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Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman

(A.J. Raffles, The Gentleman Thief #1)

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  2,033 ratings  ·  216 reviews
Gentleman thief Raffles is daring, debonair, devilishly handsome-and a first-rate cricketer. In these eight stories, the master burglar indulges his passion for cricket and crime: stealing jewels from a country house, outwitting the law, pilfering from the nouveau riche, and, of course, bowling like a demon-all with the assistance of his plucky sidekick, Bunny.

Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 26th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1898)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  2,033 ratings  ·  216 reviews

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Start your review of Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman (A.J. Raffles, The Gentleman Thief #1)
Oct 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
the idea of raffles, the gentleman thief, obverse of the legendary sherlock holmes, gentleman detective (the creation of hornung's esteemed brother-in-law arthur conan doyle), thrills me. and i can't say i don't normally adore the idea of working outside the law to balance the scales of justice -- i watch timothy hutton's modern-day robin hood crew on leverage as often as possible. there is no doubt that raffles is in some ways the progenitor of this type of character but in reading the book i ...more
January 2011

Good news, Americans! You don't have to know anything about cricket to read and enjoy this!

Meet A. J. Raffles: gentleman, independent bachelor, London man-about-town, champion cricketeer--er, cricketman--I mean, player-of-cricket--and...thief? Surely not! Surely so: how else could this gentleman of leisure afford to play poor man's baseball--I mean, cricket, sorry--whenever he likes? One must make money somehow, God wot, and Raffles' way is only slightly more dishonest than others.
Dec 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
Raffles and Bunny are two young gentlemen with large debts and no desire to work for a living. They turn to crime, specifically burglary, to continue to live their lives of idle luxury. The stories are clearly inspired by and partially parodies of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Raffles is cold, logical, and nigh-superhuman. Bunny is dim enough that the reader gets the pleasure of knowing more than he does and sniggering at all that he misses. It's got some casual racism typical of its time, and no ...more
Sep 06, 2015 rated it liked it
An utterly delightful romp; more fun than Holmes.
Jun 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: victorian, london, 1890s, crime
The embodiment of fin de siècle decadence, dashing A. J. Raffles artfully commits crime for crime’s sake. Bored with life as a master cricketer, Raffles turns to a life of crime to stifle his ennui – and pad his purse. His conscience-bitten sidekick, Bunny, accompanies him as he burgles Victorian London’s rogues, ruthless, and “rich and undeserving.” In the eight short stories that make up Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1899), E. W. Hornung creates an anti-Sherlock Holmes – a character who ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Well enough written but absolutely mind-numbing. Raffles is a dick and Bunny is caught in his headlights.

Written as an anti-hero with his brother-in-law's real hero in sight (Holmes), I can only suggest he failed miserably to redress the balance.
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

From BBC Radio 4Extra:
Bunny is surprised and pleased to be invited by Raffles to share the latter's self-imposed 'rest cure' in a large house in Kensington.

But Raffles, needless to say, has his own somewhat nefarious reasons for wanting to take a holiday...

Starring Jeremy Clyde as AJ Raffles, Michael Cochrane as Bunny Manders, Christopher Benjamin as Colonel Crutchley, Laurence Payne as the Porter and Norman Bird as the Cabby.

EW Hornung's Raffles
Stephen Robert Collins
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Sherlock Holmes was written by Conan Doyle but his brother in law got sick of him & his ego going and on about Holmes so he decided to put pen to paper but instead of dective he created a Robin Hood style anti hero Raffles
Did not finish.

A. J. Raffles must be just about THE most annoying character ever created. Narcisistic, and borderline psychopathic. And Bunny is a snivelling little wimp.

Managed two and a half stories before throwing in the towel.
Patrick Murtha
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A.J. Raffles periodically re-surfaces as a classic character of popular fiction, and just as quickly drops out of sight again, exactly as E.W. Hornung frequently describes him doing in the 26 short stories and single novel that he devoted to Raffles - about half the output that Arthur Conan Doyle produced about Sherlock Holmes. Hornung, famously, was married to Conan Doyle's sister, and patterned his stories of the gentleman thief and champion cricketer Raffles, and his sidekick Bunny Mander, ...more
Nov 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Daniel by: Rose
It would be impossible to read "The Amateur Cracksman" -- the first of E.W. Hornung's books featuring gentleman thief A.J. Raffles and his sidekick and chronicler Bunny -- without comparing it to the Sherlock Holmes books. Hornung, after all, was Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law, and he created Raffles as something of a reversal of Holmes -- a character as cunning as the famous detective, and as much a master of disguise, but prone to using his ingenuity to commit crimes rather than solve ...more
DeAnna Knippling
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
A gentleman thief who is no gentleman!

I'd read a couple of other classic gentleman-thief books (Lupin, Phantomas), so I was expecting something similar. Nope. These are the stories of how two men-about-town slide down the slippery slope of crime, with no pretense of solving crimes or stealing from the rich to give to the poor. There's acid to the stories--as if we were reading the modern stories of how a famous sports figure and a famous journalist, presumed to be wealthy on the basis of their
Jun 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adventure
Raffles is such an appealing character that it is a wonder that no other writer has quite captured his spirit. He is one of a class of well-educated young nineteenth-century swells, fit for earning no living, having apparently inherited no fortune, yet expected to live like gentlemen of means.

In an earlier age, younger sons or the sons of impecunious gentlemen would have ridden off to the Crusades, or crept into poor livings as clergymen. By the Victorian age, growing numbers of such boys had
Michael P.
Where to start? These stores are a sort of reverse Sherlock Holmes. The protagonist, a thief, takes the man who chronicles his adventures with him on his capers, and these stories are set in roughly the same time period and in mostly similar places. Whereas, however, Doyle wrote with wonderful flare and style, E. W. Hornung does not. The lines are flat and unengaging. Raffles is no Holmes. Though both share a penchant for keeping their friend in the dark in order to surprise the reader, his ...more
Raffles and Bunny are buddies! They are buddies with a complex setup though, since A.J. Raffles lead his old school chum Bunny (our narrator) into a life of “amateur” crime which forever complicates their lives. If nothing else, this is an interesting window into late 19th century England, where high class men gambled away everything they had and would rather steal than resort to work.

Like many have pointed out, this is very like Holmes and Watson's dynamic, only applied to thieves rather than
Jan 25, 2018 rated it liked it
bunny is definitely in love with raffles.
Jeff Johnston
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I certainly liked the idea portrayed by Horning (Raffles 'The Gentleman Thief'), however for me there was never enough content, intrigue or character building of the protagonists within each internal affair.

This was the first story from an Omnibus 'The Collected Raffles'. Hopefully, the next couple stories will deliver more.
Andrew Logan
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an adventure. This is nonsense. This is (mainly) fun. It is limited and absurd. It is more a view of how people liked to imagine their society (as a place where people like this might exist) than it is a book that gives a view of a society as it once was.

This edition has a wealth of footnotes, most of which seem right and useful (and some of which are one or the other and some, I think, neither).

Definitely worth a look. Weak ending but overall very much a good read.
Nov 11, 2012 rated it liked it
**edited 02/02/14

The Raffles stories are basically the British version of Arsene Lupin: they feature a hyperintelligent Sherlock Holmes-like character who uses his skills to transgress the law rather than defend it. Raffles' adventures are rather more serious and straightforward than the often spoofy escapades of Lupin and his nemesis "Holmlock Shears." Like the Holmes stories, Raffles' adventures are narrated by a loyal and rather less intelligent sidekick. However, narrator Bunny Manders
Dec 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A.J. Raffles is a gentleman thief and first class amateur cricket player. With the narrator, his sidekick known as Bunny, he uses his position in society to liberate valuables from their owners.

Hornung was Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law. The book is dedicated to Conan Doyle and these stories certainly owe something to him, although Raffles is on the other side of the law to Holmes.

The stories are fun and Raffles is an engaging character. From time to time he has to justify his dubious
Aug 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
E.W. Hornung was Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law, and although he is not nearly as well known as that luminary, he was quite popular in late Victorian and Edwardian times. Raffles is his most successful book, a collection of tales of a gentleman thief. The title character is dashing and debonair, not to mention a first-class cricket player. (Think David Niven as the Pink Panther and you've got an idea.) He steals jewels from foppish rich folk and outwits the slow-on-the-uptake law at every ...more
Mariano Zomeño
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Two queer, bohemian victorian thieves stealing from the unlawfully rich to live away from society? Sign me up!

The history of these stories is, in itself, quite telling: written by Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law, they were made to be a "dark reflection" of the detective and his faithful doctor: instead of siding with the law, they make their own and follow a life of crime.

But, even then, the result was far from dark. We do not find two murderers, or violent criminals. Instead, the result is
Rachel Francis
I read the first story of the book, and was around half way through the second before I decided to give up - this book is irritatingly dull. Though the stories are short, Hornung still manages to pack them with hyperbole and filler; in fact the content of the plot could easily fit on one page. The rest of each story (the first two, at least) is filled with the narrator's constant surprise and shock at the less-than-shocking protagonist, Raffles. The exclamation marks, generously decorating each ...more
Sep 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics, mystery
Always had a soft spot for the various gentlemen adventurers/detectives/thieves of the late 1800's/early nineteen hundreds.
They were fun, living in a world of leisure, adventure, wealth and charming women that is no more realistic than Ian Flemming's England or pulp novels set in the old west.

The two big gentlemen thieves of the time were Raffles and Lupin.
While Lupin was the better of the two, more suave and tricky, Raffles had a reliable sidekick, a more low key style and was steeped in
Julie Davis
Feb 27, 2016 rated it liked it
E.W. Hornung dedicated this collection stories to his brother-in-law, Arthur Conan Doyle. That makes any comparison fair game between the team of Holmes and Watson to this pairing of Raffles and Harry "Bunny". The main difference is that Raffles is a burglar, helped by his sidekick Bunny. Bunny is often clueless about Raffles' plans and also reluctant to help. It isn't really very gentlemanly, you know. However, he definitely needs cash and isn't going to take a job, so he burgles alongside his ...more
A friend of mine introduced me to Raffles during my graduate-school days (daze?) at UCLA. EW Hornung was the brother-in-law of Conan Doyle; and Raffles, the criminal counterpart to Holmes (though Hornung "redeemed" him in his final adventure, gallantly defending the Empire).

Raffles is not as striking a character as Holmes and his companion (Bunny) is not Dr. Watson but the stories are entertaining.
Leticia Supple
Dec 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
I love Raffles and his offsider Bunny. These guys are to crime what Sherlock Holmes is to solving crime! Interesting that the author, E.W. Hornung, was also Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's son-in-law; so it makes it extra-special in those stories where Raffles and Holmes come face-to-face. When you know this, the entire thing seems like a family joke.

I'm not going to go into detail; suffice to say, that if you haven't read Raffles, you must. Your life is incomplete if you haven't.
Daniel Sevitt
Nov 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Well that was a rum little thing. Holmes and Watson as thieves written by Conan Doyle's brother-in-law. Only they're not terribly good. Raffles is far from perfect. He's a bit of a lunatic. Bunny contributes almost nothing. It's all a bit of a mess.

And yet... the stories contain the bare-bones tropes if every heist movie and anti-hero thief story ever told.
Gina Dalfonzo
Entertaining -- if not exactly moral -- tales of a gentleman burglar . . . written by Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law! (It's a great pity they never got together and wrote "Sherlock Holmes Meets Raffles.") One can make a case that the stories effectively satirize the values of turn-of-the-century British society -- but even so, they're still pretty amoral.
Mar 27, 2013 rated it liked it
2.5* Enjoyable, light reading.(All comparisons to Sherlock fall flat in my opinion, though. Raffles is not a counterpart to the great detective - Moriarty already fills that bill.)I had expected the stories to be more complicated because of the comparison, but they're of a lighter tone altogether.
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Ernest William Hornung known as Willie, was an English author, most famous for writing the Raffles series of novels about a gentleman thief in late Victorian London.

In addition to his novels and short stories Hornung wrote some war verse, and a play based on the Raffles stories was produced successfully. He was much interested in cricket, and was "a man of large and generous nature, a delightful

Other books in the series

A.J. Raffles, The Gentleman Thief (4 books)
  • Raffles: Further Adventures of the Amateur Cracksman
  • A Thief in the Night
  • Mr. Justice Raffles (A.J. Raffles, The Gentleman Thief #4)
“Money lost -- little lost. Honour lost -- much lost. Pluck lost -- all lost.” 7 likes
“I was afraid I wrote neither well enough nor ill enough for success.” 3 likes
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