Richard Bohan

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Richard Bohan

Richard Bohan’s book reviews

Duting his hayday, Craig Kennedy was promoted as "The American Sherlock Holmes" and "The Scientific Detective."

He was not the American Sherlock Holmes, primarily because Arthur Reeve was not an American Arthur Conan Doyle. Kennedy is a much more one dimensional character than Holmes, and he solves his criminal problems more often with technology than deduction.

As to the claim of being a Scientific detective, two points have to be made. The first is Willard Huntinting Hunt (who wrote mysteries as ss Van Dine) claimed that Kennedy was a pseudo-scientist, almost a science fiction rather than mystery writer. The second is that some of the short stories were collected into a book called "The Boy Scout's Craig Kennedy."

Hunt's criticism has the defect of being both self-serving and inacceurate. Reeve might occasionally take a scientific slightly beyond the applications of his day--for example Kennedy uses a wire recorder in one of his books, although wire recording was not commercially available until 1945--but his science was almost never more than one step ahead of practical application.

The Boy Scout edition of the stories shows that much of the science was on the level of the Boy Mechanic series, and the emphasis in the stories was too much on the construcction of crime fighting equipment. Any reader of this book should also bear in mind the date of publication. That way he will not be surprised to find that one of Kenndy's innovations is to use any oxyacetelene torch to cut through steel.

Having said all that, I must say that this is a fun book to read. The plot lines are usually interesting, and the stories contain enough thought and enough action to hold the reader's attention. A chance to view the state of technology in the early days of the last centurey also makes the reading of this book and the other books in the series worthwhile. I would give this a three and one-half rating.
09/23/2006