Wednesday, January 4, 2012
The Hands of Mr. Ottermole - Thmoas Burke
Name of the story: The Hands of Mr. Ottermole
Author: Thomas Burke
Source: 101 Years of Entertainment: The great detective stories of over a century edited by Ellery Queen
Story Number: 4
My three previous posts have covered my favorite author, the story that started it all and my favorite short story collection by a single author. Next in line would be the best anthology read. 101 years of Entertainment, a compendium of 50 stories containing close to 1000 pages, selected by the duo of Ellery Queen as the best fifty tales to commemorate the 100 years of the publication of the first detective story would unarguably go down in history as the best of its kind.
The short story ‘The Hands of Mr. Ottermole’ by Thomas Burke, published for the first time in 1931, was picked as one of the 12 best detective short stories (or was it the best?) ever written by a very distinguished panel of mystery authors and in the introduction to this story in the collection, Ellery Queen has this to say about it “No finer crime story has ever been written, period.” And to this I can only say, Amen!
There are numerous novels about serial killers but how many short stories have been able to incorporate the theme of serial killer and multiple murders? A man with white hair and large white hands is terrorizing the streets of London by strangling people with no rhyme or reason. First victim is a man, second is a child and the third victim is a policeman, the fourth is a family of three and the fifth is the journalist who deduces who the murderer is! By the end of the story, the London Strangling Horrors account for 5 attacks with 7 victims, all having the characteristics of no motive, no pattern in the picking of victims and carried out right under the noses of the police force, accentuate the evocation of atmosphere and terror to its spine chilling best. This story can also boast of one other achievement – it conceals the identity of the murderer most cleverly by parading him right in front of the reader’s eyes, all the time.