Reviews for Readers.
BT T.L.M. — na» JOIBLN STRANGE WINTER'S LATEST. It is no fiction to say that the titles of the books written by John Strange Winter are too' numerous to enumerate. The list is a very lengthy one, and so popular are they that a new novel by this experienced authoress always has a ready sale. And the very latest, "Captain Fraser's Profession," published in Bell's Colonial Library (Whitcombe and Tombs, Wellington), will in no way detract from her reputation. It is a rattling good story, and running quite as smoothly and fully as excitingly as even "A Mystery of Mayfair," and as cleverly turned out as the famous "Booties' Baby." Captain Fraser, the central figure in tho story, has retired from the army at the age of forty, and moves in the best society, which wonders how a man with only £400 a year can keep up such style as he maintains in London. The secret is that he is the head of an expert gang of jewel thieves. It is his brain which plans the coups by which society women are deprived of their gems at fashionable gatherings, and with a valet (Peters) who is clever at carrying out "the chief's" plans, the Captain's profession is very lucrative. But at the opening of the narrative he is disturbed with the thought that suspicion may turn upon him, and he decides that marriage with Winifred, daughter of General Apsley, would make his position in society impregnable. But here he finds two difficulties in the way. Winifred does not want him, for she is already engaged to marry a very good fellow; Sir Edward Wedderburn. To remove the
latter obstacle the Captain brings a plan into operation, the carrying out of which leads to wholly unlooked-for and unpremeditated murder on his part, with Peters as an accessory. The plan, however, is as successful as its original idea intended—it involved Sir Edward, who was arrested, charged with the murder, found guilty, and sent to a lunatic asylum. Meantime, the crime preyed upon the mind of Peters, who took to drink, which landed him, the one-time gentleman, back into the gutter from which Captain Fraser had rescued him years before. In the last stages of his dissolution, Peters decides to inform the authorities concerning the crime for which Sir Edward is being unjustly punished. Peters makes the final sacrifice in gratitude to the Captain he so much admired—and confesses that ft was he (Peters) who committ ted the murder. Who was to deny .his death-bed statement? So all ends well, the lovers live happy ever after, the Captain's profession is as secret as ever, and we have this epij taph for the self-sacrificing valet: "The ways of Providence really are wonderful, hut we shall never see the like of Peters again, that's certain!"
A TITANIC STORY,
The word "titan" refor. to the Titans, who were something enormous even in the days when there were giants. There have been literary men well entitled to be called Titans in these latter days, and we still have writere whose reputation is enormous "well, not a few readers- who take w "The Shadow of a Titan," the newest
book to reach us (through Messrs Whitcombe and Tombs, Wellington) from Messrs Duckworth and Co., London, will agree that its writer, A. F. Wedgwood, has produced a titanic story. It matters not that A.F.W. is unknown —the book's the thing— and it is great. A bit discursive at ■ times, but from his .quaiut opening ] dissertation upon Major Waring and bacilli to the closing scene at Froga- I moor again—with tremendous happenings in between the first and tho j 518 th page—there is absorbing interest in the Wedgwood narrative. The reader is carried from rural England into a wild part of a volcanic South American republic, of wliich the author seems to have an intimate knowledge. The men aud the women in the story stand out like living things, but there is concentrated cleverness bestowed upon the villain of the book, Admiral yon Eustaquio Estrada de la Camara, the Titan who.se shadow is over the strange experiences related by the retired British Consul in the Republic of Bolumbia. Camara began his career in Mexico as Kammer. It is worth quoting something about him: "Of Dutch birth, he was a citizen of the little Republic of Nicaragua. Ho was of great strength, measured six feet fire inches in height, with a head out ef all proportion even for such a frame. . . . He early rehis parents' faith, became a priest, and came to Mexico during my time, for no good. The French Consul was the first to squeak —had the fellow defrocked for immorality.'' Then we are told that Kammer became a chief, a cut-throat king, among the brigands, who did a good trade mostly in blackmail, and when President Diaz began to get his knife into these gentry, he was the first to skip the country. Kammer made his escape, disguised, to San Francisco, nearly died of smallpox in the Chinese quarter of that city, crossed over to Hongkong on one of tlie Pacific Company's boats, and there broke through the Mexican spider's web, and was not heard of for four years. "He could probably tell you as much of the interior of China as any other white man in existence. He would never have been heard of again but for an agent of the Intelligence Department—Munozs—a trusty spy, late brigand and servant to Kammer. This man received a letter from Manila informing him that Kammer was settled in that town under the name of Estrada and married to the daughter of a well-set-up tobacco planter in the islands." The story now moves, with a terrible expedition 3fl a leading episode, then the Titan is in Paris plotting, with some lovemaking, he goes back to South America, where more excitement follows in his wake, and tragedy ends all, so far as the Titan is concerned. But there is a good love story that leaves a sweet taste in the mouth, and all ends happily for the Consul's daughter and Major Waring.
"EROS! EROS WINS!"
At first glance this, the title of the latest of the N.S.W. Bookstall series of popular colonial novels, seems an awkward name to give a book. But it ia really a very apt and clever title, for the narartive is wholly devoted to racing and love —and Eros is the name of a Tacehorse that figures prominently in the tale, whilst the classics tell us that Eros was the oldtime name of the God of Love. Hence the double meaning of "Eros Wins" can easily be understood. But neither the course of May Beresford's love affair nor Jack Elridge's career on the racecourse run smooth for over 200 pages. Still, both win out in the last lap, and the rough places are made smooth. The author, F. AgaT, is quite unknown, but he can tell a rattling good tale of the turf, with which he appears to be so familiar in all its phases that, if he happens to be a young man, F. Agar should become the natural successor of Nat Gould as a writer .of sporting 6tories. People who like the Gouldian style—and they appear to be legion—will thoroughly enjoy "Eros Wins," for there are quite a number of exciting descriptions of races at back-country meetings in New South Wales, and plottings on the part of bookies in Sydney. And the publishers offer an unusually large amount of reading for the shilling. Beside contributing an exceptionally artistic cover, Percy F. S. Spence, who wields quite the daintiest pencil amongst black-and-white artists in Australia to-day, contributes four clever full-page illustrations. Mr Rowlandson is certainly keeping up a policy that deserves the success it is understood he is achieving with his Bookstall Series.