image: Max Carrados, Ernest Bramah’s blind detective, essayed by Robert Stephens in
'The Case of the Missing Witness'
- Max Carrados is a blind detective who has developed his own remaining senses
to a superior level and who has enlisted the superior observations skills of his
butler to fill in for any deficiency of his own. His visual deficiency is no
obstacle to solving the most difficult cases. As with some better known sleuths,
Mr. Carrados' feats amaze, entertain and satisfy.
It was eight o'clock at night and raining, scarcely a time when a
business so limited in its clientele as that of a coin dealer could hope
to attract any customer, but a light was still showing in the small shop
that bore over its window the name of Baxter, and in the even smaller
office at the back the proprietor himself sat reading the latest _Pall
Mall_. His enterprise seemed to be justified, for presently the door
bell gave its announcement, and throwing down his paper Mr Baxter went
As a matter of fact the dealer had been expecting someone and his manner
as he passed into the shop was unmistakably suggestive of a caller of
importance. But at the first glance towards his visitor the excess of
deference melted out of his bearing, leaving the urbane, self-possessed
shopman in the presence of the casual customer.
"Mr Baxter, I think?" said the latter. He had laid aside his dripping
umbrella and was unbuttoning overcoat and coat to reach an inner pocket.
"You hardly remember me, I suppose? Mr Carlyle — two years ago I took up
a case for you —"
"To be sure. Mr Carlyle, the private detective —"
"Inquiry agent," corrected Mr Carlyle precisely.
"Well," smiled Mr Baxter, "for that matter I am a coin dealer and not an
antiquarian or a numismatist. Is there anything in that way that I can
do for you?"
"Yes," replied his visitor; "it is my turn to consult you." He had taken
a small wash-leather bag from the inner pocket and now turned something
carefully out upon the counter. "What can you tell me about that?"
The dealer gave the coin a moment's scrutiny.
"There is no question about this," he replied. "It is a Sicilian
tetradrachm of Dionysius."
"Yes, I know that... I have it on the label out of the cabinet. I can tell
you further that it's supposed to be one that Lord Seastoke gave two
hundred and fifty pounds for at the Brice sale in '94."
"It seems to me that you can tell me more about it than I can tell you,"
remarked Mr Baxter. "What is it that you really want to know?"
"I want to know," replied Mr Carlyle, "whether it is genuine or not."
"Has any doubt been cast upon it?"
"Certain circumstances raised a suspicion
— that is all."
The dealer took another look at the tetradrachm through his magnifying
glass, holding it by the edge with the careful touch of an expert. Then
he shook his head slowly in a confession of ignorance.
"Of course I could make a guess
"No, don't," interrupted Mr Carlyle hastily. "An arrest hangs on it and
nothing short of certainty is any good to me."
"Is that so, Mr Carlyle?" said Mr Baxter, with increased interest.
"Well, to be quite candid, the thing is out of my line. Now if it was a
rare Saxon penny or a doubtful noble I'd stake my reputation on my
opinion, but I do very little in the classical series."
Mr Carlyle did not attempt to conceal his disappointment as he returned
the coin to the bag and replaced the bag in the inner pocket.
"I had been relying on you," he grumbled reproachfully. "Where on earth
am I to go now?"
"There is always the British Museum."
"Ah, to be sure, thanks. But will anyone who can tell me be there now?"
"Now? No fear!" replied Mr Baxter. "Go round in the morning..."
"But I must know to-night," explained the visitor, reduced to despair
again. "To-morrow will be too late for the purpose."
Mr Baxter did not hold out much encouragement in the circumstances.
"You can scarcely expect to find anyone at business now," he remarked.
"I should have been gone these two hours myself only I happened to have
an appointment with an American millionaire who fixed his own time."
Something indistinguishable from a wink slid off Mr Baxter's right eye.
"Offmunson he's called, and a bright young pedigree-hunter has traced
his descent from Offa, King of Mercia. So he - quite naturally - wants a
set of Offas as a sort of collateral proof."
"Very interesting," murmured Mr Carlyle, fidgeting with his watch. "I
should love an hour's chat with you about your millionaire
customers - some other time. Just now - look here, Baxter, can't you give
me a line of introduction to some dealer in this sort of thing who
happens to live in town? You must know dozens of experts."
"Why, bless my soul, Mr Carlyle, I don't know a man of them away from
his business," said Mr Baxter, staring. "They may live in Park Lane or
they may live in Petticoat Lane for all I know. Besides, there aren't so
many experts as you seem to imagine. And the two best will very likely
quarrel over it. You've had to do with 'expert witnesses,' I suppose?"
"I don't want a witness; there will be no need to give evidence. All I
want is an absolutely authoritative pronouncement that I can act on. Is
there no one who can really say whether the thing is genuine or not?"
Mr Baxter's meaning silence became cynical in its implication as he
continued to look at his visitor across the counter. Then he relaxed.
"Stay a bit; there is a man — an amateur — I remember hearing wonderful
things about some time ago. They say he really does know."
"There you are," exclaimed Mr Carlyle, much relieved. "There always is
someone. Who is he?"
"Funny name," replied Baxter. "Something Wynn or Wynn something." He
craned his neck to catch sight of an important motor car that was
drawing to the kerb before his window. "Wynn Carrados! You'll excuse me
now, Mr Carlyle, won't you? This looks like Mr Offmunson."
Mr Carlyle hastily scribbled the name down on his cuff.
"Wynn Carrados, right. Where does he live?"
"Haven't the remotest idea," replied Baxter, referring the arrangement
of his tie to the judgment of the wall mirror. "I have never seen the
man myself. Now, Mr Carlyle, I'm sorry I can't do any more for you. You
won't mind, will you?"
Mr Carlyle could not pretend to misunderstand. He enjoyed the
distinction of holding open the door for the transatlantic
representative of the line of Offa as he went out, and then made his way
through the muddy streets back to his office. There was only one way of
tracing a private individual at such short notice — through the pages of
the directories, and the gentleman did not flatter himself by a very
high estimate of his chances.
Fortune favoured him, however. He very soon discovered a Wynn Carrados
living at Richmond, and, better still, further search failed to unearth
another. There was, apparently, only one householder at all events of
that name in the neighbourhood of London. He jotted down the address and
set out for Richmond.
The house was some distance from the station, Mr Carlyle learned. He
took a taxicab and drove, dismissing the vehicle at the gate. He prided
himself on his power of observation and the accuracy of the deductions
which resulted from it — a detail of his business. "It's nothing more
than using one's eyes and putting two and two together," he would
modestly declare, when he wished to be deprecatory rather than
impressive, and by the time he had reached the front door of "The
Turrets" he had formed some opinion of the position and tastes of the
man who lived there.
A man-servant admitted Mr Carlyle and took in his card — his private card
with the bare request for an interview that would not detain Mr Carrados
for ten minutes. Luck still favoured him; Mr Carrados was at home and
would see him at once. The servant, the hall through which they passed,
and the room into which he was shown, all contributed something to the
deductions which the quietly observant gentleman was half unconsciously
"Mr Carlyle," announced the servant.
The room was a library or study. The only occupant, a man of about
Carlyle's own age, had been using a typewriter up to the moment of his
visitor's entrance. He now turned and stood up with an expression of
"It's very good of you to see me at this hour," apologized the caller.
The conventional expression of Mr Carrados's face changed a little.
"Surely my man has got your name wrong?" he exclaimed. "Isn't it Louis
The visitor stopped short and his agreeable smile gave place to a sudden
flash of anger or annoyance.
"No, sir," he replied stiffly. "My name is on the card which you have
"I beg your pardon," said Mr Carrados, with perfect good-humour. "I
hadn't seen it. But I used to know a Calling some years ago — at St
"St Michael's!" Mr Carlyle's features underwent another change, no less
instant and sweeping than before. "St Michael's! Wynn Carrados? Good
heavens! it isn't Max Wynn — old 'Winning' Wynn?"
"A little older and a little fatter — yes," replied Carrados. "I have
changed my name, you see."
"Extraordinary thing meeting like this," said his visitor, dropping into
a chair and staring hard at Mr Carrados. "I have changed more than my
name. How did you recognize me?"
"The voice," replied Carrados. "It took me back to that little
smoke-dried attic den of yours where we ——"
"My God!" exclaimed Carlyle bitterly, "don't remind me of what we were
going to do in those days." He looked round the well-furnished, handsome
room and recalled the other signs of wealth that he had noticed. "At all
events, you seem fairly comfortable, Wynn."
"I am alternately envied and pitied," replied Carrados, with a placid
tolerance of circumstance that seemed characteristic of him. "Still, as
you say, I am fairly comfortable."
"Envied, I can understand. But why are you pitied?"
"Because I am blind," was the tranquil reply.
"Blind!" exclaimed Mr Carlyle, using his own eyes superlatively. "Do you
mean — literally blind?"
"Literally... I was riding along a bridle-path through a wood about a
dozen years ago with a friend. He was in front. At one point a twig
sprang back — you know how easily a thing like that happens. It just
flicked my eye — nothing to think twice about."
"And that blinded you?"
"Yes, ultimately. It's called amaurosis."
"I can scarcely believe it. You seem so sure and self-reliant. Your eyes
are full of expression — only a little quieter than they used to be. I
believe you were typing when I came... Aren't you having me?"
"You miss the dog and the stick?" smiled Carrados. "No; it's a fact."
"What an awful infliction for you, Max. You were always such an
impulsive, reckless sort of fellow — never quiet. You must miss such a
"Has anyone else recognized you?" asked Carrados quietly.
"Ah, that was the voice, you said," replied Carlyle.
"Yes; but other people heard the voice as well. Only I had no
blundering, self-confident eyes to be hoodwinked."
"That's a rum way of putting it," said Carlyle. "Are your ears never
hoodwinked, may I ask?"
"Not now. Nor my fingers. Nor any of my other senses that have to look
out for themselves."
"Well, well," murmured Mr Carlyle, cut short in his sympathetic
emotions. "I'm glad you take it so well. Of course, if you find it an
advantage to be blind, old man ——" He stopped and reddened. "I beg your
pardon," he concluded stiffly.
"Not an advantage perhaps," replied the other thoughtfully. "Still it
has compensations that one might not think of. A new world to explore,
new experiences, new powers awakening; strange new perceptions; life in
the fourth dimension. But why do you beg my pardon, Louis?"
"I am an ex-solicitor, struck off in connexion with the falsifying of a
trust account, Mr Carrados," replied Carlyle, rising.
"Sit down, Louis," said Carrados suavely. His face, even his incredibly
living eyes, beamed placid good-nature. "The chair on which you will
sit, the roof above you, all the comfortable surroundings to which you
have so amiably alluded, are the direct result of falsifying a trust
account. But do I call you 'Mr Carlyle' in consequence? Certainly not,
"I did not falsify the account," cried Carlyle hotly. He sat down,
however, and added more quietly: "But why do I tell you all this? I have
never spoken of it before."
"Blindness invites confidence," replied Carrados. "We are out of the
running — human rivalry ceases to exist. Besides, why shouldn't you? In
my case the account was falsified."
"Of course that's all bunkum, Max," commented Carlyle. "Still, I
appreciate your motive."
"Practically everything I possess was left to me by an American cousin,
on the condition that I took the name of Carrados. He made his fortune
by an ingenious conspiracy of doctoring the crop reports and unloading
favourably in consequence. And I need hardly remind you that the
receiver is equally guilty with the thief."
"But twice as safe. I know something of that, Max... Have you any idea
what my business is?"
"You shall tell me," replied Carrados.
"I run a private inquiry agency. When I lost my profession I had to do
something for a living. This occurred. I dropped my name, changed my
appearance and opened an office. I knew the legal side down to the
ground and I got a retired Scotland Yard man to organize the outside
"Excellent!" cried Carrados. "Do you unearth many murders?"
"No," admitted Mr Carlyle; "our business lies mostly on the conventional
lines among divorce and defalcation."
"That's a pity," remarked Carrados. "Do you know, Louis, I always had a
secret ambition to be a detective myself. I have even thought lately
that I might still be able to do something at it if the chance came my
way. That makes you smile?"
"Well, certainly, the idea ——"
"Yes, the idea of a blind detective — the blind tracking the alert ——"
"Of course, as you say, certain faculties are no doubt quickened," Mr
Carlyle hastened to add considerately, "but, seriously, with the
exception of an artist, I don't suppose there is any man who is more
utterly dependent on his eyes."
Whatever opinion Carrados might have held privately, his genial exterior
did not betray a shadow of dissent. For a full minute he continued to
smoke as though he derived an actual visual enjoyment from the blue
sprays that travelled and dispersed across the room. He had already
placed before his visitor a box containing cigars of a brand which that
gentleman keenly appreciated but generally regarded as unattainable, and
the matter-of-fact ease and certainty with which the blind man had
brought the box and put it before him had sent a questioning flicker
through Carlyle's mind.
"You used to be rather fond of art yourself, Louis," he remarked
presently. "Give me your opinion of my latest purchase — the bronze lion
on the cabinet there." Then, as Carlyle's gaze went about the room, he
added quickly: "No, not that cabinet — the one on your left."
Carlyle shot a sharp glance at his host as he got up, but Carrados's
expression was merely benignly complacent. Then he strolled across to
"Very nice," he admitted. "Late Flemish, isn't it?"
"No. It is a copy of Vidal's 'Roaring lion.'"
"A French artist." The voice became indescribably flat. "He, also, had
the misfortune to be blind, by the way."
"You old humbug, Max!" shrieked Carlyle, "you've been thinking that out
for the last five minutes." Then the unfortunate man bit his lip and
turned his back towards his host.
"Do you remember how we used to pile it up on that obtuse ass Sanders
and then roast him?" asked Carrados, ignoring the half-smothered
exclamation with which the other man had recalled himself.
"Yes," replied Carlyle quietly. "This is very good," he continued,
addressing himself to the bronze again. "How ever did he do it?"
"With his hands."
"Naturally. But, I mean, how did he study his model?"
"Also with his hands. He called it 'seeing near.'"
"Even with a lion — handled it?"
"In such cases he required the services of a keeper, who brought the
animal to bay while Vidal exercised his own particular gifts... You
don't feel inclined to put me on the track of a mystery, Louis?"
Unable to regard this request as anything but one of old Max's
unquenchable pleasantries, Mr Carlyle was on the point of making a
suitable reply when a sudden thought caused him to smile knowingly. Up
to that point he had, indeed, completely forgotten the object of his
visit. Now that he remembered the doubtful Dionysius and Mr Baxter's
recommendation he immediately assumed that some mistake had been made.
Either Max was not the Wynn Carrados he had been seeking or else the
dealer had been misinformed; for although his host was wonderfully
expert in the face of his misfortune, it was inconceivable that he could
decide the genuineness of a coin without seeing it. The opportunity
seemed a good one of getting even with Carrados by taking him at his
"Yes," he accordingly replied, with crisp deliberation, as he recrossed
the room; "yes, I will, Max. Here is the clue to what seems to be a
rather remarkable fraud." He put the tetradrachm into his host's hand.
"What do you make of it?"
For a few seconds Carrados handled the piece with the delicate
manipulation of his finger-tips while Carlyle looked on with a
self-appreciative grin. Then with equal gravity the blind man weighed
the coin in the balance of his hand. Finally he touched it with his
"Well?" demanded the other.
"Of course I have not much to go on, and if I was more fully in your
confidence I might come to another conclusion ——"
"Yes, yes," interposed Carlyle, with amused encouragement.
"Then I should advise you to arrest the parlourmaid, Nina Brun,
communicate with the police authorities of Padua for particulars of the
career of Helene Brunesi, and suggest to Lord Seastoke that he should
return to London to see what further depredations have been made in his
Mr Carlyle's groping hand sought and found a chair, on to which he
dropped blankly. His eyes were unable to detach themselves for a single
moment from the very ordinary spectacle of Mr Carrados's mildly
benevolent face, while the sterilized ghost of his now forgotten
amusement still lingered about his features.
"Good heavens!" he managed to articulate, "how do you know?"
"Isn't that what you wanted of me?" asked Carrados suavely.
"Don't humbug, Max," said Carlyle severely. "This is no joke." An
undefined mistrust of his own powers suddenly possessed him in the
presence of this mystery. "How do you come to know of Nina Brun and Lord
"You are a detective, Louis," replied Carrados. "How does one know these
things? By using one's eyes and putting two and two together."
Carlyle groaned and flung out an arm petulantly.
"Is it all bunkum, Max? Do you really see all the time — though that
doesn't go very far towards explaining it."
"Like Vidal, I see very well — at close quarters," replied Carrados,
lightly running a forefinger along the inscription on the tetradrachm.
"For longer range I keep another pair of eyes. Would you like to test
Mr Carlyle's assent was not very gracious; it was, in fact, faintly
sulky. He was suffering the annoyance of feeling distinctly unimpressive
in his own department; but he was also curious.
"The bell is just behind you, if you don't mind," said his host.
"Parkinson will appear. You might take note of him while he is in."
The man who had admitted Mr Carlyle proved to be Parkinson.
"This gentleman is Mr Carlyle, Parkinson," explained Carrados the moment
the man entered. "You will remember him for the future?"
Parkinson's apologetic eye swept the visitor from head to foot, but so
lightly and swiftly that it conveyed to that gentleman the comparison
of being very deftly dusted.
"I will endeavour to do so, sir," replied Parkinson, turning again to
"I shall be at home to Mr Carlyle whenever he calls. That is all."
"Very well, sir."
"Now, Louis," remarked Mr Carrados briskly, when the door had closed
again, "you have had a good opportunity of studying Parkinson. What is
"In what way?"
"I mean as a matter of description. I am a blind man — I haven't seen my
servant for twelve years — what idea can you give me of him? I asked you
"I know you did, but your Parkinson is the sort of man who has very
little about him to describe. He is the embodiment of the ordinary. His
height is about average ——"
"Five feet nine," murmured Carrados. "Slightly above the mean."
"Scarcely noticeably so. Clean-shaven. Medium brown hair. No
particularly marked features. Dark eyes. Good teeth."
"False," interposed Carrados. "The teeth — not the statement."
"Possibly," admitted Mr Carlyle. "I am not a dental expert and I had no
opportunity of examining Mr Parkinson's mouth in detail. But what is
the drift of all this?"
"Oh, just the ordinary evening dress of a valet. There is not much room
for variety in that."
"You noticed, in fact, nothing special by which Parkinson could be
"Well, he wore an unusually broad gold ring on the little finger of the
"But that is removable. And yet Parkinson has an ineradicable mole — a
small one, I admit — on his chin. And you a human sleuth-hound. Oh,
"At all events," retorted Carlyle, writhing a little under this
good-humoured satire, although it was easy enough to see in it
Carrados's affectionate intention — "at all events, I dare say I can give
as good a description of Parkinson as he can give of me."
"That is what we are going to test. Ring the bell again."
"Quite. I am trying my eyes against yours. If I can't give you fifty out
of a hundred I'll renounce my private detectorial ambition for ever."
"It isn't quite the same," objected Carlyle, but he rang the bell.
"Come in and close the door, Parkinson," said Carrados when the man
appeared. "Don't look at Mr Carlyle again — in fact, you had better stand
with your back towards him, he won't mind. Now describe to me his
appearance as you observed it."
Parkinson tendered his respectful apologies to Mr Carlyle for the
liberty he was compelled to take, by the deferential quality of his
"Mr Carlyle, sir, wears patent leather boots of about size seven and
very little used. There are five buttons, but on the left boot one
button — the third up — is missing, leaving loose threads and not the more
usual metal fastener. Mr Carlyle's trousers, sir, are of a dark
material, a dark grey line of about a quarter of an inch width on a
darker ground. The bottoms are turned permanently up and are, just now,
a little muddy, if I may say so."
"Very muddy," interposed Mr Carlyle generously. "It is a wet night,
"Yes, sir; very unpleasant weather. If you will allow me, sir, I will
brush you in the hall. The mud is dry now, I notice. Then, sir,"
continued Parkinson, reverting to the business in hand, "there are dark
green cashmere hose. A curb-pattern key-chain passes into the left-hand
From the visitor's nether garments the photographic-eyed Parkinson
proceeded to higher ground, and with increasing wonder Mr Carlyle
listened to the faithful catalogue of his possessions. His
fetter-and-link albert of gold and platinum was minutely described. His
spotted blue ascot, with its gentlemanly pearl scarfpin, was set forth,
and the fact that the buttonhole in the left lapel of his morning coat
showed signs of use was duly noted. What Parkinson saw he recorded but
he made no deductions. A handkerchief carried in the cuff of the right
sleeve was simply that to him and not an indication that Mr Carlyle was,
But a more delicate part of Parkinson's undertaking remained. He
approached it with a double cough.
"As regards Mr Carlyle's personal appearance; sir ——"
"No, enough!" cried the gentleman concerned hastily. "I am more than
satisfied. You are a keen observer, Parkinson."
"I have trained myself to suit my master's requirements, sir," replied
the man. He looked towards Mr Carrados, received a nod and withdrew.
Mr Carlyle was the first to speak.
"That man of yours would be worth five pounds a week to me, Max," he
remarked thoughtfully. "But, of course ——"
"I don't think that he would take it," replied Carrados, in a voice of
equally detached speculation. "He suits me very well. But you have the
chance of using his services — indirectly."
"You still mean that — seriously?"
"I notice in you a chronic disinclination to take me seriously, Louis.
It is really — to an Englishman — almost painful. Is there something
inherently comic about me or the atmosphere of The Turrets?"
"No, my friend," replied Mr Carlyle, "but there is something
essentially prosperous. That is what points to the improbable. Now what
"It might be merely a whim, but it is more than that," replied Carrados.
"It is, well, partly vanity, partly ennui, partly" — certainly there
was something more nearly tragic in his voice than comic now — "partly
Mr Carlyle was too tactful to pursue the subject.
"Those are three tolerable motives," he acquiesced. "I'll do anything
you want, Max, on one condition."
"Agreed. And it is?"
"That you tell me how you knew so much of this affair." He tapped the
silver coin which lay on the table near them. "I am not easily
flabbergasted," he added.
"You won't believe that there is nothing to explain — that it was purely
"No," replied Carlyle tersely; "I won't."
"You are quite right. And yet the thing is very simple."
"They always are — when you know," soliloquized the other. "That's what
makes them so confoundedly difficult when you don't."
"Here is this one then. In Padua, which seems to be regaining its old
reputation as the birthplace of spurious antiques, by the way, there
lives an ingenious craftsman named Pietro Stelli. This simple soul, who
possesses a talent not inferior to that of Cavino at his best, has for
many years turned his hand to the not unprofitable occupation of
forging rare Greek and Roman coins. As a collector and student of
certain Greek colonials and a specialist in forgeries I have been
familiar with Stelli's workmanship for years. Latterly he seems to have
come under the influence of an international crook called — at the
moment — Dompierre, who soon saw a way of utilizing Stelli's genius on a
royal scale. Helene Brunesi, who in private life is — and really is, I
believe — Madame Dompierre, readily lent her services to the enterprise."
"Quite so," nodded Mr Carlyle, as his host paused.
"You see the whole sequence, of course?"
"Not exactly — not in detail," confessed Mr Carlyle.
"Dompierre's idea was to gain access to some of the most celebrated
cabinets of Europe and substitute Stelli's fabrications for the genuine
coins. The princely collection of rarities that he would thus amass
might be difficult to dispose of safely but I have no doubt that he had
matured his plans. Helene, in the person of Nina Bran, an Anglicised
French parlourmaid — a part which she fills to perfection — was to obtain
wax impressions of the most valuable pieces and to make the exchange
when the counterfeits reached her. In this way it was obviously hoped
that the fraud would not come to light until long after the real coins
had been sold, and I gather that she has already done her work
successfully in several houses. Then, impressed by her excellent
references and capable manner, my housekeeper engaged her, and for a few
weeks she went about her duties here. It was fatal to this detail of
the scheme, however, that I have the misfortune to be blind. I am told
that Helene has so innocently angelic a face as to disarm suspicion, but
I was incapable of being impressed and that good material was thrown
away. But one morning my material fingers — which, of course, knew
nothing of Helene's angelic face — discovered an unfamiliar touch about
the surface of my favourite Euclideas, and, although there was doubtless
nothing to be seen, my critical sense of smell reported that wax had
been recently pressed against it. I began to make discreet inquiries and
in the meantime my cabinets went to the local bank for safety. Helene
countered by receiving a telegram from Angiers, calling her to the
death-bed of her aged mother. The aged mother succumbed; duty compelled
Helene to remain at the side of her stricken patriarchal father, and
doubtless The Turrets was written off the syndicate's operations as a
"Very interesting," admitted Mr Carlyle; "but at the risk of seeming
obtuse" — his manner had become delicately chastened — "I must say that I
fail to trace the inevitable connexion between Nina Brun and this
particular forgery — assuming that it is a forgery."
"Set your mind at rest about that, Louis," replied Carrados. "It is a
forgery, and it is a forgery that none but Pietro Stelli could have
achieved. That is the essential connexion. Of course, there are
accessories. A private detective coming urgently to see me with a
notable tetradrachm in his pocket, which he announces to be the clue to
a remarkable fraud — well, really, Louis, one scarcely needs to be blind
to see through that."
"And Lord Seastoke? I suppose you happened to discover that Nina Brun
had gone there?"
"No, I cannot claim to have discovered that, or I should certainly have
warned him at once when I found out — only recently — about the gang. As a
matter of fact, the last information I had of Lord Seastoke was a line
in yesterday's Morning Post to the effect that he was still at Cairo.
But many of these pieces ——" He brushed his finger almost lovingly
across the vivid chariot race that embellished the reverse of the coin,
and broke off to remark: "You really ought to take up the subject,
Louis. You have no idea how useful it might prove to you some day."
"I really think I must," replied Carlyle grimly. "Two hundred and fifty
pounds the original of this cost, I believe."
"Cheap, too; it would make five hundred pounds in New York to-day. As I
was saying, many are literally unique. This gem by Kimon is — here is his
signature, you see; Peter is particularly good at lettering — and as I
handled the genuine tetradrachm about two years ago, when Lord Seastoke
exhibited it at a meeting of our society in Albemarle Street, there is
nothing at all wonderful in my being able to fix the locale of your
mystery. Indeed, I feel that I ought to apologize for it all being so
"I think," remarked Mr Carlyle, critically examining the loose threads
on his left boot, "that the apology on that head would be more
appropriate from me."
- Ernest Bramah Smith (1868-1942) was extremely self-effacing; however,
details are plentiful about the life and adventures of his greatest
creation, Max Carrados, the first and probably the best blind detective in
fiction. Carrados was very much in the Great Detective mold. Even though
blind, his personality dominates the stories. He is sophisticated, cynical,
and whimsical, and he awes friends, clients, and enemies with feats of
subtle brilliance, “seeing” what no blind man can see.
Carrados lives at the Turrets in Richmond (just west of London), surrounded
by his menage of secretary, young, brash Annesley Greatorex, and valet,the
solemnly decorous Parkinson. He is interested in crimes of originality, and
is called upon to solve cases of arson, madness, embezzlement, jewel
burglary, a divorce murder, the theft of one of England’s greatest relics, a
post-office robbery connected with Irish outrages, and to thwart German
naval spies. A commentator has said that the setting of these stories is
much closer to Raymond Chandler’s “mean streets” than to the unreal English
country house of Agatha Christie.
The Carrados stories are an Edwardian tour de force, and Ellery Queen called
Max Carrados “one of the ten best volumes of detective shorts ever written.”
The eight stories in this collection contain the inevitable meeting between
Carrados and disbarred lawyer turned inquiry agent Louis Carlyle, who
becomes his “Watson.” The tales range from a problem in numismatics (one of
Bramah’s own little enthusiasms), to train-wrecking tinged with racism, to
looting of safe deposits as a result of religious enthusiasm. The problems
are logical, the characterizations are excellent, and the backgrounds are
exceptional. review by Thomas Baird
THE COIN OF DIONYSIUS
- a Max Carrados Detective Story -
in Four Max Carrados Detective Stories
|The adventures of a blind detective in London, featuring four compact
mysteries: The Coin of Dionysius, The Knight's Cross Signal Problem, The Tragedy
at Brookbend Cottage & The Last Exploit of Harry the Actor.|
Author: Ernest Bramah
Published: by Methuen & Co., Ltd. in 1914
Origin: Project Gutenberg