This omnibus edition contains the complete "Raffles" stories of E.W.Hornung, comprising three books of short stories, and a novel, as follows:
1. The Amateur Cracksman.
2. Further Adventures of the Amateur Cracksman (aka "The Black Mask").
3. A Thief in the Night
4. Mr. Justice Raffles.
A bit of background to the series, courtesy of Wikipedia [Warning: if you're not familiar with the stories, there are some minor "spoilers" here!]
A.J. Raffles is a character created in the 1890s by E. W. Hornung, a brother-in-law to Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Raffles is, in many ways, a deliberate inversion of Holmes — he is a "gentleman thief," living in "The Albany", a very upscale address in London, playing cricket for the "Gentlemen of England" and supporting himself by carrying out ingenious burglaries. He is called the "Amateur Cracksman," and often, at first, differentiates between himself and the "professors" — professional criminals from the lower classes.
As Holmes has Dr. Watson to chronicle his adventures, Raffles has Harry "Bunny" Manders — a former schoolmate saved from disgrace and suicide by Raffles, who persuaded him to accompany him on a burglary. While Raffles often takes advantage of Manders' relative innocence, and sometimes treats him with a certain amount of contempt, he knows that Manders' bravery and loyalty are utterly to be relied on. In several stories, Manders saves the day for the two of them after Raffles gets into situations he cannot get out of on his own.
One of the things that Raffles has in common with Holmes is a mastery of disguise — during his days as an ostensible man-about-town, he maintains a studio apartment in another name in which he keeps the components of various disguises, and he can imitate the regional speech of many parts of Britain flawlessly, despite his lack of skill at foreign languages.
The "Raffles" stories have two distinct phases. In the first phase, Raffles and Bunny are men-about-town who also commit burglaries. Raffles is a famous gentleman cricketer, a marvellous spin bowler who is often invited to social events that would be out of his reach otherwise. "I was asked about for my cricket," he comments after this period is over. It ends when they are caught and exposed on an ocean voyage while attempting another theft; Raffles dives overboard and is presumed drowned. These stories were collected in "The Amateur Cracksman". Other stories set in this period, written after Raffles had been "killed off," were collected in "A Thief in the Night".
The second phase begins some time later when Bunny - having served a prison sentence - is summoned to the house of a rich invalid. This turns out to be Raffles himself, back in England in disguise. Then begins their "professional" period, exiled from Society, in which they are straightforward thieves trying to earn a living while keeping Raffles's identity a secret. They finally volunteer for the Boer War, where Bunny is wounded and Raffles dies in battle after exposing an enemy spy. These stories were originally collected in "The Black Mask".
Like Sherlock Holmes after his disappearance into the Reichenbach Falls, Raffles was never quite the same after his reappearance. The 'classic' Raffles elements are all found in the first stories: cricket, high society, West End clubs, Bond Street jewellers... and two men in immaculate evening dress pulling-off impossible robberies.
EDIT: 9 Nov 07
Recreated book with improved layout and formatting. Uploaded v2.
EDIT: 23 Mar 08
Recreated the book to correct a problem with paragraph breaks. Uploaded v4.
EDIT: 16 May 09
Thoroughly proof-read against printed editions. Numerous errors corrected, and missing italics, accented letters, etc, re-added where there were missing. Uploaded v5.
EDIT: 01 Jan 11
An MR member very kindly provided me with a large number of corrections to the text. I've made all these and created a new version. Uploaded v7.
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