The Mystery of a Hansom Cab Podcast: So Many Mysteries ...
Welcome to The Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode (one of two) focused on the myriad mysteries in Fergus Hume’s literary sensation!
The Mystery of a Hansom Cab sold hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide upon publication. Set in the charming and deadly streets of Melbourne, this thriller highlights class and social issues as a crime is committed by an unknown assassin.
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What We're Talking About in our Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode (part 1 of 2) --
Here’s a transcript of our first Mystery of a Hansom cab podcast episode.
Sarah Harrison 0:24
Welcome to Tea, Tonic, and Toxin, a book club and podcast for anyone who wants to explore the best mysteries and thrillers ever written. I’m your host, Sarah Harrison,
Carolyn Daughters 0:36
and I’m your host Carolyn Daughters. Pour yourself a tea, or a gin and tonic,
Sarah Harrison 0:42
… but not a toxin …
Carolyn Daughters 0:45
and join us on the journey through 19th and 20th century mysteries and thrillers every one of them a game changer.
Sarah Harrison 1:23
We have an awesome sponsor this month. Today’s sponsor is Carolyn Daughters, who runs a brand building and communications consultancy. She leads brand therapy sessions, teaches marketing courses for startups and small businesses, and leads daylong persuasive writing workshops. Carolyn and her small team empower startups, small businesses, enterprises, and government agencies to win hearts, minds, deals, and dollars. You can learn more at carolyndaughters.com.
That sponsor sounds amazing.
She’s very beautiful.
She does what she can. We also have a listener of the month.
I love our listeners of the month.
Carolyn Daughters 1:39
Dear listeners, you can be our listener of the month. We want to hear from you. What are you thinking about what we’re reading? What suggestions do you have?
Sarah Harrison 1:43
Make a comment, send an email.
Carolyn Daughters 1:45
Right from our website, teatonicandtoxin.com. Or from our Facebook page or our Instagram page @teatonicandtoxin. And you too can be a listener of month. Our listener award for this podcast episode goes to Mandy Larrieu from Palm Coast, Florida.
Thank you, Mandy, for being a member of the Tea, Tonic and Toxin book club, Mandy. And to show our appreciation, What are we doing?
Sarah Harrison 2:04
We’re gonna give her a sticker. It’s really sweet.
Carolyn Daughters 2:07
They’re pretty cool stickers, I’m just going to be honest with you. You, too, can get your own sticker.
Sarah Harrison 2:12
We’ll even pay to mail it to you.
Carolyn Daughters 2:13
All you have to do is comment at teatonicandtoxin.com.
Sarah Harrison 2:15
Answer a question, like 100 things, whatever. We love you. Thanks, Mandy.
Carolyn Daughters 2:33
This month, we’re talking about The Mystery of a Hansom Cab. And we have a lot to say in this Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode. So I’m going to give the download right up front so we’re all synched up. If you haven’t yet had a chance to read the book, you can still listen to the Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast because we’ve got some really cool things to say.
But if you don’t want any spoilers, maybe listen to a different episode first, because we’re full of spoilers.
The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is an 1886 crime novel written by Fergus Hume from New Zealand. Not from Australia.
Sarah Harrison 3:01
That was surprising. I was like, why did he pick Australia? I guess there’s an interesting setting there, but …
Carolyn Daughters 4:18
A lot of people think Fergus Hume was from Australia, which is false, as anyone in New Zealand would know. In this, Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode, we want to clarify that he was a New Zealander. The story is set in Melbourne. A gentleman hails a hansom cab for a drunk guy, when the gentleman recognizes the drunk guy he leaves. Minutes later, the same gentleman returns, or seemingly the same gentleman, and gets in the cab. En route to the drunk man’s home, the gentleman hops out. Later, the cab driver finds the drunk man dead in the back, along with a handkerchief saturated with chloroform. The dead man’s name is Oliver White, and he recently arrived from England. The night he was killed, he argued with Mark Frettlby, a wealthy Australian man. Frettlby had told Oliver he could marry his daughter, Madge. But that night Frettlby called the marriage off because Madge was in love with another man, Brian Fitzgerald. Later that same night, all Oliver had drinks at a bar with his friend Roger Moreland. Now, all evidence points to jealousy as the motive for the murder and Fitzgerald as the killer. Mr. Gorby of the detective office arrests Fitzgerald. However, Fitzgerald is declared innocent at trial when a young woman named Sal Rollins gives him an alibi. We learn that the night Oliver died, Sal gave Fitzgerald a letter that led him to visit a woman named Mother Guttersnipe.
Sarah Harrison 6:14
Not her real name.
Carolyn Daughters 6:22
Mother Guttersnipe apparently told him some big secret. While Fitzgerald didn’t commit the murder, he seems to know who did. He seems to be protecting Madge, though it’s not clear why. Fitzgerald’s lawyer resolves to bring the murderer to justice. He learns about the recent death of Mother Guttersnipe’s daughter, Rosanna Moore. He also learns that Rosanna had had a relationship with Frettlby and that Oliver had the papers to prove it. At this point of the story, Mark Frettlby dies. It seems seems Frettlby must have murdered Oliver to keep his relationship with Rosanna secret. Before he died, however, Mark Frettlby wrote a confession where he admitted marrying Rosanna and having a child with her. That child is Sa, his legitimate heir, as it turns out. Believing both his wife and child were dead, Frettlby remarried and had another child, Madge. In the confession that he wrote, Frettlby says he did not in fact kill Oliver. It’s revealed at the end that the real killer is — If you don’t want to hear this just skip over the next 30 seconds. This is your your warning — it’s revealed that the real killer was Oliver’s friend Roger Moreland. Remember him? He’s the guy at the bar earlier on. Roger used chloroform to knock Oliver out so he could steal Oliver’s papers and blackmail Mark Frettlby. Roger is arrested and kills himself. Frettlby’s marriage to Rosanna, Sal’s existence, and Madge’s illegitimacy remain secret. The story ends with Madge and Fitzgerald setting sail for Europe.
Sarah Harrison 8:04
It’s not a very long book. It’s a short book. I thought it was a page turner, too. I really liked it. I’m so excited to discuss the book in this Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode.
Carolyn Daughters 8:17
If you like plot developments, it felt like there was a new one on on every page. Some books are really slow. In some of these mysteries, you’re waiting for something to happen. This is not that book.
Sarah Harrison 8:31
No. There’s lots happening all the time.
Carolyn Daughters 8:35
I was bothered by the fact that Mark Frettlby’s last name is spelled F-R-E-T-T-L-B-Y. It’s just way too many consonants. Every time I read it, I wanted to edit it. You probably came from England or some another country to Melbourne, Australia. Just throw an E or another vowel in there.
Sarah Harrison 9:07
On the topic of names, a lot of the names feel like they’re saying something about the character in some of the books we’ve read. I wasn’t really getting that feeling here with names like Mark and Madge and Brian.
Carolyn Daughters 9:20
Except for Mother Guttersnipe.
Sarah Harrison 9:24
Well, that was her nickname, though. Mother Guttersnipe.
Carolyn Daughters 9:35
The names didn’t feel too. too revealing about the character of the individuals, that’s for sure. What’s your overall impression of the book, Sarah?
Sarah Harrison 9:50
My overall impression was that I liked it with a lot of caveats. There’s the whole end where Mark Frettlby has a confession, and I was like, this isn’t a confession. You basically confessed that nothing was your fault. I was taken along, too. I was like, well, it seems like he killed them. And it really seems like he killed him. And then became so clear that he killed him that that’s when I started to be like, Well, maybe he didn’t kill him. Because Fergus Hume wouldn’t make it that obvious. We’ll probably get into this in a bit in this Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode, but his whole confession about like, “a doctor told me my wife was dead. And I believed him. And I remarried, and it ruined my life.” I hid the fact that I was married. It’s like, wait, what? That’s the honest thing to do is to marry the person.
Carolyn Daughters 10:43
Maybe that was that confession.
Sarah Harrison 10:44
They got married and then kept it a secret. That was weird. I mean, there was weird parts. Some of the conversation felt like, why is this inserted here? Some of the reflective philosophical ponderings felt a little bit like why is this inserted here? I thought about what I wanted to share in this Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast. But my overall take is that I definitely was interested in reading it and kept turning the page to see what would happen next.
Carolyn Daughters 11:14
I did, too. My bias was toward the killer being obvious. My bias was toward Mark Frettlby being guilty. And then when we learn otherwise at the end of the book, I was surprised. There was more intention and more red herrings in the book than I had anticipated. That was a good surprise for me because I thought, okay, it’s going to end up being Mark Frettlby the whole time, and we think it’s Mark Frettlby the whole time and big yawn. It really kept me on my toes.
Sarah Harrison 12:04
Sometimes we ask the question, “Did you guess the ending?” And I really didn’t feel like there was enough information so that we could have guessed Roger Moreland.
Carolyn Daughters 12:14
I don’t think so either.
Sarah Harrison 12:15
We just don’t know him well enough. And he doesn’t play into anything. They spend a lot of time developing Mark Frettlby’s character. I suppose we should throw this in there. The guy that hailed the cab didn’t end up being the same guy that got in the cab with Oliver White. They’re two different guys. And so it’s like, well, who was a person that looks like Brian Fitzgerald. And they go through this whole moment where Madge even mistakes her father for her boyfriend, Brian.
Carolyn Daughters 12:57
I assumed it was Mark Frettlby who was the murderer, and I thought that was very heavy-handed. Even her daughter can’t tell the difference when they’re walking away from her, height wise, and the color of their coat and the way their coat falls. She can’t tell the difference. Got it. And then we learn it’s Roger Moreland at the end. I did not expect that.
Sarah Harrison 13:22
It felt a little out of left field other than the fact that Detective Kilsip ragged on it being Moreland. But he seemed off base at the time.
Carolyn Daughters 13:47
He lacked confidence.
Sarah Harrison 13:49
He was a really weird. The whole detectives were weird. To have these two detectives, one jolly and likable and one that looks intellectual and predatory. But then when you meet him, he acts like a dummy.
Carolyn Daughters 14:07
He asks all these very strange questions that suggest he has no idea what’s going on. It’s weird.
Sarah Harrison 14:13
It is weird. I thought it was funny how Gorby got dropped. Fergus Hume spent so much time on him in the beginning of his investigation.
Carolyn Daughters 14:21
I was invested in him. I was ready to see him continue to solve this case.
Sarah Harrison 14:27
They made him a main character type, and then he was gone.
Carolyn Daughters 14:33
Yes! This was a key topic for me in this Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode. There are so many mysteries in this book introduced right off the bat. Who’s the dead guy? Because there’s no ID on him. We learn later he’s Oliver White. Why was he killed? Who killed him? Is the man who killed him the same guy who hailed the cab? In other words, one guy hails the cab. Seemingly the same guy gets into the cab some number of minutes later. Is that truly the same guy? Brian Fitzgerald seems to know some sort of truth, and he’s holding it back. He won’t tell anyone. There’s lots of twists and turns, lots of suspects and red herrings right out of the gate, starting on the first page. I thought that was really interesting. What about the setting? I mean, this is Melbourne, Australia.
Sarah Harrison 15:27
I noticed you called the setting exotic. Would this setting have been considered exotic for British readers?
Carolyn Daughters 15:33
I think so. Obviously we’re recording this Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode in 2022, so the setting today isn’t exotic today.
Sarah Harrison 15:35
It was funny because it was so British-y.
Carolyn Daughters 15:39
Little Britain. Or maybe Big Britain.
Sarah Harrison 15:41
Even the book made comparisons about the upper class and their behavior. It was full of clerks in England who couldn’t hack a living. They moved to Australia and became rich. And then they got to be upper class.
Carolyn Daughters 16:00
If you can’t make it in England, come to the United States, come to Australia, come to New Zealand. You go somewhere else, and then you ostensibly have a shot to just make it.
Sarah Harrison 16:15
That’s interesting, too. The idea of a fresh start. Like, they’re the same person. But the new setting somehow freed them from whatever they were bound by.
Carolyn Daughters 16:31
I wonder that sometimes. If you go somewhere new, and you feel you can reinvent yourself because there are no expectations, people don’t know you. I wonder if that’s further enabled by the distance or the exotic location. If you go on safari in Africa, which some people might have done during the Victorian era, or if you get on a ship and move to Australia, does the adventure help transform you into this new person? Does it even the playing field or create a blank slate? Does that enable the transformation of the person into whoever they want to be?
Sarah Harrison 17:44
I think it does. You’ve moved around a lot. Have you ever had the urge to reinvent yourself?
Carolyn Daughters 17:51
I might move soon and just start over. Right after this Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode.
Sarah Harrison 17:55
Carolyn Daughters 17:56
No. I like the idea of it, though. But I don’t think I’ve ever attempted to implement anything like that. I have attempted to reinvent in a place. So while being in a place over time I’ve tried to reinvent, with some degree of success. I just decided that these aspects of myself I’m not interested in continuing, and these other aspects I would like to explore
Sarah Harrison 18:29
What aspects did you not want to continue anymore?
Carolyn Daughters 18:35
A lot having to do with being almost too planned, too detailed, too set in my ways. To just be more spontaneous, more like the person I am when I’m around people I know well. I’ve thought about this sometimes. Some people are very quiet or introverted. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re shy, it just means that they’re not around their people with whom they can be fully themselves. Over the last decade, I have focused way more on how can I just be who I am, come hell or high water. Whoever I’m talking to is going to like me, not like me, or something in between — which is probably the case for most of us something in between. How we are with most people. When you’re more yourself with everybody, including the people you know, you’re basically saying I’m going to reinvent.
Sarah Harrison 20:14
Well, that’s cool. That’s cool that you’re able to do that without having to go somewhere else.
Carolyn Daughters 20:22
Although, now that we’re talking about it, I’m wondering where I can go. I’m not going anywhere at the present.
Sarah Harrison 20:33
This Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode got me thinking about starting fresh in a new location. I definitely notice that if I’m traveling or something, I tend to be much more of a risk taker and willing to do some things maybe because I don’t know what the rules are here. So I’ll do them. But I would say that when I moved out to Colorado, I did a fair bit of reinventing. I had a high level of anxiety I needed to work through. It wasn’t a massive change, but I think they made a Jim Carrey movie about it.
Carolyn Daughters 21:05
About your life?
Sarah Harrison 21:06
Yes. You didn’t know that, but they did. I don’t think I’ve even seen it, but I’m interested. When I came to Colorado, I just decided I was going to accept invitations. Instead of stressing about it, and saying no, and having a stress fit, I decided to say “yes.” And I know that if I say “yes,” I’ll follow through. And then I can just have my own private stress fit about it. It was really life changing.
Carolyn Daughters 21:38
And so without stressing about it, you would say “yes.” What would have made you say no in the past?
Sarah Harrison 21:45
Oh, that it exists. I remember the first time. We weren’t friends yet. We were acquaintances. She wanted to hang out. And she was like, do you want to go cross-country skiing with me and this other girl you don’t know? My heart said, no, that’s terrifying. No. But because I had this new policy I was implementing, I said, “yes.” And then I just was privately terrified until we did it. And I just kept doing that for the last 15 years.
Carolyn Daughters 22:22
You pushed past your own boundaries.
Sarah Harrison 22:27
I think it’s a cool. I get it. But at the same time, it’s maybe not as easy to just go to another place and be another person. You’re still yourself. It takes a while to transform.
Carolyn Daughters 22:40
I also feel it’s unnecessarily limiting to say, well, this is who I am, so I can’t change.
Sarah Harrison 22:47
Carolyn Daughters 22:48
That’s a cop out. I don’t appreciate that idea. And some people wear it like a badge. Like, “I’m sort of obnoxious. But, hey, that’s who I am.” As if they can’t do anything about it.
Sarah Harrison 23:06
Take me or leave me.
Carolyn Daughters 23:12
So, I can be sometimes blunt or sometimes not taking into account the person to whom I’m speaking. Especially if I’m delivering challenging information, or information they don’t want to hear. Sometimes I’m a little bit inelegant about it. Well, I could wear that as a badge of honor. Or I could say, how do I deliver uncomfortable messages in a more thoughtful way? How can I do it where I’m really paying attention to the person in front of me and being clear and straightforward, while also a human being? I’m not interested in wearing the badge that says, well, that’s just who I am.
Sarah Harrison 24:19
It keeps us from evolving ourselves. I like to think about my next iteration or who I can be. I like that you decided you wanted to let things go about yourself. I definitely have felt that. Although, to be fair, I actually find you extremely elegant in your delivery. But I have not experienced blunt Carolyn.
Carolyn Daughters 24:48
I really appreciate that. I’ve worked at it. I’m very conscious about it. Because I am all about communication. I’m a professional writer and have been for 30 years, and I studied writing. Verbal and written communication are in my wheelhouse, and I want to make sure I’m clear with people and I’m not keeping stuff from people that they need to hear. It doesn’t mean I just share every single thought in my head. I don’t. But I try to find ways to be honest and clear without breaking someone. Words are powerful, and I try to channel them in a productive way. Which does not always come naturally to me.
Sarah Harrison 25:49
Maybe it comes naturally to some people.
Carolyn Daughters 26:02
I tend not to shy away from tough talks. That is a superpower of mine. If I see something wrong, I almost always say something. But I try to shape the way I say it, so that it’s received in the manner in which it’s intended so it has greater potential to move iin a positive direction than to make someone bristle and want to push me away. It’s challenging, for sure.
Sarah Harrison 26:35
Carolyndaughters.com, folks. Learn more about these crucial skills.
Carolyn Daughters 26:44
Thank you. One thing we want to talk about in this Mystery of the Hansom Cab podcast is the fact that there are so many detectives.
Sarah Harrison 26:54
Even though there are two, which is one more than there usually are.
Carolyn Daughters 26:58
I know. We meet one, he disappears, then we meet another one there
Sarah Harrison 27:03
They’re nemeses, which I thought was really funny. They’re always trying to one up each other and have this whole detective competition.
Carolyn Daughters 27:12
You can also argue that the lawyer Carlton, or I’m sorry, Calton. That’s another one.
Sarah Harrison 27:17
That was a difficult one.
Carolyn Daughters 27:18
I want that R in there. I want to make him Carlton instead of Calton and Frettlby just needs another vowel.
Sarah Harrison 27:28
Frettleby with an “E.”
Carolyn Daughters 27:28
Many people are acting as detectives. I think that’s a key thing to discuss in this Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast. The attorney Calton, Madge Frettlby is sort of a detective, Brian Fitzgerald, her fiancé. There’s all these people who are sorting through the evidence or trying to figure stuff out.
Sarah Harrison 27:42
Brian kind of sucked as a detective. Madge was really good, though. And that was one of my pet peeves because Madge was really good, and it didn’t seem like she was getting enough credit or was able to leverage her follow through.
Carolyn Daughters 28:00
I wanted to see more from her. I mean, she was really on it.
Sarah Harrison 28:03
She’s on the boat to like, I’m gonna save my man, Brian. And I know these things, and she was totally right. But then as soon as she’s there, she’sacting like, well, I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong.
Carolyn Daughters 28:18
There’s this point where she and the lawyer Calton are off investigating. At this point, Brian Fitzgerald is in prison for the murder. He’s been accused and has not yet been cleared. And they learn Brian received a letter from a mystery woman the night of the murder. Then she has this instinct, like, I think its in his lodging. And they find the partially burned letter there.
Sarah Harrison 28:43
She’s like, he never throws anything away. So it would have to be here or here. That’s really observant and logical.
Carolyn Daughters 28:50
And the lawyer says to her, your feminine instincts have done more to discover the truth than my reasoning.
Sarah Harrison 28:55
I’m gonna pause on that a minute because that line blew me away. What feminine instincts? That was actually reasonable. She used really logical line of reasoning. And she was correct.
Carolyn Daughters 29:12
It’s the way you can shape the message so it comes across as if it’s lesser than. It was a really weird framing to me. As if there was no skill involved.
Sarah Harrison 29:21
It was just your feminine instincts. It was a completely logical deduction. There are a couple things like that blew me away.
Carolyn Daughters 29:36
At one point, he’s like, gosh, I guess I’ll just follow her around because she seems to have all of these instinctual ideas about where to go and what to do. And she’s just using her brain and trying to map out where he went and what he did. Calton — and I’m gonna argue by extension, the author Fergus Hume — can’t seem to fathom that a woman actually used her brain to figure out that A led to B led to C.
Sarah Harrison 30:12
Well, that’s an interesting extension to the author. And I always wonder that myself when these authors make these statements. I’m like, is this tongue in cheek? Or, are they really twisted up in their own weird framework here? I don’t want to get too deep into what the author meant in this Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast, but I think it’s worth mentioning.
Carolyn Daughters 30:36
I think that’s a great question. Intentionality, I think, is key. So really seeing how deftly the author handles the story can help give a window into what the author actually was thinking. This story suggested to me that the author wasn’t trying to smirk or wink. Just her feminine instincts — wink to the reader — women are rational, logical beings. I felt he was aligned with the general progression of the story with the comments made by various characters, including the attorney Calton.
Sarah Harrison 31:24
That was one thing I felt like about The Woman in White. But then when I read the second book that we talked about … my brain today … the one about the diamond.
Carolyn Daughters 31:37
The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins.
Sarah Harrison 31:41
That one was not as overpoweringly, obnoxiously sexist to me. So I thought, I don’t know what this guy really thinks.
Carolyn Daughters 31:51
We would be remiss if we didn’t discuss sexism in this Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode. I don’t think there’s any male character in the book who is not sexist at some point. If we even had a voice that we trust contradicting some of the other statements or showing us another path or line of thinking. But we don’t see anything like that.
Sarah Harrison 32:18
That was really weird. I was trying to think through that, and I was having a hard time. But it’s something along these lines — if a person uses their actual knowledge about another person, that’s not logic that’s instinct. But I had trouble there defining, well, what’s the category that their thinking is logical if your inferences about what you know about these humans you know really well, it’s just instinct. Logic has to consist of … what?
Carolyn Daughters 33:02
Here’s an example. The second detective, Detective Kilsip, homes in on what turns to be out to be the truth, which is that Roger Moreland committed the murder. And it’s because at first at first he’s thinking that the murderer wore a ring on his right forefinger. This has been demonstrated. And Roger Moreland wears a ring on his right forefinger. So is this him using feminine intuition (even though he’s a man), or is he using logic? Is he saying, I observed something and I believe that there may be a connection here?
Sarah Harrison 33:52
I think you’re hitting on it, like this direct observation or maybe visual observation. Like, I found the coat in the tree. I found the glove in the pocket. And that’s considered the logical deduction, whereas to say, “I know Brian doesn’t throw anything away.” That’s considered an instinct, when in fact it’s a logical deduction about like a personality rather than an object.
Carolyn Daughters 34:20
It’s perceptive. She’s paying attention.
Sarah Harrison 34:25
Detective Bucket from Bleak House would have been considered instinctual. Detective Bucket was all about reading people. And knowing people and how they are and how they’re going to be. I feel like that’s logic to the next level to me. It’s not instinct. We discussed that in our Bleak House podcast episodes [a few episodes before The Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episodes].
Carolyn Daughters 34:48
It’s not just about finding the jacket, though that’s an accomplishment, right?
Sarah Harrison 34:55
You found the coat in the tree.
Carolyn Daughters 34:59
That coat had been there for months. I think it was months later.
Sarah Harrison 35:07
Brian was in jail for a long time and then released.
Carolyn Daughters 35:11
And the second detectives says I think I know where the coat might be. The murderer wore of the same coat as Brian.
Sarah Harrison 35:21
I was like, What the crap? Why’d you put the coat in a tree? Put a rock in it and throw it to the bottom of the river.
Carolyn Daughters 35:28
It was a pretty upscale coat, right?
Sarah Harrison 35:32
What happens when the leaves fall off the tree?
Carolyn Daughters 35:34
But why didn’t anyone take this coat?
Sarah Harrison 35:38
It’s so well hidden in a tree. This was a stupid mistake.
Carolyn Daughters 35:49
There’s an interesting quote about Nero.
Sarah Harrison 35:55
Nero was a pleasant man.
Carolyn Daughters 35:59
This I thought was so interesting. The author, Fergus Hume, does this interesting thing where, it’s all plot, another plot development, other plot development. I didn’t feel that I knew any of the characters all that well. But then he’ll sometimes stop and he’ll just expound on an idea that’s probably in the author’s head.
Sarah Harrison 36:28
He has these pondering moments.
Carolyn Daughters 36:30
And some of those ideas are kind of cool. I don’t know that they’re totally connected to the book, but they’re cool. I mean, you could have an entire Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode on cool ideas in the book that go nowhere.
Sarah Harrison 36:42
The narrator says, “There are doubtless those who think that Nero was a pleasant young man whose cruelties were but the result of an overflow of high spirits and who regard Henry the VIII in the line of a henpecked husband, unfortunate in the possession of six wives. These people delight in expressing their sympathy with great scoundrels of the Ned Kelly order. They view them as the embodiment of heroism, unsympathetically and disgracefully treated by the narrow understanding of the law. If one half the world does kick a man when he is down, the other half invariably consoles the prostrate individual with half pence.
Carolyn Daughters 37:27
Like that “sympathy with great scoundrels of the Ned Kelly order.” And I thought, oh, that’s interesting.
Sarah Harrison 37:32
Did I miss who was Ned Kelly? Was he in the book?
Carolyn Daughters 37:36
He was a famous gunfighter-y guy. Readers and listeners, yes, I did just call him on gunfighter-y guy.
Sarah Harrison 37:47
Google that. Ned Kelly. Gunfighter-y guy.
Carolyn Daughters 37:50
The 19th century Wild West. Possibly.
Sarah Harrison 37:55
Was he in America? Or Australia.
Carolyn Daughters 37:58
I’m now wondering this. I think he might have been in Australia.
Sarah Harrison 38:03
Seems like he’d have to be in Australia.
Carolyn Daughters 38:08
There have been movies about Ned Kelly. And I think he had brothers, the Kelly brothers. To get our next listener award, all you have to do is clue us into the gunfighter-y Kelly brothers. [Comment on the Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode page.]
Carolyn Daughters 38:44
Poor Henry VIII, a “henpecked husband unfortunate in the possession of six wives.” I thought thought this was interesting. The direction in which our sympathies go.
Sarah Harrison 38:59
Do you think it’s overstated, or do you think it’s like a correct assessment?
Carolyn Daughters 39:03
I feel as if it’s correct. I feel that “if one half the world does kick a man when he’s down the other half invariably consoles the individual.” I don’t want to get into politics or anything. We’re all in different camps, and we see things in different ways, and we find things to praise about people that somebody else might either scoff at or just be horrified by.
Sarah Harrison 39:32
Definitely. Of course, the first person that comes to mind is the Trump, like how divisive people are about him. They either adore him or despise him. But there are a lot of other people. So Harvey Weinstein is the Hollywood guy. I haven’t heard anyone say, “Poor Harvey Weinstein,” but they might be saying that in their heads.
Carolyn Daughters 40:03
It’s possible. I haven’t heard anything like that, either.
Sarah Harrison 40:07
Probably people whoknow him. Conversations I’m not privy to.
Carolyn Daughters 40:12
Maybe. That’s a hard one.
Sarah Harrison 40:15
Epstein. That’s the other guy I was thinking of. He had a lot of powerful friends, though. I haven’t heard anyone say, “Poor Epstein.” But they’re probably out there.
Carolyn Daughters 40:33
You can say, in the realm of politics, poor Bill Clinton, poor Donald Trump, depending on where you’re coming from, they’ve been, completely malignedand been given a rough road. A lot of it depends on perspective. In particular, if you know facts of the situation, and you’re still thinking poorHenry VIII.
Sarah Harrison 41:05
He just needed an heir.
Carolyn Daughters 41:07
I mean, the poor guy. If you know the story and have a pretty decent handle on the facts of the situation, and you still come at it differently, I think we just see things in different ways. I have a tendency to just think, okay, this is the logical understanding of this particular situation. And then I’m shocked when there were all these people who think differently. And I’m like, what? And how?
Sarah Harrison 41:47
No, that’s true. I think, the authormaybe picked some extreme examples. But for the most part, people are really complicated. And you can, if you’re the kind of person that’s like, poor underdog, they really got a raw deal, you can definitely find some things that your sympathies will lock on to.
Carolyn Daughters 42:18
But I think we also fill in gaps and build bridges where the gaps should truly exist, or where the bridge currently is not. If we have a particular predisposition towards this or that, we’ll maybe work hard to flesh that out. It’s not just that I’m irrational. It’s not that that person’s a terrible person, and I don’t recognize it. And then we fill in all of these details that help form our worldview and maybe make it more palatable. See, he’s gotten a bad rap, and it’s not really his fault, and so forth. I think we try to make it such that we’re not ridiculous, terrible people. And this person is not a ridiculous, terrible person. It’s so much more complicated … And then we fill in all the gaps.
Sarah Harrison 43:22
I think in this case, the author is coming at it as like, there’s a personality type that they’re just always going to try and be on the other side, whatever the side is, it’s their personality to just take the counter point. I don’t think he was coming at it from a place of like, “people are complicated.” There is kind of the level at which people are complicated. And then I think, to what you were saying, at some point you need to reach a level to be like, No, that’s bad. But based on personality type, I think, like you said, you create the framework that will justify where you want to be.
Carolyn Daughters 44:09
Right, I mean, if you’re like, “Hitler, gosh, he had such a terrible childhood.”
Sarah Harrison 44:15
Exactly. What if everyone who had a terrible childhood became terrible people?
Carolyn Daughters 44:29
This is an example of the author throwing something out there about Nero. And then it just doesn’t go anywhere.
Sarah Harrison 44:41
Was he was he talking about … it was one of the characters that was taking Brian Fitzgerald side. Because he was just contrarian. And then it turned out Brian was innocent, and so he got lauded as being right or having faith in his friend Brian, when really he was just a contrarian personality.
Carolyn Daughters 45:02
Right?.That was his place in the world to be contrarian. We all have a friend like that. The bold person who always has a different point of view.
Sarah Harrison 45:12
And then he just finds himself suddenly in the camp of being right. Of course, that kills the narrator’s point a little bit because Brian was innocent. He wasn’t a Nero or a Henry VIII, but I guess, people thought he was.
Carolyn Daughters 45:27
The author does this analysis of something that probably was on the author’s mind. But where he talks about insanity. There’s a doctor in the story, a tertiary character. But the doctor says, “There are more mad people at large than the world is aware of, I believe there are many people whose lives are one long struggle against insanity. And yet who eat drink, talk and walk with the rest of their fellow man apparently is gay and light hearted as they are.” And he references The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. That book doesn’t really explore the idea of insanity. But I thought, this is really interesting. This kind of comment comes up even today. Can we always identify the insane among us? And then I want this idea to go somewhere in the story, but it doesn’t.
Sarah Harrison 46:41
I want to know two things. I want to know what does this guy mean when he says “insane”? I’m,not super duper sure. I just unpacked The Pickwick Papers out of one of my boxes. I buy a lot of used books in bulk when I have an opportunity. I haven’t read them all yet. I feel like we shouldn’t make a list. This is a total side note.
Carolyn Daughters 47:10
A list of all of the references.
Sarah Harrison 47:13
Exactly. The books these books refer to. I think that would be great. Reader, would you like a list of books these books refer to? You’re gonna get one.
Carolyn Daughters 47:24
It’s gonna be amazing.
Sarah Harrison 47:27
It can be like the sub-thread of the book club.
Carolyn Daughters 47:30
I mean, truly, for years to come, you could just read the books that we’re reading and all of these other books.
Sarah Harrison 47:38
And why wouldn’t you do that?
Carolyn Daughters 47:41
The truth is, you won’t have time for anything else. But that’s okay. Because these books are all amazing. This is gonna be good.
Sarah Harrison 47:50
But what is the struggle against insanity here, back to the quote, which is a really interesting one. When I think insanity, I tend to think maybe more extreme disorders, like schizophrenia or something like you’re hearing or seeing something that’s not there. But here, they were talking about just the murderer? Like just a precondition that the murderer must have been insane.
Carolyn Daughters 48:17
They even asked that question. Is the murderer necessarily insane? And I think the doctor says “yes.” By virtue of the fact that he committed murder, he’s insane.
Sarah Harrison 48:28
So all murderers are insane. But I don’t exactly agree with that.
Carolyn Daughters 48:35
Because there are motives of opportunity.
Sarah Harrison 48:37
You can be cold blooded. Does that make you insane? I know you can be hot-blooded? It was clearly like a cover case. Just because you’re willing to kill for what you want, does that make you insane?
Carolyn Daughters 48:57
Are there people at large who are concealing their insanity and day to day walk amongst us? They sit in the office or cubicle next to us or they live next door? Or are we interacting with people who are insane, as I think the doctor is arguing here, and we just don’t have any inkling?
Sarah Harrison 49:21
I mean, if we change those words to be like, one long struggle against mental health issues., then I would say yes, absolutely. But I jdon’t know what he means when he says insane. If he means someone willing to kill, then yes. If he’s just generalizing mental health issues, then, again, yes. You just don’t know what’s going on with people.
Carolyn Daughters 49:47
At the end, we find out Roger Moreland has committed this crime. He’s a character who’s never well developed. We don’t know much about him. But was he insane?
Sarah Harrison 50:01
Well, my understanding was that it was an accident anyway. He was just trying to knock him out with the chloroform and overdid it and killed him.
Carolyn Daughters 50:11
He argued it was unintentional. And then, we talked a bit about the author’s and the narrator’s perspective of women. But, at one point, the narrator says, “If a man is a gregarious animal, how much more than is a woman? This is not a conundrum, but a simple truth. A female Robinson Crusoe would have gone mad for want of someone or something to talk to.” So a female Robinson Crusoe would have gone mad. So, simply not having someone to talk to would have made her insane?
Sarah Harrison 50:51
That was interesting, too, because the narrator did let Madge disagree with that idea later in the book. She’s like, no, there are plenty of men who talk more than women. I thought that was fair. And of course, in today’s age, I have to think of the movie Castaway. Where the main character has to talk to a volleyball. And he did go insane for want of someone to talk to.
Carolyn Daughters 51:23
And understandably. I remember watching the movie and thinking, spot on. You’re alone. You don’t know if you’re ever going to see a person again. This could be it.
Sarah Harrison 51:38
It’s really weird. The closest experience I had would be a one-week road trip. I was by myself. I was driving back from LA to Colorado. And I was just stopping and camping at all of these national parks. And I did get this really weird feeling after day three, seeing no one. It’s just like the open road. I’m not even getting food because I’m super cheap. And I just had like a gallon of trail mix I made myself. I’m in the car. And there’s no cars and I was eating trail mix for three days. And it was a weird feeling. I did feel like things feel very unreal when there’s not someone to talk to about it. Like, no one.
Carolyn Daughters 52:33
Having somebody to talk to periodically.
Sarah Harrison 52:35
I might have said a few words to a couple people at a campground. And that was it. You don’t really realize how other people ground you in life.
Carolyn Daughters 52:47
Just give you that sense of community or there’s a sense of a society around you in which you exist. You don’t exist outside it. And it’s just a reminder that you exist within it. And there are etiquettes and constraints and potential benefits, I guess.
Sarah Harrison 53:09
You’re saying words to each other. You’re telling stories about your life, you’re getting interaction. That enrichment makes it feel a little bit more real than when you’re just living alone and stuff happens, and it stays in your head.
Carolyn Daughters 53:28
Let’s talk more about women in our Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast. In the book, for example, Madge represents women in large part. But there are other examples as well. We get Mother Guttersnipe.
Sarah Harrison 53:41
I felt like they were pretty cruel to her. Honestly. There was some cruelty to women and to the poor. They kind of felt simultaneous to me.
Carolyn Daughters 53:55
Mother Guttersnipe does not come across as a very redeeming person. And the characters look askance. They can’t bear to look at her, or they’re horrified by her, or they chastise her. They have things to say to her. And then Madge is the flipside of that. We hear things about Madge. At one point she’s engaged in “that occupation so dear to every female heart – shopping.” She purchases a dozen or more articles she didn’t want. And the women are always shrieking. In the courtroom, a woman whose nerves are overstrung shrieks. “Madge at one point feared her highly strung nerves would give way. Afterward the mental strain during the trial had brought on an attack of brain fever.” “Women are more impressionable than men,” the narrator tells us, “and it is perhaps for this reason they age quicker
Sarah Harrison 54:55
That totally reminded me of The Woman in White. They’re all getting fevers.
Carolyn Daughters 55:01
And Laura in The Woman in White also aged quicker, didn’t she? I think she did.
Sarah Harrison 55:05
You’re probably right.
Carolyn Daughters 55:07
“A trouble that would pass lightly over man leaves an indelible mark on a woman, both physically and mentally.” Whether it was in the court or it was Madge, some woman was always shrieking. The brain fever comes upon them, and it’s just too much for their nerves to handle.
Sarah Harrison 55:27
I wonder if this is the social milieu. If it’s acceptable to shriek, do more women shriek? I had a friend. She was from India. And she really would get frustrated here in America that people didn’t expect women in science to cry. And they don’t, believe me. If you were talking to professor as a lady and you start crying, oh, man. That’s the worst thing that can happen in that moment. But apparently, in India that is not the case. And she was like, everyone knows you’re gonna cry and it’s fine if you’re a lady. Well, it’s interesting. So she was more accustomed to crying and didn’t like kind of the response here. So I’m wondering, like, if the culture at the time was like, “Well, women are shrieky.” Do more women shriek? Or are you more apt to kind of rely on this? There’s plenty times I’d like to shriek. I’m holding it in as best as I can. But maybe if it was socially acceptable, I would shriek more.
Carolyn Daughters 56:56
It was socially encouraged of a certain class. Maybe in a courtroom, you’re supposed to shriek. I don’t know. Maybe if you’re in a lower echelon, your in lower-class Melbourne society, maybe there’s less shrieking because it would take a whole lot to shock you.
Sarah Harrison 57:21
I think so. I think that these things probably reinforced themselves.
Carolyn Daughters 57:30
In our next Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode, we’re going to talk more about class and Mother Guttersnipe. There’s a lot of ground to cover there.
Sarah Harrison 57:43
That’s always interesting, the way these different books handle class.
Carolyn Daughters 57:46
It’s interesting to see how one class is presented versus another. There are various characters in this book, for example, who just play tennis and then have cocktails. You get a sense that that’s their life. And then other characters are Mother Guttersnipe.
Sarah Harrison 58:30
All right. Come back, listeners, and we’ll share more thoughts in our next Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode.
Carolyn Daughters 58:41
So check out our second episode. And get started on our next book, which is A Study in Scarlet.
Sarah Harrison 58:55
Awesome. Thanks, listeners. Leave a comment. Get a sticker.
September 11, 2023
Sarah, Carolyn, and Mike Nugent keep the Maltese Falcon conversation flowing with LOADS more thoughts about Sam Spade, Effie Perine, Casper Gutman, Joel Cairo, and, of course, the ever-elusive Brigid O'Shaughnessy. Folks, we have a lot of ground to cover. Join us, won’t you?Listen →
August 4, 2023
Author Mike Nugent joins Sarah and Carolyn to talk about noir, crime fiction, and all things Sam Spade (who’s described as resembling a blond satan). The Maltese Falcon changed the way crime fiction was written. You’ll want to read it in one sitting and then give our podcast a listen.Listen →
July 30, 2023
Hey, Continental Op, what’s your deal? Are you a hero? Anti-hero? Something else altogether? Hear our thoughts about the Op, Dinah Brand, Whisper, and all the gang – and let us know your tally of how many people wind up dead in the book. It’s hard to keep track.Listen →