Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Prince of Swindlers - Guy Boothby

 'The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime' edited by Micheal Sim's was a particular treat a few years ago, and ever since I've looked out for these particular penguin editions of vintage crime - often dealing with swindlers and con men rather then murderers. So far I've not been disappointed - though for reasons I don't understand they're always American editions (why do they have softer covers?).

Guy Boothby's 'A Prince of Swindlers' was a happy find in the Birmingham branch of Waterstones (excellent coffee shop as well as being a very smart bookshop) and kept me entertained on one of the very many wet afternoons that this winter has seen fit to provide (and so often on my days off too).

It reminds me a lot of Grant Allen's 'An African Millionare' (which of the two I slightly prefer) and that's a very good thing indeed. Boothby's gentleman villain is the mysterious Simon Carne, ably assisted by his butler, Belton. Having met and charmed the British Viceroy in India, Carne travels to London where that same viceroy and his wife introduce him into society - little do they know what they've done.

What follows is a half dozen audacious swindles carried out against the very highest members of society (always satisfying) by Carne, who as well as being a master of disguise and strategy, clearly knows no fear.

It's best read in instalments, which I assume is how the stories originally appeared (I should read the introduction) as each chapter runs along broadly similar lines. That doesn't stop it being both a rattling good yarn (a suitably period description I feel) and engagingly funny. I can't say much more without giving spoilers, but it's all good Edwardian fun and an excellent addition to what I think of as my gaslight crime collection.


  1. Nothing to do with books but I am intrigued by the picture to the right of this page - what is it please?

  2. Aha! It's a side view of a shotgun broken open for safety. I've been going through the old pictures and liked this one - it's the colours on the metal and the engraving that really appealed.

  3. Thank you! I can see why you like it so much, there is so much texture and nuanced colouring.