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Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman

Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman

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Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman

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Lançado em:
Jul 1, 2014


The cracking debut of A. J. Raffles, proper English gentleman and jewel thief extraordinaire

Sometimes the greatest of partnerships are born in the direst of moments. For Bunny Manders and A. J. Raffles, such a moment comes when a bad night at the baccarat tables threatens to end in suicide. Hundreds of pounds in the red, Bunny grows so desperate that he asks Raffles, a former classmate who captained their public school’s cricket team, for help. When Raffles hesitates, Bunny pulls a gun out of his coat pocket and puts it to his head. “I never dreamt you had such stuff in you, Bunny!” says Raffles, a gleam in his eye. A few hours later, he and his old school chum break into a jeweler’s shop and steal thousands of pounds’ worth of diamonds and gemstones. Disaster averted, adventures begun.
In these thrilling stories, E. W. Hornung introduced the world to a duo as gifted at burglary as Sherlock Holmes and Watson are at detection. Full of sophisticated banter, hair-raising close calls, and nefarious schemes, Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman is a masterwork of crime fiction and irrefutable proof that there truly is honor among thieves.
This ebook features a new introduction by Otto Penzler and has been professionally proofread to ensure accuracy and readability on all devices.
Lançado em:
Jul 1, 2014

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Raffles - E. W. Hornung



It has been speculated that E. W. Hornung (1866–1921), Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law, created Raffles, the greatest rogue in literature, to tweak the nose of the creator of the greatest detective in literature. Whatever impelled Hornung to turn his pen to the production of these Victorian and Edwardian classics has long been forgotten, but the gentleman cracksman lives on, having given his name to the English language; all successful burglars who bring elegance to their nefarious crimes are likened to Raffles—both in real life and in fiction.

Born in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, Hornung suffered from poor health and, at eighteen, moved to Australia in the hope that the climate would be beneficial. He remained there less than three years but absorbed the physical surroundings and atmosphere, using them as the background for many books. When he returned to England, he married Constance Doyle, the sister of Arthur Conan Doyle. He never enjoyed full health but served in World War I anyway, going to France to organize a library and rest hut under the auspices of the YMCA. His combat-zone adventures are described in Notes of a Camp-Follower on the Western Front (1919). Hornung’s only son, called Oscar (his real name was Arthur, for his uncle and godfather), served in France and was killed by a shell. Shortly after the war, Hornung accompanied his wife to Saint-Jean-de-Luz and contracted a fatal chill.

Hornung was an authority on cricket and, despite poor eyesight and health, was an excellent player, as was his most famous creation, Raffles. The exploits of the amateur cracksman, the subjects of Hornung’s best and most famous books, are not, however, his only contribution to the literature of crime and detection.

Because of the circumstances of the colonization of Australia, stories of nineteenth-century life there often deal with crime, convicts, and bushranging, and Hornung’s are some of the best of the kind. The Boss of Taroomba (1894) is the story of a girl who, together with a German piano tuner, defends her ranch against an attack by bushrangers (escaped convicts living in the bush). The Rogue’s March (1896) is a serious novel about convicts in a chain gang in New South Wales. Cole, a gold miner on Black Hill Flats, performs some detective work in Dead Men Tell No Tales (1899). The Belle of Toorak (1900; US title: The Shadow of a Man), describes how a former convict is protected by a young man who believes the felon to be his father. Stingaree (1905) is a collection of ten stories about Tom Erichsen, a cultivated New South Wales bushranger who has some of Raffles’s characteristics. He is a man of birth and mystery, with an ostentatious passion for music, and as romantic a method as that of any highwayman of the Old World. Other romantic novels of crime and adventure in Australia are A Bride from the Bush (1890), Under Two Skies (1892), Tiny Luttrell (1893), Irralie’s Bushranger (1896), My Lord Duke (1897), Some Persons Unknown (short stories; 1898), and At Large (1902).

In the more civilized setting of England, Hornung’s best-known non-Raffles book is The Crime Doctor (1914), a collection of stories about Dr. John Dollar, one of the first detectives to solve crimes using psychological means. Max Marcin created a psychiatrist-detective for radio in 1940. Also known as the Crime Doctor, Robert Ordway has no connection with Hornung’s Dr. Dollar (see Crime Doctor, The).

The hero of Young Blood (1898) comes into conflict with a villain and a swindler as he tries to live down his father’s disgrace. The English clergyman in Peccavi (1900) has committed a crime and endures a tragic penance. Although a man believes the woman guilty of murdering her first husband, he marries the heroine of The Shadow of the Rope (1902), only to fall under suspicion for the crime. The Camera Fiend (1911) concerns a precocious seventeen-year-old asthmatic schoolboy who discusses psychophotography with the title character (the camera fiend) and is forced to deal with a series of intricate crimes, aided in his solutions by Mr. Eugene Thrush. Old Offenders and a Few Old Scores (1923), a posthumous collection with an introduction by Conan Doyle, contains various kinds of crime tales.


There is great affection for Robin Hood and the notion of taking wealth from the rich and redistributing it to the poor (much like a socialistic government). There is an even greater fantasy of the gentleman jewel thief—an urban sophisticate (idealized in evening clothes) who is a handsome, dashing, charming member of society by day and a fearless safecracker at night, ice water in his veins.

No character, living or fictional, has ever fulfilled this role as exquisitely as A. J. Raffles, the greatest cracksman in the literature of roguery. Raffles could have succeeded at any career, but he chose a life of crime. Once, penniless and desperate in Australia, he realized that his only salvation was to steal. He had intended the robbery, forced on him by necessity, to be his only such experience, but he had tasted blood and loved it. Why settle down to some humdrum uncongenial billet, he once asks Bunny Manders, his devoted companion, when excitement, romance, danger and a decent living were all going begging together? Of course it’s very wrong, but we can’t all be moralists, and the distribution of wealth is very wrong to begin with.

In England, his fame as one of the finest cricket players in the world, combined with his charming personality, brilliant wit, and remarkably handsome appearance, makes him a welcome guest at the homes of the country’s wealthiest families. He is comfortable in these surroundings, wearing evening clothes as if he had been born in them, and is delighted to make the acquaintance of owners of fabulous fortunes.

No criminal can match Raffles for courage and the ability to stay cool under the most difficult circumstances. In fact, he seems to relish situations that would unnerve many men, enjoying the thrill of the sport as much as the reward that waits behind the door of a safe. He plans most of his escapades down to the finest detail, but he is also capable of acting on the spur of the moment and pulling off a crime almost as a joke. Although he sometimes steals merely for sport, he usually has a motive—to help a needy friend, to keep the creditors from his door, or to right a wrong that the law was unable to handle.

He lives alone in expensive rooms in the Albany, with his friend Bunny just a short distance away, and has other expensive tastes, such as smoking Sullivan cigarettes. Living by his wits and skill as a thief, he seems quite happy with his hedonistic life of absolute luxury.

This is the Raffles who appeared in three short story collections and one novel by Hornung. Hornung and Eugene Presbrey also collaborated on a successful drama, Raffle, the Amateur Cracksman: A Play in Four Acts, produced in London with Sir Gerald du Maurier in the title role; in the United States, in 1903, a handsome matinee idol, Kyrle Bellew, played Raffles.

A somewhat different character, also named Raffles, appeared on the scene in 1932, when Barry Perowne revived the gentleman jewel thief as a contemporary, two-fisted adventurer in a long series for The Thriller. World War II ended the life of the magazine and, temporarily, of Raffles. Beginning in 1950 Perowne again wrote tales about the amateur cracksman (for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and the Saint Mystery Magazine), but this time the adventures occur in the late Victorian and early Edwardian times in which they belong. Here too, Raffles pursues a hedonistic way of life, but he is now more socially aware; he commits crimes primarily to correct injustices, and personal profit is a secondary motivation. His ethical standards are a little higher than they were when Hornung recounted his exploits. Fourteen of the best tales were collected in Raffles Revisited, with an introduction by Otto Penzler.

The fixed point in all the stories is Bunny, Raffles’s former schoolmate who, in those days, had idolized A.J. When he and Raffles meet again as adults, Bunny has attempted suicide to avoid financial disgrace. Raffles saves his life and steals enough to get Bunny out of debt, earning his undying devotion in the process. Bunny hates the illegal life and often tries to dissuade his friend from committing crimes, but, once involved, he is fearless and loyal. Bunny is typically English in appearance and is less than brilliant, but his journalistic background enables him to chronicle Raffles’s adventures in a lively style.


By E. W. Hornung:

1899  The Amateur Cracksman (short stories)

1901  The Black Mask (short stories; US title: Raffles: Further Adventures of the Amateur Cracksman)

1905  A Thief in the Night (short stories)

1901  Mr. Justice Raffles

By Barry Perowne:

1933  Raffles after Dark (US title:The Return of Raffles)

1934  Raffles in Pursuit

1936  Raffles under Sentence (short stories)

1936  She Married Raffles

1937  Raffles vs. Sexton Blake

1939  The A.R.P. Mystery

1939  They Hang Them in Gibraltar

1940  Raffles and the Key Man

1974  Raffles Revisited: New Adventures of a Famous Gentleman Crook (short stories)


Raffles appeared in a short American film as early as 1905 and was featured in an Italian serial by 1911. In 1917 John Barrymore starred in Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (Hiller-Wilk), and in 1925 another film with the same title (released by Universal) featured House Peters as the daring thief, a gentleman by birth, who takes only from the rich.

Raffles. United Artists, 1930. Ronald Colman, Kay Francis, Bramwell Fletcher, David Torrence, Alison Skipworth. Raffles promises to reform, but a dear friend comes to him for aid. He needs a large amount of money in a hurry, and the only answer is for Raffles to steal a necklace during a country weekend party.

The Return of Raffles. Williams and Pritchard (British), 1932. George Barraud, Camilla Horn, Claud Allister (Bunny). Directed by Mansfield Markham. Again reformed, Raffles attends a house party, where he is framed for the theft of a necklace actually stolen by a gang.

Raffles. United Artists, 1939. David Niven, Olivia de Havilland, Douglas Walton, Dame May Whitty, Dudley Digges. Directed by Sam Wood. At the now-familiar weekend party, Raffles agrees to steal a necklace to help the brother of the girl he loves, but a gang beats him to it.


In 1973 England’s Hammer Film Studios announced that its entry into television production would include a series based on Raffles and set at the turn of the century.


The Return of A. J. Raffles, a comedy by Graham Greene, was produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It opened in London in December 1975.

Otto Penzler



IT WAS HALF-PAST TWELVE when I returned to the Albany as a last desperate resort. The scene of my disaster was much as I had left it. The baccarat-counters still strewed the table, with the empty glasses and the loaded ash-trays. A window had been opened to let the smoke out, and was letting in the fog instead. Raffles himself had merely discarded his dining jacket for one of his innumerable blazers. Yet he arched his eyebrows as though I had dragged him from his bed.

Forgotten something? said he, when he saw me on his mat.

No, said I, pushing past him without ceremony. And I led the way into his room with an impudence amazing to myself.

Not come back for your revenge, have you? Because I’m afraid I can’t give it to you single-handed. I was sorry myself that the others—

We were face to face by his fireside, and I cut him short.

Raffles, said I, you may well be surprised at my coming back in this way and at this hour. I hardly know you. I was never in your rooms before to-night. But I fagged for you at school, and you said you remembered me. Of course that’s no excuse; but will you listen to me—for two minutes?

In my emotion I had at first to struggle for every word; but his face reassured me as I went on, and I was not mistaken in its expression.

Certainly, my dear man, said he; as many minutes as you like. Have a Sullivan and sit down. And he handed me his silver cigarette-case.

No, said I, finding a full voice as I shook my head; no, I won’t smoke, and I won’t sit down, thank you. Nor will you ask me to do either when you’ve heard what I have to say.

Really? said he, lighting his own cigarette with one clear blue eye upon me. How do you know?

Because you’ll probably show me the door, I cried bitterly; and you will be justified in doing it! But it’s no use beating about the bush. You know I dropped over two hundred just now?

He nodded.

I hadn’t the money in my pocket.

I remember.

But I had my check-book, and I wrote each of you a check at that desk.


Not one of them was worth the paper it was written on, Raffles. I am overdrawn already at my bank!

Surely only for the moment?

No. I have spent everything.

But somebody told me you were so well off. I heard you had come in for money?

So I did. Three years ago. It has been my curse; now it’s all gone—every penny! Yes, I’ve been a fool; there never was nor will be such a fool as I’ve been….Isn’t this enough for you? Why don’t you turn me out? He was walking up and down with a very long face instead.

Couldn’t your people do anything? he asked at length.

Thank God, I cried, I have no people! I was an only child. I came in for everything there was. My one comfort is that they’re gone, and will never know.

I cast myself into a chair and hid my face. Raffles continued to pace the rich carpet that was of a piece with everything else in his rooms. There was no variation in his soft and even footfalls.

You used to be a literary little cuss, he said at length; didn’t you edit the mag. before you left? Anyway I recollect fagging you to do my verses; and literature of all sorts is the very thing nowadays; any fool can make a living at it.

I shook my head. Any fool couldn’t write off my debts, said I.

Then you have a flat somewhere? he went on.

Yes, in Mount Street.

Well, what about the furniture?

I laughed aloud in my misery. There’s been a bill of sale on every stick for months!

And at that Raffles stood still, with raised eyebrows and stern eyes that I could meet the better now that he knew the worst; then, with a shrug, he resumed his walk, and for some minutes neither of us spoke. But in his handsome, unmoved face I read my fate and death-warrant; and with every breath I cursed my folly and my cowardice in coming to him at all. Because he had been kind to me at school, when he was captain of the eleven, and I his fag, I had dared to look for kindness from him now; because I was ruined, and he rich enough to play cricket all the summer, and do nothing for the rest of the year, I had fatuously counted on his mercy, his sympathy, his help! Yes, I had relied on him in my heart, for all my outward diffidence and humility; and I was rightly served. There was as little of mercy as of sympathy in that curling nostril, that rigid jaw, that cold blue eye which never glanced my way. I caught up my hat. I blundered to my feet. I would have gone without a word; but Raffles stood between me and the door.

Where are you going? said he.

That’s my business, I replied. I won’t trouble YOU any more.

Then how am I to help you?

I didn’t ask your help.

Then why come to me?

Why, indeed! I echoed. Will you let me pass?

Not until you tell me where you are going and what you mean to do.

Can’t you guess? I cried. And for many seconds we stood staring in each other’s eyes.

Have you got the pluck? said he, breaking the spell in a tone so cynical that it brought my last drop of blood to the boil.

You shall see, said I, as I stepped back and whipped the pistol from my overcoat pocket. Now, will you let me pass or shall I do it here?

The barrel touched my temple, and my thumb the trigger. Mad with excitement as I was, ruined, dishonored, and now finally determined to make an end of my misspent life, my only surprise to this day is that I did not do so then and there. The despicable satisfaction of involving another in one’s destruction added its miserable appeal to my baser egoism; and had fear or horror flown to my companion’s face, I shudder to think I might have died diabolically happy with that look for my last impious consolation. It was the look that came instead which held my hand. Neither fear nor horror were in it; only wonder, admiration, and such a measure of pleased expectancy as caused me after all to pocket my revolver with an oath.

You devil! I said. I believe you wanted me to do it!

Not quite, was the reply, made with a little start, and a change of color that came too late. To tell you the truth, though, I half thought you meant it, and I was never more fascinated in my life. I never dreamt you had such stuff in you, Bunny! No, I’m hanged if I let you go now. And you’d better not try that game again, for you won’t catch me stand and look on a second time. We must think of some way out of the mess. I had no idea you were a chap of that sort! There, let me have the gun.

One of his hands fell kindly on my shoulder, while the other slipped into my overcoat pocket, and I suffered him to deprive me of my weapon without a murmur. Nor was this simply because Raffles had the subtle power of making himself irresistible at will. He was beyond comparison the most masterful man whom I have ever known; yet my acquiescence was due to more than the mere subjection of the weaker nature to the stronger. The forlorn hope which had brought me to the Albany was turned as by magic into an almost staggering sense of safety. Raffles would help me after all! A. J. Raffles would be my friend! It was as though all the world had come round suddenly to my side; so far therefore from resisting his action, I caught and clasped his hand with a fervor as uncontrollable as the frenzy which had preceded it.

God bless you! I cried. Forgive me for everything. I will tell you the truth. I DID think you might help me in my extremity, though I well knew that I had no claim upon you. Still—for the old school’s sake—the sake of old times—I thought you might give me another chance. If you wouldn’t I meant to blow out my brains—and will still if you change your mind!

In truth I feared that it was changing, with his expression, even as I spoke, and in spite of his kindly tone and kindlier use of my old school nickname. His next words showed me my mistake.

What a boy it is for jumping to conclusions! I have my vices, Bunny, but backing and filling is not one of them. Sit down, my good fellow, and have a cigarette to soothe your nerves. I insist. Whiskey? The worst thing for you; here’s some coffee that I was brewing when you came in. Now listen to me. You speak of ‘another chance.’ What do you mean? Another chance at baccarat? Not if I know it! You think the luck must turn; suppose it didn’t? We should only have made bad worse. No, my dear chap, you’ve plunged enough. Do you put yourself in my hands or do you not? Very well, then you plunge no more, and I undertake not to present my check. Unfortunately there are the other men; and still more unfortunately, Bunny, I’m as hard up at this moment as you are yourself!

It was my turn to stare at Raffles. You? I vociferated. You hard up? How am I to sit here and believe that?

Did I refuse to believe it of you? he returned, smiling. And, with your own experience, do you think that because a fellow has rooms in this place, and belongs to a club or two, and plays a little cricket, he must necessarily have a balance at the bank? I tell you, my dear man, that at this moment I’m as hard up as you ever were. I have nothing but my wits to live on—absolutely nothing else. It was as necessary for me to win some money this evening as it was for you. We’re in the same boat, Bunny; we’d better pull together.

Together! I jumped at it. I’ll do anything in this world for you, Raffles, I said, if you really mean that you won’t give me away. Think of anything you like, and I’ll do it! I was a desperate man when I came here, and I’m just as desperate now. I don’t mind what I do if only I can get out of this without a scandal.

Again I see him, leaning back in one of the luxurious chairs with which his room was furnished. I see his indolent, athletic figure; his pale, sharp, clean-shaven features; his curly black hair; his strong, unscrupulous mouth. And again I feel the

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14 avaliações / 16 Análises
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  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    A collection of 8 short stories which feature A.J. Raffles, gentleman, cricketer, and amateur cracksman, and his old school mate Bunny Manders, a bunny in most senses of the word. In the first story The Ides of March Raffles prevents Bunny who is constantly in debt, like Raffles, having no honest source of income, from committing suicide. The eight stories are narrated by Bunny, with the plots complicated by the fact that Raffles doesn't always keep him totally informed. At times Raffles uses Bunny as a decoy, and at times Bunny initiates action on his own because he thinks Raffles has failed. Of course Raffles never fails, and in the long run it is Bunny who pays most dearly.The stories depict Raffles as a master burglar, a gentleman, a sportsman who extends the code of cricket, of "playing fair", to thievery. He is much sought after because he is such a splendid cricketer, both at the bat and as a bowler, and various invitations give him the opportunity to relieve others of their riches. As with Conan Doyle's Holmes and Moriarty, Raffles has his principal opponent in Scotland Yard's Inspector Mackenzie. The Penguin blurb credits Ernest Hornung with creating " a unique form of crime story, where, in stealing, as in sport, it is playing the game that counts, and there is always honour among thieves".The stories in this collection: 1. The Ides of March. 2. A Costume Piece. 3. Gentlemen and Players. 4. Le Premier Pas. 5. Wilful Murder. 6. Nine Points of the Law. 7. The Return Match. 8. The Gift of the Emperor.So here we have the forerunner of a style of book that we thought was modern - where the villain is the central character. Although, unlike Jeff Lindsay's Dexter Morgan in DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER, or Simon Kernick's Dennis Milne, Raffles never kills.I think the text of the stories is a bit dated, the language a bit more formal than we use now, and certainly I noticed the odd word that is no longer part of our regular vocab. But in the late 19th century, these stories must have been a breath of fresh air. Hornung was Conan Doyle's brother in law, and whereas in Holmes vs Moriarty you have good vs evil, in Raffles you really have evil vs. good. Interestingly they both, Homes and Raffles, have rather lame sidekicks in Watson and Bunny.As you can see, I'm rather taken with the stories although I'm only rating it at 4.2.They won't be everyone's cup of tea. But they are short quick reads if you want to dabble or listen like I did.
  • (2/5)
    "I say, Bunny. The Count has a stone of incomparable worth, the color of a Peacock's crown. Shall we attempt it tonight?"
    "Surely, you must be joking. Won't his man impede us? He will not be attending the Ball at Hamptons with him, after all. I must say, you do take unwarranted risks."
    Yeah, yeah. I know. Boring yet pretentious. The greatest Cricketer of the age a cat burglar. What nonsense. What rot. Don't bother. Good, it's not.
  • (3/5)
    This is one of those books that I felt I had to read because I've heard about it so much. It is a slim volume of short stories told in a continuous narrative. Bunny, the narrator, is a friend who was tricked into joining Raffles in crime. After the first time, future crimes naturally follow. The stories are simple, fun, old-fashioned ("It's a fair cop, guv'nor"), although Raffles is not as honourable as I was led to believe.
  • (1/5)
    It is a long time since I have been this disappointed by a book. I had read often of the charms of Raffles and of how it was the forerunner of the very modern villain as protagonist. I had read that with Raffles the reader was allowed to see the other side of crime and find at last how such things were really done.Spoilers ahead.I found instead a painfully adolescent book which reads like a Pythonesque parody of a homosocial best boys story. At no point did I feel that the author, let alone Raffles, actually knew much about crime. Nor did I believe that the author knew (or perhaps more accurately cared) about the ways in which actual detectives functioned. Indeed the only thing I was convinced that Hornung knew and cared about was cricket.This first Raffles book is actually a collection of short stories of which the first is by far the most interesting since it sets out the circumstances of how and why Bunny decides to turn to a life of crime. Of course, Bunny does no such thing since he is, with a few exceptions, an reactor rather than an actor in these escapades. He and Raffles are no more and no less less upper middle-class wastrels. They have run through the money they inherited and make no attempt to actually earn any of their own. Indeed they despise and look down on anyone who works for a living. They even refuse to consider themselves working “rogues.” No, Raffles is an amateur rogue just as he is an amateur cricketer. They steal from those they despise and they betray the trust of those whose homes they stay in all the while providing themselves with lame justifications. Raffles lies to Bunny and Raffles betrays Bunny and in the end Raffles breaks Bunny’s heart not by leaving Bunny in lurch when finally the law catches up with them but by daring to find a woman more interesting than Bunny to spend time with.The last story is apogee of the ridiculous as not a single person aboard the cruise ship is anything but a broadly drawn stereotype. Raffles and Bunny prove their lack of understanding of the law by accepting without question the right of a English police officer to serve an English arrest warrant on them as they sail the Mediterranean aboard a German ship. In short, a book I found neither charming nor pleasant and one I would not recommend to anyone who enjoys a well crafted or a well written detective story.
  • (4/5)
    Classic crime stories featuring the archetypal gentlemen thief A J Raffles and his assistant Harry "Bunny" Manders, set in a time when a gentleman would rather shoot himself in the head than suffer disgrace and exile from polite society.
  • (2/5)
    A series of short stories told in a continuous narrative about Raffles - the thief who is a great Cricketeer - and his pal, Bunny. Interesting in that they are told from the viewpoint of the thief.
  • (4/5)
    E.W. Hornung's A. J. Raffles is an engaging anti-Holmes, a gentleman thief with a love of cricket and a chronicling side-kick, Bunny Danvers. Raffles and Bunny live the lives of gentlemen and support themselves by burglary. Hornung was Conan Doyle's brother-in-law and just as with Sherlock Holmes (and many detective to come) Bunny and Raffles' exploits are told through 16 short stories. Interestingly Hornung had spent some time in Australia and one story, told in flashback, is set entirely in the outskirts of colonial Melbourne. Enjoyable period piece.
  • (3/5)
    A quick read, through a series of interlinking short stories, which, unfortunately are not equally interesting. Will probably appeal to lovers of Sherlock Holmes. worthwhile example of 19th c literature for Y10+ lit students.
  • (2/5)
    This is more of a historical curiosity now as the stories aren't very exciting or clever.A.J. Raffles is a gentleman thief in late Victorian England whose main cover story of playing cricket allows him some outside excuse for travel. He has a sidekick named Bunny Manders who is the one documenting the stories. There is a main adversary as well in Inspector MacKenzie of Scotland Yard. If these parallels to Sherlock Holmes aren't enough for you, then you should also know that author E.W. Hornung was the brother-in-law of Arthur Conan Doyle.The stories however usually involve simply quick and bold grabs without any particularly clever scheme, so in comparison to modern day heist thrillers this is pretty tame stuff. Still, it is interesting to see the anti-hero precedents being set here.For another early (c. 1900) gentleman thief series of books I'd recommend Maurice Leblanc's Arsène Lupin series where the lead character is also quite charming and witty.
  • (3/5)
    My husband got a collection of ‘crime classics’ several months ago and has been working his way through them, in between reading other books. I don’t like to read his books until he’d read them but somehow I overlooked Raffles, by E.W. Hornung, when he finished with it. We can’t even remember exactly when it was that he read it, perhaps January/February time. It wasn’t until I was studying his bookshelf that I realised this. So when I’d finished with Inkheart I moved straight onto Raffles before I forgot it again.E.W. Hornung was heavily inspired by his brother-in-law, none other than Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. And it shows. Raffles and Bunny are really the polar opposites of Holmes and Watson, while Doyle’s creations were solving crimes, Raffles was committing them. It’s really easy to make connections between the characters. Bunny recounts his exploits with Raffles in much the same was as Watson does. Raffles is the brains of the operation, only partially filling Bunny in with the finer points when he deems it necessary.Raffles and Bunny are nowhere near Moriarty’s league of criminals though. Both are members of the wealthier classes who have fallen on hard times, mostly as a result of their own gambling and enjoying the high life. But there’s an element of the Robin Hood about them. They are happy to help out a friend who is in a similar situation to themselves and in trouble with a bit of a bad character. They don’t seem to get much out of the ventures mentioned in these stories, which I suppose is why they have to keep going back and stealing things again and again.Despite the fact that they are thieves and you shouldn’t really like them, they are surprisingly likeable. I mean, they’re villains, but they’re very nice villains. And if you think that Holmes and Watson seem a bit close at times, they’ve got nothing on Raffles and Bunny. Probably not helped by the fact that Raffles calls Bunny Bunny. I realise I’m being terribly immature here, but sometimes books written over a hundred years ago can be quite unintentionally funny.I did quite enjoy it, though some of the cricket references went rather over the top of my head. It was a nice quick read; I’ve come to quite enjoy reading books of short stories recently. In the last few years I’ve tended to choose novels over short story collections but there’s something very practical about short stories. You can read a couple before bed, one in your lunch break, whatever. Mr. Click prefers short story collections so we’ve got at least another five waiting on the bookshelf for him to read… three of which I might not wait for him to get to, they do look rather good.
  • (2/5)
    I don't care for this entire body of work. The Gentleman thug is best handled by Leslie Charteris and Simon Templar, in my opinion. But Raffles and his buddy Bunny are referred to by some. His heroic death in South Africa should be used by someone else in a fantasy time travel story. Hmmm....
  • (3/5)
    Funny, engaging stories that remind me of P.G. Wodehouse. Light, but well worth the time, these "crime" stories are more about awkward social situations and shady misunderstandings than murder or mayhem.
  • (4/5)
    Raffles is a series of short stories about a charismatic gentleman thief (narrated by his friend and partner in crime) who steals for the love of the chase as much as for his livelihood. If that sounds a bit familiar, it's worth pointing out that Hornung was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law, Doyle was the one who suggested that Hornung take a one-shot about a gentleman thief and turn it into a series, and the two proceeded to steal ideas from each other with apparent relish. The similarities between Raffles and Holmes are certainly obvious - while I'd hesitate to classify Raffles as a genius of the same caliber as Holmes, he's undoubtedly quite clever in his capers, and the two series bring the same sense of artistry to their respective professions.There are several issues with the Raffles stories - for one thing, they're rather short and go by far too quickly; the setup for each story takes so long that you sometimes feel rather gypped on the heist itself. The characterization is also somewhat halfhearted; Raffles is certainly charming enough, but it's in a general sort of way, told more often than shown, and though he expresses strong opinions, they usually seem to be thrown in for the sake of expressing strong opinions, and they frequently contradict each other (for example, while Raffles apparently has a code of honor as a thief, he only cites it when he's breaking one of his own rules). His partner Bunny, meanwhile, has very little personality beyond his conflicted morals; I realize Bunny's struggle was deliberate to avoid glamorizing crime as an alternative lifestyle, but in a series intended to be light entertainment, there's only so much self-loathing you can throw in before it starts to drag things down a bit. For all that, though, the series is still a lot of fun, with all the capers quite varied and high-energy. There's a tension that's missing in Sherlock Holmes; we know Holmes and Watson will come through with no permanent damage and with justice upheld, but things can and do go very wrong for Raffles at times, and he and Bunny stand to lose everything if they get caught. Raffles is also surprisingly ruthless, and you can never tell quite how far he'll be willing to go if he feels threatened. Not my favorite entry into the Victorian/Edwardian "gentleman (insert profession here)" borderline-abusive buddy series genre, but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.
  • (4/5)
    Surprisingly enjoyable. There's an emotional shallowness that comes with pulp stories of this short length, but Bunny's curious devotion to Raffles and the uncanny moral void that they both operate in, manage to be unexpectedly moving. The finale of the collection especially, with Bunny's image of Raffles' head bobbing off towards land as he's clapped in irons, is powerful.
  • (4/5)
    Raffles is a unique depiction of a rogue burglar. The novel is one of style plus substance that succeeds in what Graham Greene would call "entertainment."