Forgotten Book: John Thorndyke’s Cases

John Thorndyke’s Cases by R. Austin Freeman, originally (c) 1909
The book I’m reading: The Complete Thorndyke, MX Publishing 2018 trade paper

Since I’m a fan of Sherlock Holmes, it only makes sense that at some point I’d read some of Freeman’s Thorndyke work and I had, a story here and there in a couple of anthologies. So when I saw that MX Publishing was going to publish The Complete Thorndyke, I decided it was time.

Dr. John Evelyn Thorndyke is a fictional detective in a long series of 21 novels and 40 short stories by British author R. Austin Freeman (1862–1943). Thorndyke was described by his author as a ‘medical jurispractitioner’: originally a medical doctor, he turned to the bar and became one of the first — in modern parlance — forensic scientists. His solutions were based on his method of collecting all possible data (including bits of tobacco, dust and pond weed) and making inferences from them before looking at any of the protagonists and motives in the crimes. (Freeman, it is said, conducted all experiments mentioned in the stories himself.) It is this method which gave rise to one of Freeman’s most ingenious inventions, the inverted detective story, where the criminal act is described first and the interest lies in Thorndyke’s subsequent unravelling of it.

There have been several collections of Thorndyke stories, with varying contents. From Wikipedia:

“Two different omnibus editions of the collected Dr. Thorndyke short stories exist. The British edition is R. Austin Freeman, The Famous Cases of Dr. Thorndyke: Thirty-seven of His Criminal Investigations as set down by R. Austin Freeman (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1929 and later reprintings). The American edition is R. Austin Freeman, The Dr. Thorndyke Omnibus: 38 of His Criminal Investigations as set down by R. Austin Freeman (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1932 and later reprintings). The American edition includes one story, “The Mandarin’s Pearl,” printed in the first Thorndyke short-story collection, John Thorndyke’s Cases, but omitted from the British omnibus. Two other stories, “The Man with the Nailed Shoes” and “A Message from the Deep Sea”, though also appearing in the first Dr. Thorndyke short-story collection, John Thorndyke’s Cases, were omitted from the British and American editions of the omnibus collection.

The American edition reprinted the five collections of stories in the following order: The Singing Bone, Dr. Thorndyke’s Cases, The Magic Casket, The Puzzle Lock, and The Blue Scarab. The British edition gives the stories in a different order.”

The book I’m reading, The Complete Dr. Thorndyke, Volume II, Short Stories Part I, contains John Thorndyke’s Cases thusly:

  • The Man with the Nailed Shoes
  • The Stranger’s Latchkey
  • The Anthropologist at Large
  • The Blue Sequin
  • The Moabite Cipher
  • The Mandarin’s Pearl
  • The Aluminium Dagger
  • A Message from the Deep Sea

I enjoyed these quite a bit. I had read “The Aluminum Dagger” before in some anthology, perhaps The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, and it was nice to enjoy it all over again. The others of these stories I found especially enjoyable were “The Stranger’s Latchkey” and “The Moabite Cipher”.

I have received no notice of the next volumes, which I assume are forthcoming. I certainly hope they are!

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Forgotten Book: John Thorndyke’s Cases

  1. Jerry House says:

    I read this one about twenty-five years ago. I remember liking it very much and zipping through it in one (pretty long) sitting. I never got back to any other Dr. Thorndykes — don’t know why. Maybe it’s time

  2. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I’ve read this and some other Thorndyke stories but I suppose it would be easiest to get a complete collection and go through it, start to finish. I like Freeman’s stories.

  3. I’m temped to buy the complete set! I’ve read a couple of Freeman’s stories and enjoyed them enormously!

  4. Jeff Meyerson says:

    There are a bunch of Freeman’s books available either free or very cheaply (99 cents) on Kindle, if you check Amazon.

  5. tracybham says:

    This is an author I have never read. I read parts of one of the “introductions” from a kindle sample and the stories sounded interesting. I will have to follow up on the stories.

  6. I gave into temptation and ordered the two volumes of John Thorndyke’s Cases. Now, I’ll wait for future volumes.

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