brain——”
“No, no! Really, Max!” protested the embarrassed gentleman.
“Mr Hollyer will be able to judge for himself when I tell him that it was Mr Carlyle who first drew attention to the significance of the abandoned kite,” insisted Carrados firmly. “Then, of course, its object became plain to me—as indeed to anyone. For ten minutes, perhaps, a wire must be carried from the overhead line to the chestnut-tree. Creake has everything in his favour, but it is just within possibility that the driver of an inopportune tram might notice the appendage. What of that? Why, for more than a week he has seen a derelict kite with its yards of trailing string hanging in the tree. A very calculating mind, Mr Hollyer. It would be interesting to know what line of action Mr Creake has mapped out for himself afterwards. I expect he has half-a-dozen artistic little touches up his sleeve.