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Jacques Futrelle's "The Thinking Machine"

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  416 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
This irascible genius, this diminutive egghead scientist, known to the world as “The Thinking Machine,” is no less than the newly rediscovered literary link between Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe: Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, who—with only the power of ratiocination—unravels problems of outrageous criminous activity in dazzlingly impossible settings. He can escap ...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Modern Library (first published 1905)
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Feb 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
That was quick and light, the mystery was good but I was a bit disappointed in the ned, I thought it would be something really awesome.

Two scientists had a bet, can one of them get out of a highly secured prison within a week, knowing that he would be treated the same way a sentenced to death guy is.

This is a little description:
"...Chisholm Prison was a great, spreading structure of granite, four stories in all, which stood in the center of acres of open space. It was surrounded by a wall of
Large compilation of short stories all featuring the Thinking Machine, Professor Van Dusen.

The good: Some creative locked room mysteries, some ingenious solutions, little historical gems that were just 'life as we knew it' when written, but strike the modern reader as so different. (like the 'automobile helmets' the young ladies wear when driving in that fast modern car!)

The bad: Wow, an escaped orangutan that kidnaps a baby? Really? Sometimes the solutions to these mysteries are chosen more fo
A short locked room mystery but detailed, well detailed for it's length. I enjoyed the convoluted mystery component and the setting of the isolated and gloomy prison. The characters were a bit egotistic for my liking but all in all an engaging read that will keep you guessing.
Jigar Brahmbhatt
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For sheer pleasure of a mystery story in the manner of Conan Doyle it delivers gloriously. I am sure such pompous characters as the protagonist in this story are rare and a laughable stock in the literature of our times, but don't we miss their audacity? Don't we miss the self-importance with which they say "My name is Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.S., M.D., M.D.S."? Please take note that it's not for comic effect! The dude means it.

Because its a short story (and quit
Jul 10, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fictional
again- another book i picked up through 'league of extraordinary gentlemen'- a sort of bare-bones short story so it was a quick read, but it was engaging. a science-against-humanity sort of thing and although it was a wee far-fetched, it was also a bit surprising and nicely unpredictable.
Doug Kessler
Nov 13, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young boys
How to escape from prison using only shoe polish and rats.
Oct 04, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, this book is very weirdly titled. The spine and title page have Futrelle's name only as a possessive, not as the actual author - very confusing, since usually when a title gets a possessor like that, it's because the present book or movie or whatever is a derivative work by some other author. Not in this case.

I bought it without ever having heard of Futrelle, Professor Van Dusen, or "Cell 13," simply because there it was and it sounded like it would be fun. It absolutely was. The s
Dec 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: children, mystery, classic
An outstanding series of mystery-deduction stories. The hero is Professor S.F.X Van Deusen, aka "The Thinking Machine". I first read a book of some of those stories when I was young, and they made a pretty big impression on me. They're extremely clever and unique.

Futrelle himself was an interesting character, not least in the manner of his death: he was on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. With him, when he died, were several manuscripts for Thinking Machine stories - now lost forever, of course
I've been pecking away at this collection over the last couple of years. Occasionally good, occasionally absurd, nothing that will change my overall opinion of short detective fiction.
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main story, "The Problem of Cell 13," made an impression upon reading it in my youth - it's always remained in my memory. It set a sort of standard for me of human ingenuity. (The other, shorter stories aren't quite as good, so I'm rating the whole book 3 stars.)

Much later I learned the sad fact the the author died on the Titanic.
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book nearly 60 years ago, and it created such a vivid impression that I still remember it today.
Don LeClair
Sort of a quirky American version of Sherlock Holmes, by an author who died on the Titanic.
David Lundgren
First published in 1908 this book, through short stories, relates the exploits of one Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, dubbed The Thinking Machine by his friend, newspaper reporter Hutchinson Hatch. Sort of an updated Sherlock Holmes, the Thinking Machine has all of Holmes' deductive prowess with none of his lovable qualities. Van Dusen is rude and unfeeling, considering anyone who is not his intellectual equal (which was pretty much everyone) to be scarcely worth his time. He does, howeve ...more
Oct 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I liked best about this Modern Library edition of The Thinking Machine was the introduction by the editor, Harlan Ellison.

Ellison, is funny and a font of information. I learned that the mystery stoy was "invendted" by Egar Allan Poe. His analytical investigator Monsieur C Auguste Dupin. The story was "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" published in Grahm's Magazine, April 1841. Did you know that? I didn't. Sure, I have read it, but did I know that it was the first modern detective story? Ellis
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

"A Yankee Sherlock Holmes"

American Jacques Futrelle (who died on the TITANIC) created a brilliant scientist named Professor Van Dusen--a man so perspicacious that he was dubbed "the Thinking Machine" by his reporter friend, Hatch. Set in the early 20th century (an era without TV, computers, cell phones or an FBI data bank) these three tales reveal the fantastic mental processes of the super-logical protagonist. Although Van Dusen is not a professional detective, one wonders if Futrelle was ins
Mar 09, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Alright, fair enough; I haven't finished all of the stories in this compendium yet. However, I dare say I can summarize my opinion already: these stories are worth reading for their bite-sized entertainment and classic deductive mystery structure. If that's what you're looking for, great. Beyond that, a long list of cons: the stories are written in a stilted, dry and clinical style with no artistry, they are at times absurdly fantastical, and in almost all cases the mysteries fall into the "Had ...more
Bob Mackey
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This fairly sizable short story collection contain the best work--according to Harlan Ellison, anyhow--of Jacques Futrelle, a mystery writer who has the distinction of going down with the Titanic. Based on my research, he's fairly unknown, which stands as a real shame because the stories within The Thinking Machine are pretty damned great. Like the work of John Dickson Carr, Futrelle's mysteries feel more like magic tricks than serious examinations of characters or themes: He's much more interes ...more
Ella Blomfeld
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Primero, había tenido que leer el caso del Rubens robado para literatura y termine leyendo el libro completo. Y sdfghj adoro a Augustus Van Dussen y Hutchinson Hatch. Mi favorito fue el primer capitulo, el problema de la celda numero 13. Pero yendo a lo que hice... Y el del Rubens... Me resultaba muy molesto Kale (tonto, ingenuo, fanfarrón) y De Lesseps demasiado... no se, me daban ganas de golpearlo. Pero ese caso, estuvo muy bien resuelto, y fue muy bueno. Mallory desde el principio me cayo un ...more
Aug 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Amazon free sample contains Ellison's intro, so you can get it there. There are no intro's to each story, so that's all the added material to this edition.

I did not read all of this, but I read enough to get the idea.
Long story short, I would have LUUUHHHHHVED this when I was twelve years old.
Now, they are fun diversions.

Harlan Ellison's introduction is a hoot. Apparently he walked off the project TWICE. He's still very much a PITA, but dammit, he's my favorite PITA. He arranged the story o
Julian King
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.S., M.D., M.D.S. is a sort of experiment on the part of the author: what if there was such a person ... ? Dusen's prime (though not sole) characteristic is his commitment to reason above all things, much in the vein of the better-known Sherlock.

He has not the charisma of Holmes (but I wonder if that's not prejudice on our part?), and there is no Watson character in the stories I have read to date. There is a distinctly European flavour to
Dione Basseri
A mix of Houdini and Sherlock Holmes, the "Thinking Machine" is a man who professes that any problem may be solved with the application of logic, and seeks to do so by volunteering to be incarcerated, vowing to release himself within a week. We see the rest of the story from the view of the non-incarcerated, whom chuckle over the man's clumsy escape attempts...until he does escape. Not whodunit, but HOWdunit?

A fun story fit for fans of old mysteries. This is in the public domain, and is availabl
Feb 11, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of all the Sherlock clones, this is by far the best. Sure, you get tired of reading how two plus two equals four always, but you also have to keep in mind that these were meant to be read at the rate of one every month or so.

Interesting fact about Futrelle: He and his wife were on the Titanic. He refused to get into the life boat with her and went down with the ship. To underscore how close their relationship was, there is one story in the collection where she wrote the puzzle, and he had to co
Mike Jensen
TM was one of the other Victorian-era detective series that capitalized on the Sherlock Holmes phenomena, and the only one that I think holds up today. Ultimately, TM is not a very interesting character since all he does is think and act superior to others and the stories are improbable, but the author creates puzzles that truly surprise because they are so improbable and Futrelle does his best to sell them. I would be hard-pressed to recommend these stories to most people, but some few will fin ...more
Lizabeth Tucker
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Professor Van Dusen, aka The Thinking Machine, accepts a challenge from his friends. He must escape from a cell used to confine murderers without using anything the normal prisoner wouldn’t have.

First, a warning, there is violence to a rat within the story. This tale could be classified as a jail escape caper, based on the things the Professor does. While The Thinking Machine is anything but likeable, his methods are intriguing. I did feel so sorry for the poor warden. 4.5 out of 5.
I became interested in reading Mr. Futrelle's work after seeing him as a lead character in Max Allan Collin's Disaster series move, Murder on the Titanic. While his work is dated it is better than a lot I have read from that time period. These fifty stories, in ebook format, probably constitute about 1100 some pages. It took me a while to get through the book as it is, in my opinion, best done in small doses.
Jul 12, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
James Hold
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably Futrelle's best-know work but all his stuff is worth reading. The stories are clever, the hero's likable but a bit overbearing at times (but not to the degree of Sherlock Holmes or Professor Challenger whom you'd like to throttle for being such arrogant a-holes). Futrelle's style is clear, plain, and straight-forward. Nothing fancy. Which I like immensely.
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My edition appears to be abridged, but nevertheless, this is a fun romp of little mysteries and puzzles that only the great Thinking Machine could solve. Not quite Sherlock Holmes and while perhaps a bit Scooby Doo at times. Fun, quick and clever.
Bret Pehrson
May 15, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read Cell 13 as a kid, and it was a memorable tale. When the compendium was released, I had to get it.

I was somewhat disappointed w/ the other stories, some were downright boring. In all, a worthwhile read.
Aug 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty fun book taking you back to the early days of detective stories and murder mysteries. Like Sherlock Holmes, but with more logic and science. Also, it's a bunch of bite size short tales, which makes it really easy to read. Just fun.
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Jacques Heath Futrelle (1875-1912) was an American journalist and mystery writer. He is best known for writing short detective stories featuring the "Thinking Machine", Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen. He worked for the Atlanta Journal, where he began their sports section; the New York Herald; the Boston Post; and the Boston American. In 1905, his Thinking Machine character first appeared in ...more
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