The Mystery of a Hansom Cab
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The Mystery of a Hansom Cab

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  305 ratings  ·  65 reviews
The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, the best selling mystery of the nineteenth century. When a man is found dead in a hansom cab one of Melbourne’s leading citizens is accused of the murder. He pleads his innocence, yet refuses to give an alibi. It falls to a determined lawyer and an intrepid detective to find the truth, revealing long kept secrets along the way. Fergus Hume’s fi...more
Paperback, 260 pages
Published July 1st 2005 by Echo Library (first published 1886)
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Malcolm Royston, a cabman, was driving in Collins Street East, Melbourne at 1am on the 27th July 18-- when he was hailed by a gentleman who appeared to be supporting another man, presumably under the influence of too much liquor. When he pulled over, he was told to take the gentleman home, as he was “awfully tight”. He stated that he had found the man slumped by a lamp post and though he didn’t know him, thought he’d send him safely home. But suddenly the good Samaritan appeared to recognise the...more
Ivonne Rovira
Apr 23, 2013 Ivonne Rovira rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ivonne by: Magda Cawthorne
I asked a Goodreads friend from Down Under what Australian and New Zealand books she’d recommend to an ignorant Yank like me. I’d only read Australian Kerry Greenwood and Germaine Greer and Kiwi Ngaio Marsh up to that point. Magda was kind enough to send me a long list of excellent authors, including Fergus Hume. The English-born Hume grew up in New Zealand before relocating to Melbourne. Unable to get his plays even looked at — much less staged — he instead turned out his first mystery, The Mys...more
If asked to name the bestselling mystery novel of the 19th century, most people would probably suggest something by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, possibly The Hound of the Baskervilles. In fact the biggest selling 19th century mystery novel was Fergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab. Hume was born in England but brought up in New Zealand, and was living in Australia when he wrote the book. The book is set in Melbourne. He went on to write a further 131 crime novels.

The book opens with a cabby disco...more
Fergus Hume was born in England in 1832. His family emigrated to Australia, where he became a barrister and aspired to be a writer. His early efforts were met with complete disinterest, and so, unwilling to admit defeat, he asked a local bookseller what type of book was most popular. The answer was detective novels, and so Hume bought and studied all of the works of the popular crime writer Emile Gaboriau that the bookstore had to offer.

The result was ‘The Mystery of a Hansom Cab’, the first of...more
I really enjoyed this classic mystery. I liked the way Hume would lead the reader down one path and then throw in an unexpected twist. A real page turner that had me captivated till the last page.
This book contains a great little story that moves along at a fast pace, despite being written back in the 1880s. I'm living in inner Melbourne, so this book is a little special to me - it is amazing how many of the locations still carry the same mood and feeling that Fergus Hume evokes in his book. Although Little Bourke Street is no longer seedy, it is easy to imagine the poverty and shady deals that would have taken place in the narrow laneways that still exist in this part of Melbourne today...more
Pauline Montagna
Published in 1886 and an immediate best seller, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab was one of the earliest detective stories written in English, predating Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet by a year, and is considered one of the best examples of the genre. As a mystery I must admit it is a bit slight and the identity of the killer is given away very early in the piece, but for this reader its main charm lies in its depiction of my own home town, Melbourne, Australia, where the novel was written a...more
Melbourne on my mind
For something that was written around 120 years ago, this was incredibly readable. I loved the story - it was full of twists and turns and misdirection, and it paints a brilliant picture of 1880s Melbourne. I think at least part of my enjoyment was due to the fact that I knew all the places Hume mentions in detail, so I could get a mental picture of Brian hailing a hansom cab outside Scot's Church, of the cab making its way down St. Kilda Road, of strolls through the Treasury Gardens, and trips...more
Great murder mystery, full of intrigue, twists and characters whom you wish will get their comeuppance. It's a very old book- published 1886, and yet due to the many Phryne Fisher and Georgette Heyer novels I've devoured I felt very comfortable reading. It stands the test of time remarkably well and is wonderful in its references and allusions to Marvelous Melbourne. As a Melbournian I recommend this book just to feel how our city was over 100 years ago.
Fascinating murder mystery, recommended f...more
Marts  (Thinker)
This mystery was quite intriguing. A man is murdered in a most unlikely place, a hansom cab, and though initially it seems as though the mystery of his death is a pretty easy one to solve, some rather minute details make the investigators realise that solving the mystery is much harder than they could ever imagine. The investigation leads those of the legal fraternity into the depths of the lives of some of the most seemingly inappropriate individuals, until they are finally able to piece all th...more
Rjurik Davidson
A body turns up in St Kilda, murdered in a Hansom cab. Leaving aside the quaint social mores of the time, expressed by characters in the book, and in the style and form of the the book itself, this is a terrifically fun little novel. Most striking - especially to a writer - is the tight plotting. Hume, I guess, really thought through his plot before he put it on paper. To a native of Melbourne, the description of the city is delightful, in particular the slums of Little Bourke street. There's pl...more
Laura Rittenhouse
I suspect I gave this book an extra star because it was written in the 1880s - or maybe not. It is a good murder mystery no matter when it was written. There's no blood, gore, violent sex scenes or forensic science; just plain old who-done-it stuff.

The story is set in Melbourne in 18-- (don't you love it when they do the date that way) where a dead man is found in a Hansom Cab by the driver. The corpse's fellow-passenger hopped out early and the police begin the search for the identity of the v...more
I do like a good murder mystery and living in Melbourne I do like books that give me a bit of an insight into what Melbourne was once like. This book is one of the world's first detective mysteries - pre-dating A Study in Scarlet by a year. The story is a bit crappy, to be honest, but it is well worth a read. Particularly if you live in Melbourne. The Mystery is a dead body found in a cab that travels from Collins Street down to St Kilda Junction - now, it is hard to get too much more Melbourne...more
I had this book for quite a while before I finally got around to reading it. I now read it as part of the Spring Challenge 2014 of the Netherlands & Flanders group.

I loved it! It is great the way the author keeps you guessing nearly to the end 'whodunit'. A truely marvellous read which I can surely recommend. I read the English version but I know there is also a Dutch edition available, see Het mysterie van het huurrijtuig.
Well, this is worth a read at least for its place in the history of crime writing. Its has a somewhat Victorian flavour [in both senses, i suppose]. The "true hearted woman", and the 'man of honour'are there. But there is also a way that the characters reflect their colonial background. Despite attempts to copy the English, Australia is essentially a society without inherited class.

The story works well as a mystery, with layers to be peeled away to show the final truth. And for me there is a ple...more
Fergus Hume wrote something close to 130 novels in his life, but it seems none had the impact of this one, which sold 100,000 copies in its initial two print runs, then went on to sell more than a million copies internationally.

The fact he was ripped off on the international sales (fifty quid for the rights? And no other cash? Why not?) possibly explains the other 129 novels. But chicanery aside, it's worth noting how popular the book was on release. Arthur Conan Doyle pooh-poohed it but he pro...more
Richard Ward
Great early mystery novel, it pre-dates Sherlock Holmes by just a little. It's set in Australia, not a common setting for mystery novels nor novels in general. The novelist, a New Zealander, does a great job of drawing the reader into the world of Victorian Melbourne. The plot will remind you of Arthur Conan Doyle at times, but more often of Wilkie Collins, I think. For example, there is not really a Sherlock Holmes type character, a genius crime solver who is able to untangle a puzzle that nobo...more
The novel was a first novel, self-published, and the start of a long and prolific career for Fergus Hume. It's very definitely of its time--late 19th century, just pre-dating the first Sherlock Holmes publications--with the true-hearted woman, the noble man and so on, but it's quite readable for all that. Several plot twists and red herrings make for a storyline that will keep most readers guessing.
Before Sherlock Holmes achieved immortality in the pages of the Strand magazine, this was the biggest-selling detective mystery of its time [1886]. Now in the public domain, a free electronic copy can be found here.
Susan Jo Grassi
I truly enjoyed this story. Written in 1886, it read very much like an historical mystery published today. The story had some major twists and turns which were rather impressive and surprised me. This copy was free for my Kindle and there were several printing errors but they didn't diminish the plot in the least. Well worth reading if you like classical historical mysteries.
It is amazing to think this book is so old! I didn't realise it pre-dates Sherlock Holmes, but I can see how it could have sparked off the detective novel genre. I loved reading the descriptions of 1880's Melbourne, and even though I'd seen the telemovie recently, I'd managed to forget the ending so the twist at the end was a nice surprise!
Bronwyn Rodden
Great old crime/mystery, first major seller and deservedly so. Some archaic language - it is a very old book - but the plotting works well and the author's experience as a lawyer helps to make it more authentic to the time. Important to read if you are interested in the development of the mystery genre.
An excellent story set in The British Colonial community in Australia. It gave a good insight into the life and times of this period. Good characterisations and plot. Considering it was his first full length novel and self published, it is very good. Recommended.
Well, that was fun. The most popular mystery novel the year before Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print. Very Melbourne in plot, very Victorian in character, and quite a fun read. I'm looking forward to more Fergus Hume in the near future.
Michelle Koen
I don't normally read crime and mystery books but this one had me turning the pages all night. I loved that it was set in Melbourne and showed a very different side to a city I know well. An absolutely gripping who dunnit!
This is a fabulous book, not merely a good mystery but a wonderful portrayal of Marvellous Melbourne of the late nineteenth century. All Melburnians should read it to get a glimpse of our city's history.
Loved it! From start to finish, as compelling today as it was when written over a hundred years ago! Can’t wait to see how the TV adaptation works and whether it plays justice to this compelling mystery!
A very good read. Perhaps a little uneven at times in its pacing, but generally very well written, an absorbing mystery, and fascinating to have an insight into Melbourne in about 1886.
Alison Sutherland
A great read, with an extra star for the fascination of reading about my seemingly unchanged hometown of Melbourne. Just in time too as the ABC version is on tv tomorrow!
Very good! Surprised to find one written in 1886 so compelling--like 3 mysteries in one. It's said to be the precursor of Sherlock Holmes and those that followed.
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Fergusson Wright Hume (1859–1932), English lawyer and prolific author spent a number of years in New Zealand and Australia where he began his career of more than thirty years writing detective stories, including his first novel and international best-seller The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886).

Fergusson [Fergus] Wright Hume was born 8 July 1859 at Powick, Worcestershire, England, son of Glaswegian D...more
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