Forgotten Book: The Portrait Mystery

The Portrait Mystery by R. Austin Freeman, originally (c) 1918. Mystery short story collection featuring Dr. Throndyke. I read this collection in: The Complete Thorndyke, Volume II: Short Stories, (Part I), MX Publishing 2018 trade paper

This is the third set of stories in this omnibus volume, and it contains the two stories from this book that feature Dr. Throndye. Following those, the volume also includes what it calls “Apocryphal Material”.

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 a ‘medical jurispractitioner’: both a medical doctor and a member of the bar. His solutions were based on collecting all possible data before looking at the protagonists and motives in the crimes. 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.

The book I’m reading, The Complete Dr. Thorndyke, Volume II, Short Stories Part I, contains the two Thorndyke stories from The Great Portrait Mystery thusly:

Only 2 of the stories feature Dr. Thorndyke, so only those are included in this complete Dr. Thorndyke omnibus:

  • The Missing Mortgagee
  • Percival Bland’s Proxy

The Apocryphal Materials are

  • 31 New Inn (the original 1905 Thorndyke novella, which would be later expanded into the novel The Mystery of 31 New Inn, which is included in Volume I of this set of books.
  • The Dead Hand, later expanded into the novel The Shadow of the Wolf (1925)
  • The Art of the Detective Story, an opinion essay by the author

Since I plan to read these two novels, along with The Red Thumb Mark I chose not to read these novellas on which they are based.

As noted last week, I have received notice of the next three volumes, which will be published early in 2020, and have ordered them. I’m quite glad MX Publishing is doing these volumes.

About Rick Robinson

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

9 Responses to Forgotten Book: The Portrait Mystery

  1. I ordered the first two volumes–and they arrived quickly–after your first FFB review of the Dr. Thorndyke book. Now I’m waiting impatiently for the next three volumes from MX Publishing. I’ve read a few R. Austin Freeman stories over the years, but I’m excited about the prospects of treading the complete Dr. Thorndyke series! Thanks again for the heads up!

  2. Patti Abbott says:

    Read some of these years and years ago.

  3. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I’ve read one or two of the novels, but a bunch of the short stories. I like reading the occasional pre-Golden Age stuff (mostly in short stories) along with more modern books.

  4. tracybham says:

    As far as I can remember, I have not read anything by this author. But I did join in on the Kickstarter for the next three volumes and chose to receive the paperback edition of the third volume of the Thorndyke collection. So I will wait for that to come before I try anything by this author. Looking forward to it.

  5. Art Scott says:

    I have all of the Thorndyke stories & novels in the multi-volume Omnibus set from George Vanderburgh. Some of the novels, especially the ones where Thorndyke is off-stage way too long at the outset, are slow going, but the short stories are absolute gems, and I reread them all every two or three years, as I do with the Holmes canon, Mortgagee is one of the weaker stories, but Bland’s Proxy is a delight, with a Grand Guignol touch and a hilarious snapper surprise in the end.
    Freeman stands alone when it comes to “scientific detection”.

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