The Shadow of the Rope

The Shadow of the Rope

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The Shadow of the Rope by E. W. Hornung

Published:

1906

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The Shadow of the Rope

By

3.6666666666667
(3 Reviews)

Book Excerpt

in the broad north light that filled the room.

The young widow stood gazing upon her dead, and four pairs of eyes gazed yet more closely at her. But there was little to gather from the strained profile with the white cheek and the unyielding lips. Not a cry had left them; she had but crossed the threshold, and stopped that instant in the middle of the worn carpet, the sharpest of silhouettes against a background of grim tomes. There was no swaying of the lissome figure, no snatching for support, no question spoken or unspoken. In moments of acute surprise the most surprising feature is often the way in which we ourselves receive the shock; a sudden and complete detachment, not the least common of immediate results, makes us sometimes even conscious of our failure to feel as we would or should; and it was so with Rachel Minchin in the first moments of her tragic freedom. So God had sundered whom God had joined together! And this was the man whom she had married for love; and she could look upon his clay

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A drama / mystery written in two sections. The first section deals with the case of Rachel Minchin, a young woman accused and tried for the murder of her husband. A mysterious stranger attends every session of the trial and attempts to make contact with Rachel - is he benefactor or villain? The second section of the novel presents the re-opening of the case by an amateur detective. Will a new investigation shed light on Rachel's guilt or innocence, or identify new suspects?

I enjoyed the book except for the fact that things seem to fall into place far too easily for the amateur detective. The book is a good drama, but only a fair mystery.
This is an absorbing read. The opening chapters with the trial and the aftermath for Rachel are excellent. The characterisations are very good and Hornung avoids the then standard idealising of the female protagonist. It is far from a routine whodunnit. Admittedly in the latter parts there is a string of coincidences, but these do not detract from the overall high standard of this work. It should be much better known.
Although Hornung writes very well to a formula when he condescends to do so, sometimes it seems that he just wants to do something different.

The first two-thirds of this novel are a sort of sordid drawing-room drama, the rest: a mystery with the unlikeliest of detectives and some staggering plot twists.

Not bad, overall.