The Mystery of a Hansom Cab: A Melbourne Mystery
Welcome to The Mystery of a Hansom Cab podcast episode (one of two) focused on this amazing 1886 Melbourne mystery!
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.
Weigh In: Share your thoughts!
At zero cost to you, Tea, Tonic & Toxin will earn an affiliate commission if you make a purchase using any of these affiliate links.
Melbourne Mystery: The Mystery of a Hansom Cab
Sarah Harrison 0:24
Welcome to Tea, Tonic & 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 changes. This month, we’re talking about The Mystery of a Hansom Cab: A Melbourne mystery. And we’ve got a couple different episodes.
Sarah Harrison 1:01
This is part two. So if you don’t want to listen to part one, go back one.
Carolyn Daughters 1:05
You don’t have to listen to them in order, either. You can listen to them at leisure in whatever order you like.
Sarah Harrison 1:14
That’s true. They’re both full of spoilers.
Carolyn Daughters 1:18
They’re loaded with sports.
Sarah Harrison 1:20
It’s not like you don’t get spoiled.
Carolyn Daughters 1:23
Before we dive into that, I think we have a sponsor.
Sarah Harrison 1:26
We have an awesome sponsor. It’s Linden Botanicals. They’ve sponsored other episodes, and we love them. They are a Colorado-based company that sells the world’s healthiest herbal teas and extracts. Their team has traveled the globe to find the herbs that offer the best science-based support for immune health, stress relief, energy, memory, mood, kidney health, joint health, inflammation, and digestion. U.S. orders over $75 ship free. To learn more and get 10% off your first order, visit lindenbotanicals.com.
Carolyn Daughters 2:13
We also have a listener of the month. Now we like to do that.
Sarah Harrison 2:17
We love you.
Carolyn Daughters 2:18
We love our listeners. Our listener award for this podcast episode goes to Wendi Anderson from Golden, Colorado.
Sarah Harrison 2:26
Carolyn Daughters 2:26
Thank you Wendi. And that is Wendi with an “i”. Because when when you have an “i” on the end your name, I bet people get it wrong a lot.
Sarah Harrison 2:37
If you’re imagining how it’s spelled in your mind, you were wrong.
Carolyn Daughters 2:41
Or maybe you were right.
Sarah Harrison 2:42
Maybe if you’re Wendi with an “i”.
Carolyn Daughters 2:45
And you were hearing that, and you were thinking, I bet that’s me. Thank you Wendi for being a member of the Tea, Tonic & Toxin book club. We appreciate you.
Sarah Harrison 2:59
She gets a sticker.
Carolyn Daughters 3:02
They are very, very nice stickers.
Sarah Harrison 3:04
They are super sweet stickers. They look good on notebooks, water bottles, coolers. We should maybe get a patch so you can sew it on your letterman jacket or something.
Carolyn Daughters 3:17
In 2023, I’m gonna over-commit and hopefully deliver hats, maybe. Maybe shirts.
Whoa, what? I was just thinking about a different line of stickers.
So different line of stickers
Sarah Harrison 3:36
I’m obsessed with stickers.
Carolyn Daughters 3:37
Hats, shirts, or tea cups or something.
Sarah Harrison 3:41
I really want some Tea, Tonic & Toxin glasses. Would our hats be detective hats? Like Sherlock Holmes hats?
Carolyn Daughters 3:59
Weird ones with ear muff parts?
Sarah Harrison 4:03
And a houndstooth pattern.
Carolyn Daughters 4:05
I was thinking more like a baseball cap, but sure.
Sarah Harrison 4:10
Maybe a houndstooth baseball cap.
Carolyn Daughters 4:14
The cool thing is you can get your own on-air shout out, which I think is fun.
Sarah Harrison 4:20
And you get a sticker by weighing in. All you have to do is reach out. Let us know what you’re thinking, let us know about our book choices, share some suggestions.
Sarah Harrison 4:59
Comment. I mean, as long as you’re just talking about how great we are.
Carolyn Daughters 5:05
I can’t imagine what else they would talk about, but sure. How great we are, how much you love the podcast … If you’ve already told us how wonderful we are, you could probably also talk about the books.
Sarah Harrison 5:30
That gets a sticker. And if you don’t get a sticker, and you’re like, hey, I made a comment, your time will come. So this is part two of two parts of The Mystery of a Hansom Cab. We’re going to talk about how the book is a Melbourne mystery.
Carolyn Daughters 6:08
Even if you haven’t yet read this Melbourne mystery, you can still be part of this conversation because Sarah is gonna tell you what this Melbourne mystery is all about.
Sarah Harrison 6:18
The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is an 1886 crime novel, written by New Zealander Fergus Hume. It’s one of the most famous crime classics of the Victorian era. The story is set in Melbourne, Australia. In this Melbourne mystery, a gentleman hails a hansom cab for a drunk man. When the gentleman recognizes the drunk man he leaves. minutes later, the gentleman seemingly returns and gets in the cab enroute 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 is Oliver White, recently arrived from England. The night he was killed he argued with Mark Frettlby. Wealthy Australian Mark Frettlby told Oliver that 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, Oliver had drinks at a bar with his friend Roger Moreland. All evidence points to jealousy as the motive and Fitzgerald is the killer, and Mr. Gorby of the detective office or arrest Fitzgerald. However, Fitzgerald just declared innocent at a 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, who apparently told them a big secret. While Fitzgerald didn’t commit the murder in this Melbourne mystery, 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 in the story Mark Frettlby dies. At first it seems Frettlby must have murdered Oliver to keep his relationship with Rosanna secret. Before he died however, Frettlby wrote a confession, where he admitted marrying Rosanna and having a child with her. That child, Sal, is his legitimate heir. Believing they were both dead, Frettlby remarried and had another child Madge. In the confession Fred it’ll be says he didn’t kill Oliver. It’s revealed that the real killer was Oliver’s friend Roger Moreland. Roger used chloroform to knock Oliver out so he could steal all of his papers and blackmail Frettlby. Rogers arrested and killed himself. Frettlby’s marriage to Rosanna, Sal’s existence, and Madge’s illegitimacy remains secret. The story ends with Madge and Fitzgerald setting sail for Europe.
Carolyn Daughters 9:26
The story is set in Melbourne, so it’s our first Melbourne mystery. Melbourne may have seemed exotic in the Victorian era. It still may today, to be honest, I mean, people want to take their vacation in Australia. So we have a Melbourne mystery instead of a mystery set in London, for example, which was much more common. Australia is considered, at least by the narrator of this book, the land of opportunity. So you want to be a rich person? Where do you go? Well, maybe you go to the United States, maybe you go to Australia. And we learn Mark Frettlby, the father of Madge, came to Australia determined to become a rich man and he becomes a rich man.
Sarah Harrison 10:24
He did it. Good job!
Carolyn Daughters 10:27
Kudos. Well done, Mark Frettlby. All that money, and he couldn’t put another vowel in his last name.
Sarah Harrison 10:39
Carolyn Daughters 10:39
The narrator says, “He had that extraordinary vivacious Irish temperament, which enables a man to put all his trouble behind his back and thoroughly enjoy the present.” Brian Fitzgerald came came from Ireland, Mark Frettlby from England. And they really made their way here in Australia. So how easy do we think this was in the Victorian era? You just get on a boat, you arrive there, and — bam — now you’re of the moneyed class?
Sarah Harrison 11:22
It seems pretty tough still. Not everybody was doing it. Roger Moreland, for his part, was really failing at it. He had a part-time bartender job, and he was out of money. And Mark Frettlby seems to have put his ducks in the right row or whatever. And it wasn’t like was no poverty in Australia. It seems like there was quite a lot still.
Carolyn Daughters 11:51
In this Melbourne mystery, we do see slums. We learn Mark Frettlby was in a merchant’s office in London. We learn that he was in a dead-end job. He was going to go nowhere. He was probably better off than someone who couldn’t find work or who was living on the street, but he was never going to become wealthy in London. So he comes to New South Wales some time in the 19th century. And he started a new life. He inherited a little tiny bit of money, just enough to help him move to Australia, and then he bought land every chance he got. And he became this wealthy, well-known guy in Melbourne society. Not too shabby. We should all inherit just enough money to send us to wherever the place is that we make our our future.
Sarah Harrison 11:57
You can buy some land.
Carolyn Daughters 13:08
Buying land helps. Now, Brian Fitzgerald, his family lost their fortune in Ireland, and he came to Australia to make a new fortune. He brought letters of introduction to Mark Frettlby. As we discovered in this Melbourne mystery, It helps to have letters of introduction to the rich guy.
Sarah Harrison 13:27
Which is funny. Like how did he get letters of introduction?
Carolyn Daughters 13:31
If you come from money. Somebody’s going to write you this letter. Somebody in your social circle says, I know this guy, Mark Frettlby in Melbourne. I would love to write you a letter of introduction to him.
Sarah Harrison 13:45
I was thinking like, in England, Frettlby was just a clerk. I guess he was unknown in England and known in Australia. A rich guy. I’d love to see one of those letters though.
Carolyn Daughters 14:03
I want a letter of introduction. My life is sorely lacking in letters of introduction.
Sarah Harrison 14:10
I’ll write you one. Who would you like to meet?
Carolyn Daughters 14:14
I need to know who’s in your circle. Governors, senators. Tech giants and millionaires would be fine.
Sarah Harrison 14:32
I’ll write you some. They won’t know me.
Carolyn Daughters 14:44
Dear Mr. Bezos, Carolyn has been awesome. And you will definitely want to meet her and probably work with her. Signed, your friend, Sarah.
Sarah Harrison 14:53
She can help you with your marketing. Everyone knows a Sarah. “Carolyn’s great. Thanks, Sarah.”
Carolyn Daughters 15:06
The fact that she wrote this letter means she must be at least an acquaintance of mine. All right. Somebody set up the meeting with Carolyn.
Sarah Harrison 15:15
Let’s all write letters, folks.
Carolyn Daughters 15:18
It’s just part of the service of Grace Sigma.
Sarah Harrison 15:24
We do write letters of introduction.
Carolyn Daughters 15:26
Gracesigma.com, in case you’re wanting some of these letters for yourself with her very wide or maybe not wide. I don’t know circle of people.
Sarah Harrison 15:38
Infinite. I’ll introduce you to all the people you want to know.
Carolyn Daughters 15:43
You will not. You will write the letter of introduction. There’s no introduction. So Brian Fitzgerald comes from Ireland, and he makes so much money. He has his letter of introduction he presents to Mark Frettlby. And then suddenly, he’s on the fast track to wealth, and he gets enough money that he’s thinking of rebuilding his castle in Ireland. It just warms the heart. I would think the letters to Mark Frettlby helps you make your way in Melbourne society. So then we have somebody like Mother Guttersnipe. She probably wasn’t born in Australia. She probably came on a ship. She doesn’t have the same luck.
Sarah Harrison 16:47
No, although she doesn’t start out as bad as she ends up. In this Melbourne mystery, it sounds like she had the most famous daughter in Australia for a while and kept her eye on her really tightly. Rosanna Moore. But then there was this whole weird affair with Frettlby and Rosanna, which boggles my mind. They got married. Everyone was in love with this some dancer Rosanna. But she seems like not a guttersnipe person, like a dancer, and she was watched by her mother and everything was on the up and up. But then the marriage was secret, because Mark Frettlby didn’t want to tell his father he married someone who wasn’t a Presbyterian.
Carolyn Daughters 17:39
His father’s presumably back in England. How is his father going to find out she’s not Presbyterian? Part of this Melbourne mystery involves why people act so weird. The whole thing seemed strange.
Sarah Harrison 17:49
And why didn’t Rosanna tell her mother, who watched her like a hawk to make sure to make sure she retained her virtue. That was really confusing.
Carolyn Daughters 18:03
Why wouldn’t you tell your mother? Why would you keep that a secret?
Sarah Harrison 18:08
This became some weird plot twist. This poor Mother Guttersnipe thinks Mark Frettlby ruined her daughter, and turned her into his mistress. Did she think her daughter died in England, or does she know she stayed alive?
Carolyn Daughters 18:31
That’s a great question. I think she knew she was alive.
Sarah Harrison 18:37
She was raising their daughter. But in this weird, vindictive way, where she’s like, “Well, Mark Frettlby ruined my daughter, so I’m gonna ruin his daughter.”
Who also happens to be my granddaughter.
She’s also her daughter’s daughter. What are you doing? That actually seems to trigger Mother Guttersnipe, I think, into the gutter. From being this terrible being this upstanding, we’re going to retain our virtues, and just being a theater-type person to I’m going to make a fallen woman out of my granddaughter and become a terrible alcoholic.
Carolyn Daughters 19:16
Mother Guttersnipe. The granddaughter somehow seems to be a fairly upstanding human being.
Sarah Harrison 19:22
She’s definitely living with all of these different men throughout the book. But she has a moral compass. She’s not ruined by addiction.
Carolyn Daughters 19:38
Rosanna Moore not telling her mother she had married Mark Frettlby would be akin to you — or your friend or your daughter or your niece — marrying Jeff Bezos and not telling anyone. Why would you keep such a thing secret? It’s so strange.
Sarah Harrison 20:01
You prefer everyone to think you’re the mistress, not the wife.
Carolyn Daughters 20:06
Really weird. Rosanna Moore disappears with the daughter, I believe.
Sarah Harrison 20:12
That’s what we’re confused about is when the daughter got to the grandma. I thought Mark Frettlby never knew he had a daughter, but I could be wrong about that.
Carolyn Daughters 20:38
I thought he did and heard that she had died and then later hears that Rosanna has died. Neither of them. of course, died. Well, I mean, Rosanna eventually dies, but he bases an entire new life on the idea that they’re dead. He marries another woman and he has a child, Madge, and believes that Madge his legitimate heir, not his illegitimate child. It’s not just one Melbourne mystery, it’s a bunch of mysteries.
Sarah Harrison 21:17
He loves his second wife, loves his daughter, has this great life. He thinks everything’s fine.
Carolyn Daughters 21:28
This Melbourne mystery definitely shows different classes. You have the men of means, like a Mark Frettlby or a Brian Fitzgerald. You have the men of few means, like Oliver White and Roger Moreland. You have the working class. There’s a hansom cab driver. There’s a landlady, Sal Rollins, who is Mark Frettlby’s secret granddaughter. And then you have the guttersnipes, who are the scruffy, badly behaved street urchins, people like Mother Guttersnipe and maybe burlesque dancers like Rosanna Moore.
Sarah Harrison 22:08
Actually, Sal was more of a gutter person. She even talks about like taking up with a Chinese miner at one point in the book. And she’s super ashamed of it. She seems to travel around and take up with just these different guys, whereas Rosanna Moore was upstanding and guarded and maintained her position. I really hated honestly how the working class landladies are treated in this Melbourne mystery. That made me like really uncomfortable, to be honest. Fergus Hume treated them comically, but in an unkind and inhuman way to my reading.
Carolyn Daughters 22:57
Oliver Whitehead had a landlady. And when she speaks, the other characters can’t even understand her English, her accent is so strong. I thought that was interesting. And then she gets defensive, saying her cousin or aunt won a spelling bee or something.
Sarah Harrison 23:28
Wait, I think that was was Brian Fitzgerald’s landlady. Now, she’s comical, but she’s had a hard life. These landladies, man, they’re scraping by.
Carolyn Daughters 23:41
They’re renting rooms out of their house to get by essentially.
Sarah Harrison 23:44
You feel bad for them?
Carolyn Daughters 23:50
I did. At times I felt bad for Mother Guttersnipe, though I don’t think we’re meant to.
Sarah Harrison 23:57
I don’t think in any case, we were meant to feel bad for them. The landladies were supposed to be these comic relief characters, but I was like, man, that’s harsh. They had a really rough life. What really got me with Mother Guttersnipe. She seems to be poor until you find out at the end she’s quite wealthy. You think she’s overwhelmingly poor nad alcoholic and living in this miserable condition in this terrible place. And they had put up a huge reward — find Sal Rawlins! And then Sal comes back, and they go to Mother Guttersnipe’s and talk to her, and she’s like, where’s the reward? They’re like, you’re not gonna get it because Sal found herself. But you were willing to give a lot of money, and she’s really poor, right?
Carolyn Daughters 24:57
At one point they’re trying to find Sal Rollins, who’s going to provide evidence to help clear Brian Fitzgerald. She’d been ill, which is why she didn’t provide Brian Fitzgerald’s alibi earlier. So this reward is offered, and whoever was caring for her while she was ill never even read that this reward was offered. Calton, the attorney, says “vegetables!” He calls them vegetables. How can people be so ignorant? At any rate, it’s money out of their pocket. It’s a win. I had a problem with these kinds of statements that are sprinkled throughout the book. It’s like in this Melbourne mystery, it’s their own fault that they’re ignorant.
Sarah Harrison 25:45
They’re only just like working on the farm all day and night instead of reading my newspaper ad. Stupid!
Carolyn Daughters 25:54
How can people be so ignorant? Well, I would argue it’s probably because they don’t go to school. Haven’t in some cases learn to read or even if they do know how to read are probably not reading the daily paper.
Sarah Harrison 26:06
Wasn’t Madge teaching Sal how to read after she hired her? So it’s not like Sal could have even read the ad.
Carolyn Daughters 26:15
It reminded me of Esther Summerson in Bleak House teaching Charley how to read and educating her and seeing this young woman of great potential and recognizing that and bringing her up. She’ll still be working class her whole life, mind you. Bringing her up so she can be a better servant, I guess.
Sarah Harrison 26:40
You get a lot from reading, as we believe here, as we believe here at the Tea, Tonic & Toxin podcast. It makes life better and more enjoyable. Whether or not you get to be rich and play tennis all day.
Carolyn Daughters 26:53
I wouldn’t mind trying.
Sarah Harrison 26:55
Sure. Why not.
Carolyn Daughters 26:58
And then you come in and get a refreshment, maybe a bite. You rest and relax for a little bit. And you might go back out and play tennis and more.
Sarah Harrison 27:07
They refresh themselves with all this champagne. I was like, oh, that sounds like what not to drink after a bunch of tennis on a hot day.
Carolyn Daughters 27:18
This is a normal day for them. So maybe they’ve got a handle on it?
Sarah Harrison 27:23
I felt that, too. And I felt that in the Wilkie Collins books. I feel like there’s just not much sympathy with the lower-class characters, whereas Dickens is just such a contrast with that. When Dickens was writing these characters, you can tell he feels for them. He’s makes these dry, humorous remarks about ignorant, silly, high-class people, if they’re acting that way.
Carolyn Daughters 28:23
Dickens can also make fun of lower-class people. It’s really about the person. They can be they can be really anything in Dickens.
Sarah Harrison 28:34
Sometimes this comedy just fell flat for me at the characters’ expense. Brian Fitzgerald’s landlady says” locus.” When she meant “locust.”
Carolyn Daughters 28:53
She says locus meaning locusts. Fitzgerald is an Irishman who probably has his own accent. We don’t know what accent has Australia landlady has.
Sarah Harrison 29:05
He would have an Irish accent, probably, which is not superior.
Carolyn Daughters 29:11
Australians have a definitive or distinguished accent. I don’t know how distinguished it was in Victorian times. And then there were probably different accents in different geographic regions and different educational backgrounds. We don’t know how that landlady sounds. But Fitzgerald might be difficult to understand, depending. But she says “though not being a scholar. I speaks English, I opes. I hopes my mother’s second cousin haven’t had a first prize in a spelling bee.”
Sarah Harrison 29:52
She does amusingly go into long tangential stories.
Carolyn Daughters 30:05
And then we have Madge and Sal, who are like two sides of a coin.
Sarah Harrison 30:10
I really felt like Sal got a raw deal in this Melbourne mystery. I think I was supposed to feel like she got a good deal, but I didn’t.
Carolyn Daughters 30:19
What made think you were supposed to feel that she had a good deal?
Sarah Harrison 30:23
I felt like I was supposed to be like, Oh, isn’t that great, Madge is educating Sal. And to Madge’s credit, I don’t really have a problem with her as a character. She was good person. But then, they decide not to tell Sal that she’s Mark Frettlby’s daughter, and they decide not to tell Madge either that she has a sister, Sal Rawlins.
Carolyn Daughters 30:52
They rationalize it.
Sarah Harrison 30:54
Well, what could it do? Sal wasn’t brought up for this level of status — as though Mark Frettlby was. He just a clerk. It would be a scandal on Madge. So they just all decide amongst themselves that people don’t need to know about themselves. And they burn all the evidence and never tell them.
Carolyn Daughters 31:14
As if from on high, as if they should be the ones deciding. In m, there’s a doctor who’s playing God. And now these guys are playing God. They need to hear this, but they don’t need to hear that. The decisions they’re making are affecting people’s entire lives.
Sarah Harrison 31:37
That happened several times. Mark Frettlby went to the doctor because he thought he had a heart condition. The doctor checked him out and said, “No, you’re good.” And then the doctor tells Madge that her father has a really bad heart condition. He called you, he paid your bill. What? The doctor doesn’t think Frettlby needs to know he has a heart condition. Instead, he just tells his daughter.
Carolyn Daughters 32:10
From my perspective, what makes these characters think that they have the right to withhold key information. I feel that’s really presumptuous.
Sarah Harrison 32:33
It really struck me as bizarre. But then I always question myself. I’m like, is this bizarre, or am I too enmeshed in American culture to see what the point is. So, my friend’s wife’s father, who’s in his 90s, got pancreatic cancer. He is Chinese. And all of his children decided not to tell him he had pancreatic cancer. His daughter, my friend’s wife, is trying to fly there to see him before he dies, and he does not know he has pancreatic cancer. I mean, he knows he’s dying, obviously. But I thought that was surprising that you can decide to not tell people that they have an illness. That your family can decide for you. Bringing it back to our Melbourne mystery, they tell the kid, Madge, about her father’s condition and let her decide for her father what’s going to happen.
Carolyn Daughters 33:44
There’s a movie called The Farewell. I haven’t seen it yet. It stars Awkwafina. In it, a Chinese family discovers the grandmother has only a short while to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding together before she dies.
Sarah Harrison 34:07
I bet you can even keep people in the dark because the doctor doesn’t tell them the truth. They tell the kids.
Carolyn Daughters 34:14
Playing God. I am going to decide who needs to hear this and who doesn’t. For some reason, I know best.
Sarah Harrison 34:25
That’s interesting. At some point. We do believe the kid knows better than the parents. That’s when you take over power of attorney. My parents have already got the power of attorney socked away, and my brother and I will get it at such point for them. But at what point is it when the children have a legal action there that deems the children will know better than the parent? But for these situations, I mean Mark Frettlby was in his prime. He wasn’t old and dying. It did feel to me like you said, playing God. It just felt it just felt very strange. But it seems to be not an isolated practice.
Carolyn Daughters 35:14
No. Sal is a servant in her sister’s house. She doesn’t know what’s her sister’s house. And the narrator says “it’s a strange irony of fate that brought together these two children of the same father, the one reared in luxury and affluence never having known want, the other dragged up in the gutter all unsexed and besmirched by the life she had led. We get into the the question of fate here. Fate dealt these two women very different hands. And then the men who are in possession of the truth are going to do everything they can to keep this secret.
Sarah Harrison 36:07
They are like the Hands of Fate themselves. That reminds me. Total side topic. If you haven’t seen the MST 3k movie Manos: Hands of Fate, I’m recommending it. It’s my favorite.
Carolyn Daughters 36:25
I don’t know anything about this movie.
Sarah Harrison 36:26
Carolyn Daughters 36:29
What’s amazing about it?
Sarah Harrison 36:30
It’s so cheesy. It’s really funny. Manos: Hands of Fate. That’s not what we’re talking about, but we did just say “hands of fate.”
Carolyn Daughters 36:40
It’s gonna need to go on to our list of things that you need to read and watch.
Sarah Harrison 36:45
Random things associated with actual things.
Carolyn Daughters 36:50
The knowledge base you all are going to build being part of the Tea, Tonic & Toxin community. It brings tears to my eyes.
Sarah Harrison 36:59
Carolyn’s gonna watch this, and she’s gonna be like, what is wrong with you, Sarah?
Carolyn Daughters 37:08
I cannot wait.I may leave this recording and just go straight to it.
Sarah Harrison 37:13
No, stay here. I’m blocking you in behind the desk.
Carolyn Daughters 37:16
All right, I will. I’m gonna stick around. I’m gonna see this conversation through. So back to this Melbourne mystery. There’s a quote about Madge and Sal — basically, their accidents of birth. The one was born here. The other one was born there and they had completely different lives.
Sarah Harrison 37:52
Who are we to change where they were born? It says, “Men found out that the deity Nemesis had not been altogether useless as a scapegoat upon which to lay the blame of their own shortcomings. So they created a new deity called Fate, and laid any misfortune which happens to them at her charge. Her worship is still very popular, especially among lazy and unlucky people who never bestir themselves on the ground that their lives are already settled by fate. Set up any idol you please upon which to lay the blame of unhappy lives and baffled ambitions, but the true cause is to be found in themselves.”
Carolyn Daughters 38:37
So the Hands of Fate
Sarah Harrison 38:44
It seems a little unfair to me. Because again, you have Mark Frettlby, who got his start by getting an inheritance and was able to buy land and pull himself up by his bootstraps, or what have you. And Sal gets denied that chancebBecause she was not born to it. She was, but she wasn’t. She was born to it, but not raised to it.
Carolyn Daughters 39:10
They keep saying they’re trying to protect Mark Frettlby’s good name. Maybe that’s the real Melbourne mystery: Why is this good name worth protecting to the degree that you keep all of these secrets? Is this a legitimate concept that he somehow earned this good name and you should just move heaven and earth to protect it?
Sarah Harrison 39:37
I’m a hard “no” on that one. I’m not even like wavering, it’s just a “no.” I one of the truest things I’ve ever read, biblically speaking, is the passage that “The truth will set you free.” I completely 100% believe that. And so when you get to the point that “I have to hide I didn’t lie about this. I have to subvert the truth in order for some people to benefit,” I’m like, “no.” It’s off base. Mark Frettlby himself wrote his confession. He didn’t say burn this after reading, Calton. He wrote the confession. He tried to put the truth out there, and they burned it because they all wanted to protect Madge and Brian, I guess. They wanted Madge and Brian to be unaffected, and they just didn’t care as much.
Carolyn Daughters 40:31
I guess they were worthier human beings in their eyes.
Sarah Harrison 40:34
They were their buddies.
Carolyn Daughters 40:35
Buddies, yes, but they were also of a different class. The type that you protect at all costs. Sal is dispensable, whereas Madge has been raised in a particular way where she needs to be treated as an upper-class, respectable woman. You need to protect her good name, her father’s good name. This made logical sense to them. And yet throughout this Melbourne mystery they critique feminine intuition and women’s lack of rational thought. For me, this was a huge breakdown in logic.
Sarah Harrison 41:24
Definitely. The whole thing was funny because even while they’re critiquing intuition, they’re writing logical deductions. Or even while they’re like talking about Mark Frettlby pulling himself up from small means, they’re denying that to other people ofsmall means who have a legitimate right to it. I really struggled with this.
Carolyn Daughters 41:51
Does coming from a family with money like Brian Fitzgerald, whose forebears lived in a castle, somehow equate to your deserving a letter of introduction to Mark Frettlby in Melbourne. Which then, in turn, translates into upward mobility in Melbourne’s society. Why does the fact that your family had money or that you lived in a castle mean that you deserve to have your reputation protected? You deserve to have this particular life? I’m having trouble with it.
Sarah Harrison 42:34
No, it definitely breaks down. I mean, the letter of introduction makes sense to me. Like we always do that, like, let me introduce you to this CEO, or here’s a connection. You happily make connections for people you have confidence with other people.
Carolyn Daughters 42:50
Yes, it’s called LinkedIn.
Sarah Harrison 42:53
To make to make the leap that that someone of poor upbringing doesn’t deserve to know the truth or that people don’t deserve to know the truth and make their own decisions. That’s where I get hung up.
Carolyn Daughters 43:10
That’s where it breaks down. That makes sense. By extension, Calton is in the slums talking to Mother Guttersnipe. And there’s conflicting information given to us. He’s worried and Kilsip, the detective, is worried in particular about getting sick if he goes into the slum. They get there, and Calton pushes a woman who’s in his way. He actually physically pushes a woman. We don’t know why. It’s considered legitimate because we’re supposed to identify with Calton. I believe we’re supposed to like him.
Sarah Harrison 44:01
I think we are.
Carolyn Daughters 44:04
He addresses Mother Guttersnipe gently, offers to get her a doctor. And yet he’s been really quite brisk and rude toward her. And afterwards he says he needs a glass of brandy because he feels so ill after his experience of low life. I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around it. Is he feeling any sympathy toward this woman? My general sense is no.
He seems hot and cold. Nice and mean. I don’t love him as a chracter. I don’t hate him. I don’t love him. I mean, I liked Madge. I liked Sal. I thought they were pretty solid.
I like Sal because she’s super loyal. and trustworthy as we discover. And then after Mark Frettlby dies, she starts running the entire household as if she’s been doing it her whole life.
Sarah Harrison 45:10
But she couldn’t handle the money for sure. They didn’t want to tell Madge either because they know Madge would have done the right thing. Because it wasn’t a question of money. Madge was clearly named the heir.
Carolyn Daughters 45:24
It would have given her brain fever,
Sarah Harrison 45:26
She had just recovered from a brain fever. She might have fallen back into brain fever.
Carolyn Daughters 45:32
There would have been shrieking. There would have been brain fever. She would not have been able to handle the truth.
Sarah Harrison 45:37
I think she would have been happy to have a sister, honestly. She already liked Sal. She would call her over and teach her stuff and treat her as a friend. Heaven forbid they should know they were actually sisters.
Carolyn Daughters 45:54
Here’s one question I have. Roger Moreland is barely a character in this story. And this is just me being ridiculous, but really, I had this issue. So we have Rosanna Moore …
Sarah Harrison 46:11
I keep thinking Rosanna Spearman. These poor Rosannas.
Carolyn Daughters 46:17
Rosanna Spearman, yes, from The Moonstone. If you haven’t read it or listened to our episodes, please drop everything and read and listen. I mean, not this second.
Sarah Harrison 46:29
No, drop it.
Carolyn Daughters 46:30
Okay, The Moonstone is good. So there’s Rosanna Moore and Roger Moreland. And I kept thinking Roger Moore, like James Bond. There aren’t that many characters in this Melbourne mystery. I feel the author should have worked a little harder on the names. That’s a side note. Anyhow, we don’t know much about Roger Moreland. We are introduced to him briefly at the beginning. He is referenced periodically throughout the book, and then at the end we see him leaving Mark Frettlby’s house. We don’t know what’s going on. And then later, we find out that the detective Kilsip is correct. Roger Moreland committed this crime. This Melbourne mystery is about blackmail. So why did it take so many months for Roger Moreland, to start blackmailing Mark Frettlby, which is what’s happening. He’s blackmailing him, because he’s got these papers proving that Rosanna Moore was his wife.
Sarah Harrison 47:37
That’s a good question.
Carolyn Daughters 47:38
It seems like a plot hole.
Sarah Harrison 47:42
I guess he didn’t want to do it while Brian Fitzgerald was on trial. Maybe he waited until all the dust settled and then felt he could safely do so? He didn’t mean to kill Oliver White. He wanted to get the papers and then blackmail Mark Frettlby. This Melbourne mystery was entirely about blackmail. But then Oliver White died, and it made a big hubbub.
Carolyn Daughters 48:09
From a blackmailing standpoint, I feel he could have blackmailed better. It wasn’t the best blackmailing I’ve ever seen.
Sarah Harrison 48:17
Well, he was winning. It all worked until like Mark Frettlby wrote a confession and had a heart attack. Because nobody told him he had a heart condition.
Carolyn Daughters 48:32
Here’s something else that bugged me. There are all these chapters in the book where Brian Fitzgerald is muttering things to himself out loud. Several other characters do it, too. I think Gorby does it. Gorby fills us in on the plot. “Well, now I’m going to follow Brian Fitzgerald around town.” I didn’t know if the narrator was trying to say they were thinking these things, or were they actually just going around talking to themselves all the time?
Sarah Harrison 49:11
Do you talk to yourself?
Carolyn Daughters 49:15
I think I do, but maybe not in as expository a fashion. I’m not leading a pretend other person through the details of my life.
Sarah Harrison 49:28
I think I do more than I realize. I started noticing. If I have the kids in the backseat, I’m talking to myself and then I realize people are listening. My son might say something, and I wonder what I was just saying just now. I’ll be talking through something. I will have outloud conversations. It turns out that I wasn’t sure I was doing that. Children are so weird. They’re there, but they’ve always been there so they’re like part of you and so they’re not there. And you do and say things around them that normally you’d only do and say around yourself. But they’re growing enough to they realize that they’re not myself. What am I saying?
Very important. I don’t think I have full conversations with myself, but when I’m reading something or watching something that I really enjoy, I will make utterances. Hmm. Mmmm. I’m reacting, but I’m not having a full-fledged conversation with myself.
I am worse than you in that, for sure. Obviously, if you’re in a public movie, I shut up. I don’t say anything. But if I’m watching a movie at home, my husband and I will talk to the characters. “What are you doing?” And then I’ll explain to the character how off base they are. “Don’t do that, that’s stupid.”
Carolyn Daughters 51:26
Do you know Mystery Science Theater?
Sarah Harrison 51:29
That’s the Manos: Hands of Fate.
Carolyn Daughters 51:32
I did not know that.
Sarah Harrison 51:44
Thanks for bringing it back to Manos, by the way.
Carolyn Daughters 51:47
I didn’t know I was. Mystery Science Theater is a movie within a movie. A show within a show. You’re watching three characters who are, in turn, watching a screen of some terrible movie that’s playing. And they’re just very humorously tearing it apart.
Sarah Harrison 52:03
Well, now that I know you like it, you might actually enjoy the Hands of Fate.
Carolyn Daughters 52:31
Fergus Hume is, by the way, a pretty cool name.
Sarah Harrison 52:35
It is a good name. It sounds like a novelist.
Carolyn Daughters 52:38
I would like to know someone named Fergus. I don’t think I do.
Sarah Harrison 52:43
I don’t either. If your name is Fergus, tell us and get a sticker.
Carolyn Daughters 52:48
All because your name is Fergus. Before he wrote this Melbourne mystery, Fergus Hume reached out to his publisher and said, Hey, what’s popular right now? Because he wanted to write a popular book.
Sarah Harrison 52:59
How did he already have a publisher? Was he already writing books?
Carolyn Daughters 53:03
He probably had a letter of introduction to the publisher. The publisher told him about the books of Émile Gaboriau, who wrote about the detective Monsieur Lecoq and is recognized as the father of the police novel. Now, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab was an immediate commercial success. It sold 30,000 copies in its first six months, and afterward Fergus Hume went on to write 130 more books.
Sarah Harrison 53:38
He wrote 130 more books? He was whipping them out there. How can you write that many books? How do you have that many thoughts in your head?
Good job, Fergus Hume.
Speaking of which, Émile Gaboriau, another tangential author to the author you can read.
Carolyn Daughters 54:25
Yes. He will have to be added to our list. We don’t know too much about him.
Sarah Harrison 54:33
I was like oh, why aren’t we reading a book of his? Is he important? Do you know his novels? Have you read any?
Carolyn Daughters 54:39
She’s talking to you, listeners.
Sarah Harrison 54:41
Yeah, you, listener? Not Carolyn.
Carolyn Daughters 54:43
Fergus Hume makes references to all kinds of things like Gaboriau, Balzac, Emile Zola. He talks about Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers and a book called The Leavenworth Case,
Sarah Harrison 55:06
Which I have read, actually.
Carolyn Daughters 55:16
There are all kinds of literary references in this Melbourne mystery.
Sarah Harrison 55:23
They’re knocking on Zola in the book, but I don’t know who that is. Same with Ned Kelly. I’m missing the reference. Readers, have you read Emile Zola? Can you make a recommendation? Post somewhere, send us an email, and we’ll give you a sticker.
Carolyn Daughters 56:16
We’re going to have so many things on this list of tangents. Basically just block off a year or more. I mean, it’s just a suggestion, but it’s a good one.
Sarah Harrison 56:32
If you’re looking for a hobby, we are ready for you.
Carolyn Daughters 56:36
The hobby is Tea, Tonic & Toxin. And all things associated with Tea, Tonic & Toxin. So Sarah, what are we reading next?
Sarah Harrison 56:50
We’re reading A Study in Scarlet, which is Sherlock Holmes. Tell me why we selected this one. Carolyn was our curator. But I want to hear from Carolyn, why did you choose this one?
Carolyn Daughters 57:14
We’re introduced for the first time to the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and Watson, who are two of the most famous characters in English literature. It’s just really important that we get them right out of the gate. Who are they how, how does Arthur Conan Doyle introduce him? And then how does that inform the way mysteries are even written today? We’re going to see how they first appear in A Study in Scarlet and then we’re going to read The Hound of the Baskervilles. We’re going to see how he evolves. Sometimes when characters are first introduced, they change over time, so we’re going to track that.
Sarah Harrison 57:59
A lot of the time, we don’t know who the authors are anymore, but, man, Sherlock Holmes is still like being made into stuff.
Carolyn Daughters 58:14
So many iterations — film iterations and adaptations.
Sarah Harrison 58:19
I saw the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock Holmes Series. It’s very entertaining. Isn’t there also a lady Sherlock or something they’re making now?
Carolyn Daughters 58:32
Maybe with the actress from Stranger Things? [Millie Bobby Brown in Enola Holmes] I think she may play Sherlock Holmes’s sister. A lot of the Sherlock Holmes series are really interesting. Like the one with Benedict Cumberbatch. That’s very hard to say, by the way. Try saying his name three times. It’s really pretty complicated.
Sarah Harrison 59:39
Check out A Study in Scarlet. If you have some cool Sherlock resources, post them. Comment and get a sticker.
Sarah Harrison 1:00:02
Thank you, listeners! We appreciate you.
February 11, 2024
Barbara Nickless is a Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling crime novelist who joined Sarah and Carolyn in their makeshift studio for a heartfelt discussion about her writing and research process, her travels, and her latest book, Play of Shadows. Amazing woman, amazing writer. You’ll love her.Listen →
January 29, 2024
Dashiell Hammett’s granddaughter Julie Rivett joins us on a second episode to discuss The Thin Man, Nick and Nora Charles, and all things Dashiell Hammett. Color us honored, which I envision as pleurigloss with a hint of alpha plaid. What a DELIGHTFUL conversation. Folks, you want to hear what Julie has to say. Trust me.Listen →
January 21, 2024
We could have interviewed Julie M. Rivett for days on end. She’s fascinating in her own right, and she shared AMAZING information about her grandfather, Dashiell Hammett. This one’s a must-listen, folks. Well, they’re all must-listens in our biased opinions, but this one belongs at the top of the must-listen list.Listen →