A man murdered -- shot through the heart In the quiet cathedral city of Beorminster, so unusual an event can only bring on dizzying excitement. Amateur detectives by the dozen gather on street corners to thrash out the problem -- and in public-houses, where they develop their most intricate theories over their beer.

But now there appears in Beorminster the strangest figure: an elderly, weather-beaten man with the quick, alert eye of a fowl. For all he looks like a sailor, he calls himself a missionary -- saying he has labored these many years in the Lord's vineyard of the South Seas, and has returned to England for "a smack of civilization." He has the hoarse voice of a mariner accustomed to out-roar storms, but his conversation is oddly free of the colorful oaths of the nautical man.

His name is Ben Baltic -- and his entrance marks the reader's first acquaintance with the most interesting and colorful of detectives created by Fergus Hume (1859-1932), author of "The Mystery of a Hansom Cab" and "The Secret Passage."


Fergus Hume

Fergus Hume (1859-1932) Ferguson Wright Hume was born in England. At the age of three his father emigrated with his family to New Zealand. He attended high school in Dunedin and studied law at the University of Otago. Shortly after graduation he left for Melbourne where he obtained a post as a barrister's clerk. After failed attempts to become a playwright, he decided to write a novel instead. Not knowing what to write: "I enquired of a leading Melbourne bookseller what style of book he sold most of He replied that the detective stories of Gaboriau had a large sale; and as, at this time, I had never even heard of this author, I bought all his works - eleven or thereabouts - and read them carefully. The style of these stories attracted me, and I determined to write a book of the same class; containing a mystery, a murder, and a description of low life in Melbourne." The result was The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, which became a great success after he self-published. After the success of his first novel, Hume returned to England. He resided in London for few years and then he moved to the Essex countryside where he lived in Thundersley for thirty years. 

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