The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is a detective novel by American author Fergus Hume.
“The following report appeared in the Argus newspaper of Saturday, the 28th July, 18—
“Truth is said to be stranger than fiction, and certainly the extraordinary murder which took place in Melbourne on Thursday night, or rather Friday morning, goes a long way towards verifying this saying.
A crime has been committed by an unknown assassin, within a short distance of the principal streets of this great city, and is surrounded by an inpenetrable mystery. …
“On the twenty-seventh day of July, at the hour of twenty minutes to two o'clock in the morning, a hansom cab drove up to the police station in Grey Street, St. Kilda, and the driver made the startling statement that his cab contained the body of a man who he had reason to believe had been murdered….” (Excerpt from the first chapter.)
The creation of The Mystery of a Hansom Cab has an interesting story. Finding that the novels of Émile Gaboriau were very popular in Melbourne at the time, Hume obtained and read a set of them and determined to write a novel of a similar kind. The result was the self-published novel The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, which became a great success.
Hume based his descriptions of poor urban life on his knowledge of Little Bourke Street. He sold the English and United States rights to the novel for 50 pounds, and thus derived little benefit from its success.
It eventually became the best selling mystery novel of the Victorian era, author John Sutherland terming it the "most sensationally popular crime and detective novel of the century". The novel was first published in 1886.
This novel inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write A Study In Scarlet, which introduced the character Sherlock Holmes. Doyle remarked, "Hansom Cab was a slight tale, mostly sold by 'puffing'."
NOTE: The preface of this work mentions the culprit of the “whodunit” – which may spoil the project for some readers. Be advised to skip the preface or read it at the end if you’d like to be surprised by the outcome of the story.
Also available as audiobook, total running time: 7 hours, 41 min. Reading by Sibella Denton.
Fergusson Wright Hume, known as Fergus Hume (1859–1932) was a prolific English novelist. His first novel was the self-published novel The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886), which became a great success. It eventually became the best selling mystery novel of the Victorian era.