Reviews by Allan H. Clark

The Charing Cross Mystery

by J.S. Fletcher

Fletcher's story is well-paced and the writing is good, but he relies on gimmicks which no mystery writer today would dare use. His coincidences are far-fetched and a bit too convenient to be credible.

Reviewed on 2010.11.20

Natural Law in the Spiritual World

by Henry Drummond

Not much is to be gained today by study of these dusty tomes devoted to the war between science and theology since both fields have advanced in the last century. This one may be better than most.

Drummond knew and taught both science and religion and was therefore well placed to address controversial issues between them when the battle heated up in the latter part of the nineteenth century in the wake of Darwin and the discoveries of physics.

In 1874 John Tyndal, President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, created a row with his assertion that where science and religion were in conflict, religion must give way. Immediately two prominent scientists, Balfour Stewart and P.G. Tait rushed into print an anonymous book, The Unseen Universe which argued the existence of an invisible world and an afterlife on the basis of conservation of energy and a principle of continuity. It proved immensely popular ten editions in eight years despite obvious flaws in science and theology.

In the wake of the success of The Unseen Universe several other attempts were made to provide theology with scientific justification. Drummond's book rests on the same Law of Continuity and makes points similar to The Unseen Universe but makes them far more cogently and elegantly. As he puts it:

The position we have been led to take up is not that the Spiritual Laws are analogous to the Natural Laws, but that they are the same Laws. It is not a question of analogy but of Identity.

Drummond saves a niche for mystery:

How much of the Spiritual World is covered by Natural law we do not propose at present to inquire. It is certain, at least, that the whole is not covered. And nothing more lends confidence to the method than this. For one thing, room is still left for mystery. Had no place remained for mystery it had proved itself both unscientific and irreligious. A Science without mystery is unknown ; a Religion without mystery is absurd.

Except for those interested in the history of the conflict between science and religion I would think works of this type are not worth the time.

Reviewed on 2010.11.05

The Mystery of 31 New Inn

by R. Austin Freeman

Clever puzzle mystery, quite enjoyable.

Reviewed on 2010.08.14

Call Mr. Fortune

by H.C. Bailey

These short stories featuring Reggie Fortune are diverting and amusing enough that one wishes more were available here. Fortune is more than a bit of a wag, but the puzzles are good and the solutions reasonable.

Reviewed on 2010.07.20

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