Raffles: The Complete Innings Paperback – 25 Mar 2013
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About the Author
Richard Foreman is the author of numerous bestselling kindle books, including Augustus: Son of Rome and the Raffles series of historical crime novellas. He is also the author of A Hero of Our Time, a literary novel set during the end of the Second World War. He lives in London.
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It takes courage and considerable skill to successfully reincarnate an established literary character. Countless have attempted such a feat with their post-Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes and Sophie Hannah met with mixed reviews when recharging Hercule Poirot’s little grey cells last year. However, I am delighted to report that Richard Foreman’s reimagining of E.W. Hornung’s amateur cracksman is something of a triumph. Indeed, ‘The Complete Innings’ (2012) is made up from six novelettes which hold their own against the original canon and certainly top the enjoyable-but-limiting efforts a previous Raffles reviver, Barry Perowne*.
The principle reason for the success of ‘The Complete Innings’ is Foreman’s decision to remain true to the original characters** (cricketing thief A.J. raffles and sidekick Harry ‘Bunny’ Manders) and then place them at the centre of the stories. In too many of the Perowne stories, our two ‘heroes’ came across as bit-part players who become embroiled in the affairs of others with any stealing often appearing as a mere afterthought or coincidence. However, by basing his adventures only a few months after Raffles and Bunny joined forces and by ignoring the E.W. Hornung destiny for both characters, ‘The Complete Innings’ offers a fabulous parallel universe of events that unfold with purpose and direction.
Foreman also clearly had terrific fun when penning these tales. He is happy to intertwine our thieving duo’s escapades with both fictional and actual characters*** from the late Victorian period. Thus, in the first story – The Gentleman Thief – Bunny is summoned by a certain Baker Street detective who immediately announces his certainty of Raffles’ guilt, but that (rather than expose him) he wishes to ‘hire’ him to resolve a delicate matter for his brother Mycroft. The inclusion of Holmes and Watson might have been cloying and forced, but they are presented in a much understated non-caricatured fashion that works to good effect. The later cameos roles from both Inspector Lestrade and a certain female acquaintance of SH also pay dividends, the latter especially so.
Perhaps the most satisfying story in the whole collection is ‘Stumped’, which sees Raffles take full advantage of a slimy, controlling money-lender named Alexander Cardinal. Not only does he free Bunny from Cardinal’s clutches, but he also plays a wonderfully ironic trick that is reminiscent of the very best stories in the original collection.
Nevertheless, there are certain features of ‘The Complete Innings’ that prevent it scoring a peerless 10/10. Firstly, the use of literary quotations is a tad excessive, with the full gamut of characters seemingly trying to outdo one another with their knowledge of English poetry, plays and prose. Likewise, am I right to question whether the ‘real’ (Hornung’s) Bunny would allow himself to woo the beautiful Lucy Rosebery given the angst and guilt that his alter-ego causes him? How could he possibly keep his nocturnal antics a secret from such a virtuous young lady?
Regardless, ‘The Complete Innings’ is a wonderful collection. The author’s end notes would suggest that his foray into the world of Raffles is complete. However, the final page leaves the possibility of more new adventures dangling. Let’s hope that – much like Raffles addiction to diamonds – he cannot resist another break into the vault.
Barty’s Score: 9/10
* Please refer to my previous reviews of Perowne’s three volumes, beginning with ‘Raffles Revisited’.
** However, be warned: 2012’s Raffles is a tad more overtly caddish that the original and at one point even comments about how one of his aristocratic conquests snores in bed!
*** Winston Churchill, W.G. Grace and H.G. Wells to name but three.
Overall, I found it an Interesting and entertaining read which made me look up information on the original stories of Raffles and Bunny written by E.W. Hornung, wanting to know more.
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