The Mystery of a Hansom Cab

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Author: Fergus Hume
Published: 1886
Language: English
Wordcount: 88,201 / 257 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 63.4
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 3,146 3778

was more astonished than I when it passed beyond the narrow circle for which it had originally been intended.

My mind made up on this point, 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. This was the origin of the "Cab." The central idea i.e. the murder in a cab--came to me while driving at a late hour to St. Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne; but it took some time and much thought to work it out to a logical conclusion. I was two months sketching out the skeleton of the novel, but even so, when I had written it, the result proved unsatisfactory, for I found I had not sufficiently well concealed the mystery upon wh


Average Rating of 4.5 from 8 reviews: *****

Just finished it.
Extremely enjoyable mystery. Right from the beginning, readers will taste the mystery. Sometimes, it will seem to you that you know who the murderer is but it's not so simple :-)! A lot of twists...Enjoy :-)

Leah A. Zeldes

This was Hume's first novel, and he was clearly learning his craft. It starts out ploddingly, but things pick up in the second half when the rather obvious red herrings start to unravel.


Great first book by Hume. A bit too denigrating on the police perhaps but enough twists and turns to satisfy even the most devious mind. Very well-rounded characters. Fully recommended.


Another excellent mystery novel by Fergus Hume, although not quite as good as his novel -Red Money-. Both books employ a similar plot mechanism - a male protagonist gridlocked and unable to take action due to his sense of duty to a woman.

Hume was a prolific author and I look forward to reading more of his books.

edwin weber

A very underrated work. Older mystery critics, such as Howard Haycraft and the author of the article on Mystery & Detective Stories in the 1960's Encyclopedia Britannica, referred to this book as "scarcely readable today". But actually modern readers would find it much more readable than "The Moonstone" and other famous Victorian novels. While it certainly shows traces of its era, it is largely free of the tedious digressions so common to that period, and in general moves fairly briskly along. While, as usual the main characters as the usual stereotypes, it has a facinating cast of supporting characters, including the two professional detectives. Facinating scene where the lawyer crossexamines his own client in jail to pry loose information vital to his own defense that he is reluctant to devulge, even at the cost of his life. I think one reason for the low opinion critics had for this book is that while it had a huge sale, all of the old editions were badly printed on cheap paper, most in paper covers, like the typical sensational "penny dreadful" of that period. But it is much better than those. One of its redeeming features is the lack of sanctimonious righteousness so common to that period. His irony, sarcasism towards the mores of that period is refreshing.


This was quite a popular and sensational novel in its day. The author was a frustrated playwright, and he enjoyed creating characters with odd dialects and patterns of speech. A man is murdered in a hansom cab. But, who was the man who was last seen with him? The premise of this mystery is a bit thin, to sustain the novel for its entire length, and I felt the second half of the book dragged quite a bit. But, bear in mind that these types of mystery books were quite a new genre at the time. The popularity of this novel was an encouragement to other writers (like Conan Doyle, for example) to venture into the genre. So, all in all, a good first effort from Fergus Hume. But, not a great mystery novel.

52 Books

This is a great mystery. It appears to be really simple, but twists and turns keep you guessing until the end of the story. If you like mysteries, you'll like this one.

Ree Hasekamp

This really is a great detective novel. It is the first of a long list by Fergus Hume.
It has all the ingredients of a good detective novel: Unexpected turns in the plot, putting you (and the detective, by the way) on the wrong leg and an unexpected ending, although "experienced" readers of the genre might not find it too unexpected. But remember that it is more than 100 years old and still a good read.

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