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The Mystery of a Hansom Cab

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  1,170 ratings  ·  197 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, Text Classics, 410 pages
Published 2012 by Text Publishing (first published 1886)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
Apr 30, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Victorian mysteries.

I wanted to read this novel as soon as I found out that;

☞ Although Hume was born & died in England and wrote his most famous work (this one) while living in Australia, his time in NZ obviously meant a lot to him and he identified as a Kiwi for the rest of his life.

I can relate to that. I am still a Canadian citizen but I always feel 100% like a New Zealander. Home is where your heart is. ♥

☞ This book supposedly inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write his
Jul 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle

I would have known nothing about this novel and its author had it not been for listening to an interview with the author of this book. The interview left me intrigued. At the time I was about to spend a weekend in Melbourne, so downloading the work, which is well and truly in the public domain, seemed like a good idea.

The fact that it took me quite a few weeks to read, even though it's a relatively short work is an indication that I found it less than compelling. However, there wasn't a time wh
Nancy Oakes
The bottom line is that I really liked this book -- another ahhhhh read in my history-of-mystery project for 2017. It is yet another one, like The Leavenworth Case that comes right down to the wire in unmasking the killer, and yet another that belongs in the category of classic mystery fiction.

The story itself is a mix of crime, investigations, courtroom drama, melodrama, and elements of sensation fiction, complete with dark secrets from the past. The novel begins with a report from the Argus o
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 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
3.5 stars for the LibriVox audiobook narrated by Sibella Denton.

A fun mystery - parts were a little predictable but that didn't interfere with my enjoyment. Hume managed to keep me wondering about who the culprit was right to the end.
Oct 31, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fergus Hume's 'The Mystery of a Hansom Cab', first published in Australia, was one of the most successful of Victorian mystery novels and when it was published in England, it became a phenomenal seller. Hume made no money from the venture, however, for he sold the rights of the book for just £50 and, even though he went on to write more than 140 novels, none of them gained the success of this one.

It begins very promisingly with a body discovered in an otherwise empty hansom cab and the descripti
Aug 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: passed-on
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
Sep 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
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
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Just saying, if the author's foreword includes spoilers to the solution of the mystery, it really oughta be an afterword.

Aside from that, about 2.5 stars. The mystery was of average complexity, the characters and storytelling style pretty melodramatic (I got an ironic chuckle out of the fact that The Leavenworth Case was mentioned and referred to as "light" reading, when I'd rate The Mystery of a Hansom Cab rather lighter). Probably the most fun aspect was the setting of Victorian-era Australia,
Pauline Montagna
Jul 19, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jennifer (JC-S)
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘The best-selling crime novel of the nineteenth century.’

‘Truth is said to be stranger than fiction, and certainly the extraordinary murder which took place in Melbourne on Thursday night, or rather Friday morning, goes a long way towards verifying this saying.’

Melbourne, 18--. An unknown man is found dead in a hansom cab late one night. How did he die? Earlier, this man and another unknown man had hailed a hansom cab and had asked to be taken to St Kilda. The unknown man changed his mind and wa
Trigger warnings: murder, death, alcohol abuse.

I love this book. It's full of great characters. The setting is wonderful (me, biased? Whaaaaat??). The mystery is engaging and kept me guessing, even on reread. And on reread, I noticed just how much humour is in the story, and how many iconically Melbourne things are present in it, even 130+ years later. There's a sentence fairly early on about how it's a really hot day and how it should be a December day but the "clerk of the weather" g
Natalie Robinson
May 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the first book we read for our Melbourne book club (books set in or about Melbourne), and it had all of the recognisable landmarks and streets that I was hoping for.
It doesn't seem too dated, the story was very gripping! It kept you guessing until the end. The characters were still relatable, with only minimal swooning from the ladies and chauvinism from the gents. And it described Melbourne beautifully!
Gary Vassallo
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
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.
Alexandra Daw
I have wanted to read this for a long while - possibly since I studied Australian Literature at Sydney Uni all those years ago with Stephen Knight. I purchased the Text Classics version at the NLA bookshop while in Canberra last week for $12.95 but of course you can read it for free online if you so desire only you might find that those editions are bowdlerised. I really like Text Classics because, a bit like Penguin Classics, they always come with an Introduction which sets the work in the cont ...more
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not available through my library sources, so was glad to find it read on Librivox. 2.5 stars for some interesting twists and turns, but still rather a grim story w/ characters the likes of "Mother Guttersnipe". It did end on a better note than where it at times seemed headed and I did enjoy the references to Melbourne streets and places. ...more
This was better than the other two Fergus Hume mysteries that I read lately, but I am still not a huge fan. Something about his writing style maybe. The solution at the end was a bit surprising and not a total disappointment.
Aug 25, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Victoria Kennedy
Jun 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
Originally published on My Books Are Me -

As someone who doesn't really read crime mysteries, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially since it was required university reading for my Australian Literature course.

A body is found murdered in a Hansom Cab, and police soon discover that it's a man named Oliver Whyte. But now the real question is, who on earth is the killer and why was he killed? Through some investigation, detective Mr. Gorby believes it to be Brian F
Mar 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I discovered 'The Mystery of a Hansom Cab' by Fergus Hume recently and just finished reading it.

A man comes out of a bar in the middle of the night. He is drunk. Another man accompanying him hails a hansom cab and asks the can driver to drop him home and leaves. While the cab driver is trying to get the drunk man into the cab, the companion turns up again and says he will also accompany his friend. But halfway to the destination, he gets out and leaves. When the cab reaches the rough destinatio
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Text Publishing
‘One of the hundred best crime novels of all time.’
Sunday Telegraph

‘Well written and immensely readable.’
Daily Telegraph

‘An absolute ripper. A plot full of astonishing twists and turns, and brilliant evocation of 19th-Century Melbourne that captures its charm, bustle and rawness.’
Inside Melbourne

‘A splendidly romantic melodrama, full of period charm, and Victorian sentiment…The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is not only a classic but hugely enjoyable as well.’
West Australian

‘Fiendishly cunning.’
Shane M
Rjurik Davidson
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 28, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature, mystery
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
Marts  (Thinker)
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime
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
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
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
Sean Kennedy
Apr 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Pre-dating even Sherlock Holmes, this is Melbourne's first ever murder mystery novel. Although the pacing is slow and the resolution of the killer is slightly lacklustre and even easy to guess, it was a definite treat to see Melbourne as she was at the time of writing. I never knew Fitzroy Gardens used to have lockable gates surrounding them! Wish I had known that during all my traipses through there. ...more
Apr 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this mystery and found it very different from any I have read before. I recommend it both for exposure to a different (to me) writing approach and for the story itself.
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Fergusson Wright Hume (1859–1932), New Zealand lawyer and prolific author particularly renowned for his debut novel, the international best-seller The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886).

Hume was born at Powick, Worcestershire, England, son of Glaswegian Dr. James Collin Hume, a steward at the Worcestershire Pauper Lunatic Asylum and his wife Mary Ferguson.

While Fergus was a very young child, in 1863

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