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The Eye of Osiris by R. Austin Freeman
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The Eye of Osiris (original 1911; edition 1989)

by R. Austin Freeman

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187799,869 (3.89)21
This early work by Richard Austin Freeman was originally published in 1911 and we are now republishing it with a brand new introduction. 'The Vanishing Man' is one of Freeman's novels of crime and mystery. The first story featuring his well-known protagonist Dr. Thorndyke - a medico-legal forensic investigator - was published in 1907, and although Freeman's early works were seen as simple homages to his contemporary, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he quickly developed his own style: The 'inverted detective story', in which the identity of the criminal is shown from the beginning, and the story then describes the detective's attempt to solve the mystery.… (more)
Member:donpickles
Title:The Eye of Osiris
Authors:R. Austin Freeman
Info:Oxford University Press (1989), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 261 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:Detective Fiction

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The Eye of Osiris by R. Austin Freeman (1911)

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» See also 21 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
A medical forensics experts uses the first x ray investigation to solve the mystery. Too bad there was no dna testing in 1902. ( )
  LindaLeeJacobs | Feb 15, 2020 |
Even though I figured out the solution before the end of this 3rd book in the Thorndyke series, I enjoyed seeing how Thorndyke managed to prove it & to learn his reasoning. I look forward to reading more of this series! ( )
  leslie.98 | Jan 20, 2018 |
I read this book on my Droid, on the Aldiko app.

This one I liked particularly, because of its delving into Egyptian history and archaeology. ( )
  liz.mabry | Sep 11, 2013 |
The disappearance of Egyptologist John Bellingham shortly after his presentation to the British Museum of a well-preserved mummy and its associated artefacts creates a nine-days' wonder. The circumstances of the case are mysterious enough to attract the attention of Dr Thorndyke, who discusses the case with his medical students, including Paul Berkeley. After the presentation of the mummy, Bellingham left immediately for Europe for a period of several weeks, only to turn up unexpectedly at the house of his cousin, George Hurst, who was not at at home. Telling the maid he would wait, Bellingham entered the study - and was never seen again. When Hurst arrived to find him gone, he considered Bellingham's behaviour strange enough to call first upon the family solicitor, Mr Jellicoe, and then, finding that Jellicoe was unaware of Bellingham's return from Europe, to travel with him to the country house of Godfrey and Ruth Bellingham, John's brother and niece. Of John there was no sign, but Jellicoe found in the grounds a scarab which he usually wore, making it uncertain whether he was last at his cousin's house or his brother's. That was the last of John Bellingham.

Two years later, the newly qualified Dr Berkeley renews his acquaintance with Dr Thorndyke and his assistant, Dr Jervis. Berkeley tells them that amongst his patients is Godfrey Bellingham, and that he accidentally overheard part of a violent quarrel between Godfrey and George Hurst, who wants to have John Bellingham declared dead. The three medical men discuss the bizarre provisions of John's will, which nominates his brother as the main heir, but only if certain conditions are met; conditions that the disappearance make impossible. Otherwise, the inheritance is Hurst's, with Godfrey and Ruth left penniless. Shortly after this, a gruesome discovery is made on property belonging to John: a number of bones are unearthed, evidently from a dismembered corpse. Meanwhile, Hurst moves to have his cousin declared legally dead. Both legal inquiries turn on whether the bones are John Bellingham's, which cannot be determined - at least not until another discovery is made, in an abandoned well at Godfrey Bellingham's house: three finger bones, and a ring bearing a design of the Eye of Osiris...

The Eye Of Osiris, the third book in R. Austin Freeman's Dr Thorndyke series, is a distinctly different work from its predecessors. In many ways, it is more of a "conventional" mystery, with facts accumulating over time and a big revelation scene at the end. In contrast, both The Red Thumb Mark and John Thorndyke's Cases are extremely technical, with the focus upon the minutiae of Thorndyke's investigative methods. Both, likewise, are narrated by Dr Christopher Jervis, who acts as Thorndyke's assistant and is an eye-witness to his proceedings. The Eye Of Osiris, on the other hand, is told from the perspective of a third party, Dr Paul Berkeley, while Thorndyke and Jervis are only in the story at intervals, and frequently absent on other business: when the first inquest on the bones is held, Thorndyke has commitments elsewhere and sends Berkeley to attend, examine the evidence and take notes. It is not until the novel's climax that "the medical jurist" and his scientific methods take centre stage. In spite of this, the novel is like its fellows fascinating for its depiction of the medical and legal systems of the time (it was written in 1911, but is set in 1904), and for revealing what was "state-of-the-art" at the time for technologies such as the x-ray.

As for Paul Berkeley himself, he is slowly but inexorably drawn into the mystery of John Bellingham's disappearance - and possibly his murder - first via his professional acquaintance with Godfrey, and then far more seriously through his growing attraction to Ruth, who is a most unusual and refreshing heroine. John's disappearance has left his brother and niece in dire financial straits, and despite being indisputably "a lady", Ruth works for a living - but not as you might expect. Intelligent and well-educated, and like her father and uncle deeply knowledgeable about ancient civilisations and Egypt in particular, Ruth acts as a professional researcher, spending her days in the reading-room of the British Museum unearthing arcane knowledge for the benefit of academics and other aspiring writers. (The novel's evident need, through Berkeley, to reassure the reader than in spite of her intellectual pursuits Ruth is "a proper woman" is equally amusing and annoying.) Puzzled by her at first, and a little repelled by her distant manners and cool self-possession, Berkeley grows increasingly interested in Ruth's proceedings, and soon learns to admire, and then to love her. But a black cloud is looming: the discovery of John Bellingham's ring in the grounds of his brother's house indicates that this was the point of his "disappearance" - in which case, the last person to see him alive was Ruth...

But as I retraced my steps along the shady path I speculated profoundly on the officer's proceedings. My examinations of the mutilated hand had yielded the conclusion that the finger had been removed after death or shortly before, but more probably after. Some one else had evidently arrived at the same conclusion, and had communicated his opinion to Inspector Badger; for it was clear that that gentleman was in full cry after the missing finger. But why was he searching for it here when the hand had been found at Sidcup..?
3 vote lyzard | Aug 26, 2011 |
Sometimes one is disappointed when reading a “classic” wondering just what it was that made others rate a book so highly. That has happened to this reviewer often enough to make approaching “must-reads” and “classics” filled with trepidation. In this case, however, the reasons why so many have included this book on their lists of “great mysteries” are obvious. This is a delightfully written, nicely-placed and eminently fair example of detective fiction.

Freeman makes the interesting choice of having the book written from the point of view of Paul Berkeley, a recently qualified doctor and former student of Thorndyke. Jervis, the narrator of the first two Thorndyke books, has not disappeared but it is no longer through his eyes that the reader witnesses events. This allows the narrator to not see all that Thorndyke does without making him irredeemably slow and unteachable. Thus there are times that the reader, already familiar with Thorndyke’s methods, will be able to infer more from things that Berkeley hears, sees or read than does he.

Beyond here there lie spoilers.

In addition to providing the reader with an excellent story of deduction and reasoning Freeman also writes one of the few believable and sympathetic love stories this reviewer has come across in the detective and mystery stories written at this time. Ruth is not simply a sweet Victorian girl she has a believable personality and an interesting mind. One understands exactly why Berkeley is drawn to her and one can watch the way their relationship progresses from being strangers, to individuals with shared interests, to becoming friends and then realizing that they have fallen love. None of it is strained nor is it extraneous. Berkeley is given believable motivations for his actions through the book.

Freeman plays so fairly with his readers that if the reader is well-versed in the detective fiction of the time they will have suspicions and inklings of understanding before at the end the truth is revealed. Yet this in no way diminishes from the enjoyment of following the story and from finding out the indications and clues one missed. No anvils are used nor does the author fall back on obfuscation.

This reader regretted the moment when the last page was turned and the story ended but then was cheered by the knowledge that there is another Thorndyke book on the “to read” shelf. ( )
1 vote mmyoung | Jan 11, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
R. Austin Freemanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rönn, Olli-PekkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The school of St Margaret's Hospital was fortunate in its lecturer on Medical Jurisprudence, or Forensic Medicine, as it is sometimes described.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This work was published in the UK as The Eye of Osiris and in the US as The Vanishing Man.
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