Mr. Justice Raffles
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First UK edition
|Series||A. J. Raffles|
|Publisher||Smith, Elder & Co. (UK)|
|Preceded by||A Thief in the Night|
Mr. Justice Raffles was a 1909 novel written by E.W. Hornung. It featured his popular character A. J. Raffles a well-known cricketer and gentleman thief. It was the fourth and last in his four Raffles books which had begun with The Amateur Cracksman in 1899.
Unlike the three previous works, the book was a full-length novel and featured darker elements than the earlier collections of short stories. In it a jaded Raffles is growing increasingly cynical about British high society. He encounters Dan Levy, an unscrupulous moneylender, who manages to entrap a number of young men, mostly sons of the wealthy, by giving them loans and then charging huge amounts of interest. Raffles takes it upon himself to teach Levy a lesson.
At the end of Hornung's second Raffles short story collection The Black Mask, Raffles and his companion Bunny Manders volunteer for service in the Second Boer War in 1899 where he was killed at the hands of the Boers. Hornung had intended this as a patriotic finale to his hero's story. However there was great popular demand for the return of the character, and a number of generous publishing offers, and Hornung agreed to write another book.
In this he has been compared to Arthur Conan Doyle's decision to resurrect Sherlock Holmes after he had been killed falling over the Reichenbach Falls. Doyle had managed this by revealing that Holmes had actually survived the falls, while Hornung set Mr. Justice Raffles before the events of the Boer War. The comparison between the resurrections of Holmes and Raffles is made interesting by the fact that Doyle and Hornung were brothers-in-law. Indeed prior to resurrecting Holmes, Doyle had used much the same technique, demand had called for another Holmes story, so the book he wrote to meet this demand The Hound of the Baskervilles was set prior to Holmes's "demise".
Its reception was mixed, with some fans lamenting the loss of the carefree gentlemen thief of the early stories. It was the last Raffles work written by Hornung, although a number of continuations have been written by other authors in a mixture of parody and homage.
Two popular adaptations in the 1930s revived interest in the character of Raffles. However this tended to focus on the lighter, earlier tales of the gentleman thief. It was not until 1977 that Mr. Justice Raffles was adapted, as part of the popular British Raffles television series.