Tremore means "great dwelling" in the Celtic tongue, but the name could only apply to this particular house from the unusual space of ground it covered, since it was only one storey high. Built of untrimmed granite blocks and roofed with dull hued slates, it stretched in a narrow line towards the rear of the hill on which it stood. Here it divided into two other narrow lines, forming on the whole the exact shape of the letter "Y." One of the forks contained the kitchen, the servants' sleeping apartments and the domestic offices: the other held the bedrooms of the gentry, while the main stem of the letter was made up of drawing-room, library, sitting-room and dining-room. It was an odd place quaintly planned and curiously built: but then the Enistors were odd people.
One markedly strange thing amongst others was the absence of vegetation about the house, since nothing would grow near it. Flowers were conspicuous by their absence, turf was wanting, and not even weeds would flourish. The very trees stood aloof in sulky darkness, leaving the building isolated in an arid space of beaten earth. There it stood on the bare ground with its heavy porch, its thick walls and many small windows, bleak in its nakedness for want of draping ivy. True enough there was a kitchen-garden and a small orchard at the back, beyond the screen of trees, which flourished tolerably, but round the house greenery was wanting, as if the place was cursed. Perhaps it was, as the Enistors had borne a sinister reputation for generations. But whatever the reason might be, Tremore might have been built in the desert from the way in which it lay like a sullen snake on the barren earth. And a two-headed snake at that, like some demon of a fairy tale.
‘A highly readable and clever mystery, as well as a fascinating description of the minutiae of life in Victorian Melbourne. Hume wanted to write a book, “containing a mystery, a murder, and a description of low life in Melbourne.” He did pay tribute to the works of the French mystery writer Emile Gaboriau and his earlier Monsieur Lecoq novels, but many would argue that Hume’s plotting is tighter than his French counterpart and his mystery a tougher one to solve.’ Literary Hub
This edition for the first time reproduces the text of the original Melbourne edition printed by Kemp and Boyce in 1886. Other reprints have relied on later versions in which local details are ommitted and language is bowdlerised. It includes an introduction by Simon Caterson.
First published in 1886, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab was an overnight sensation, selling hundreds of thousands of copies around the world and being translated into eleven languages. Over a century later, it has lost none of its page-turning power.
Set in the charming and deadly streets of Melbourne, this vivid and brilliantly plotted murder thriller tells the story of a crime committed by an unknown assassin. With its panoramic depiction of a bustling yet uneasy city, Hansom Cab has a central place in Australian literary history and, more importantly, it remains highly readable.
Fergus Hume was born in England in 1859. His family soon emigrated to New Zealand, where Hume qualified as a lawyer. He was admitted to the bar in 1885 and moved to Melbourne in the same year. Desperate to become a playwright but having no success, Hume decided to write a murder novel instead. When he couldn't find a publisher for The Mystery of a Hansom Cab he published it himself. It was a sensation and soon sold over twenty thousand copies in Melbourne.
Simon Caterson is a Melbourne-based freelance writer and the author of Hoax Nation: Australian Fakes and Frauds from Plato to Norma Khouri.
'One of the hundred best crime novels of all time.' Sunday Telegraph
'Fiendishly cunning.' Shane Maloney
'Australia's original blockbuster is back in print. Written more than 100 years ago, this murder mystery sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world...It will give you a sense of Melbourne's history - you'll hear the hansoms rattling down Collins Street for weeks afterwards.' Herald Sun
'This novel was a phenomenal success when it was first published in Melbourne in 1886 and it became an international bestseller - It's easy to see why. The plot sweeps through unexpected twists and turns...and the suspense is maintained to the end. Most appealing...is the wonderful flavour of 1880s Melbourne, from the gaslit glamour of the Collins Street "block" to the hideous squalor of the slum alleys off Little Bourke Street...A splendidly romantic melodrama, full of period charm, and Victorian sentiment...The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is not only a classic but hugely enjoyable as well.' West Australian