Friday’s Forgotten Book: Number Seventeen by Louis Tracy

Louis Tracy (1863-1928) was an inventive and versatile English author. From the Golden Age Detection Wiki: “….journalist and author of science fiction, adventure, crime and some supernatural fiction. His best-known detectives are the Scotland Yard team of Superintendent Winter and Inspector Furneaux. Other books feature Reginald Brett, a barrister. Tracy also collaborated with fantasist MP Shiel on eight novels under the pseudonym Gordon Holmes.” See a partial bibliography here: Fantastic Fiction states that he also used the pseudonym Robert Fraser, although I could not determine which books or stories were published under that name.

Number Seventeen (Edward J. Clode, 1915) is one of the Superintendent Winter and Inspector Furneaux investigations, although the main character is a freelance writer named Francis Berrold Theydon. Theydon is leaving the theatre one rainy night when he finds himself near a young lady whom he had admired earlier. She is entering a vehicle while her father assures her he will be home soon after a quick stop at his club. Theydon’s taxi appears and he goes home, surprised upon his arrival at seeing the same gentleman in front of his building, nowhere near the club mentioned.

Theydon hears a visitor enter the flat across the landing from his shortly afterwards and assumes it is the same individual. When he is approached by Superintendent Winter and Inspector Furneaux about 24 hours later who tell him the reserved lady who lived in that flat has been murdered, he can only think of the dignified gentleman. Coincidence enters the picture yet again when the millionaire James Forbes whose interest in airflight has captured public attention and with whom Theydon has an interview as background for an article he is writing turns out to be the man he saw outside the theatre and then outside his apartment building.

Theydon is so smitten with the millionaire’s daughter Evelyn that he is reluctant to mention seeing her father outside the victim’s apartment at the critical time. Much of the story deals with his attempts to be honest with the police while protecting the Forbes family. This book is very much of its time with a romance that motivates the lead character and international intrigue that contributes to the plot. Suspicion of individuals born in the East is evident. I found the book more readable than I expected it to be. Tracy’s work appears to be well worth a closer inspection.

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