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July 22 , 2008


Fergus Hume and the Mystery of a Hansom Cab


Before there was Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, there was Fergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab—the biggest, and fastest-selling, detective novel of the 1800s, and Australia’s first literary blockbuster.

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Fergus Hume was an aspiring playwright when he moved from Dunedin to Melbourne in 1885. He wrote The Mystery of a Hansom Cab with the humble hope of bringing his name to the attention of theatre managers. The book sold out its first run almost instantly and it became a runaway word-of-mouth phenomenon—but its author sold the copyright for a mere fifty pounds, missing out on a potential fortune.

Blockbuster! is the engrossing story of a book that would help define the genre of crime fiction, and a portrait of a great city in full bloom. Rigorously researched and full of arresting detail, this captivating book is a must-read for all fans of true crime, history and crime fiction alike.

Lucy Sussex was born in New Zealand. She has edited four anthologies, including She’s Fantastical, shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award. Her award-winning fiction includes books for younger readers and the novel The Scarlet Rider. Lucy has five short-story collections, including My Lady Tongue, A Tour Guide in Utopia, Absolute Uncertainty and Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies. Lucy Sussex's latest book is Blockbuster! Fergus Hume and The Mystery of a Hansom Cab. She lives in Melbourne.

‘An absorbing, at times fascinating companion to The Mystery of a Hansom Cab.’ Age/SMH/Brisbane Times

‘Told with wit and lightly worn scholarship…Sussex has written a fine, thoroughly engaging and multifaceted history. Generously, she has shared her fun with the rest of us.’ Australian

‘The book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of crime fiction or Australian literature, but is highly recommended even if you’re not: Sussex is a superb story-teller and leavens this fascinating account with dry wit. It deserves to be a blockbuster.’ Tara Sharp

‘This is a fine book about a novel that defined the burgeoning genre of crime fiction, full of wit, important discoveries and fascinating insights – like its subject, a real page-turner.’ Wormwoodiana

‘Sussex skillfully assembles the known information about a very private man and his times, and reveals a Victorian world whose machinations and mysteries are equal to those of his most famous fiction.’ Stuff NZ

‘A very interesting whodunit about a whodunit.’ North and South

Blockbuster! is almost too much to take in. It’s a wealth of well­ researched information, but readable and informative just the same. The book is equipped with bibliography, end notes, epitaphs and reviews, enough to keep the curious occupied for hours.’ Otago Daily Times

‘A wealth of well-researched information, readable, informative and enough to keep the curious occupied for hours.’ Otago Daily Times, 2015’s Must Read Books

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