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.