The Detective Fiction of R. Austin Freeman

“All the Austin Freeman qualities are present – vast mechanical and medical ingenuity, clear, delightfully pompous style conveying gas-lit nineteenth century atmosphere.”

    – Maurice Richardson, Observer, 31st March 1940 <> 

“Mr. Freeman is a past-master of the gradual, cumulative art of mystifying.  The facts he keeps casually mentioning become a maze of criminal cunning.  At the moment of his own choosing he discloses a plan of admirable symmetry.”
    – Times Literary Supplement,
30th May 1942 <> 

Like Anthony Berkeley, R. Austin Freeman has recently undergone a renaissance.  His books have always been recognised as classics of the genre – but so few of them have been in print since his death.  The recent republication of his works by the House of Stratus means that the modern reader can rediscover all his virtues: the scientific interest of his plots, with murderers poisoning their victims with arsine and thieves discovered on the strength of a few grains of dust; his portrayal of an Edwardian London which Dickens, writing fifty years before, would have recognised; his ability to evoke sympathy for both the hunter and the hunted, often telling the story from the perspective of the criminal (the stories collected in The Singing Bone or the novel Mr. Pottermack’s Oversight); and his eye for character, notably in As a Thief in the Night.  Despite Julian Symons’s claim that reading Freeman was “like chewing on dry straw”, there is a quiet charm to Freeman’s novels which, especially in these hectic days, makes them infinitely rewarding.

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These pages copyright Nicholas Lester Fuller, 2000--2010. Created 5th December 2004.