Mr. Pottermack’s Oversight by R. Austin Freeman (1930)

In which Mr. Pottermack commits the perfect crime, only to discover this is the last thing in the world he wants. Worse still is that “oversight”, which leads Dr. Thorndyke to discern that something is amiss. 

Let me first apologize for the extreme brevity of this review. As soon as I finish a book I’m starting another, before writing about the last.

Now, about Mr. Pottermack.

This is a splendid inverted mystery (from the man who invented them), with the added bonus of Thorndyke’s forensics and a bit of sneaky psychology. The narrative is so well done. Moving from the commission of the crime, through Pottermack’s wonderfully inventive attempts at concealment which, unknowingly, vie with Thorndyke’s analysis of the situation as a puzzle to be solved, it felt very much like a one-sided game of one-upmanship, with only one player aware of the game.

You probably won’t believe me, considering this is Freeman, but I was thoroughly engrossed and often found myself in a state of nervous anticipation, waiting for what was going to happen next. And yes I know, there is that section near the end where Thorndyke reiterates the entire case. But I felt the way it was presented actually heightened the suspense—before finally offering judgment on Mr. Pottermack.

An absolutely brilliant read. Highly recommend! I just wish I had been able to find an affordable copy of the Hogarth edition, which is beautiful compared to my Dover edition!

My Judgment – 4.25/5

Prior Rulings – JJ @ The Invisible Event

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2013 Scattergories #36 Hobbies Can Be Murder [Lepidopterist]

Calendar of Crime – October #7 Book title has word starting with “O”

8 thoughts on “Mr. Pottermack’s Oversight by R. Austin Freeman (1930)

      1. Out of interest, why specifically The Stoneware Monkey? Did you just like the sound of it, or is there something particular about that one?

      2. Ah, grand! I canvassed opinion from people who know their Freeman (and seem to have a handle on my own tastes) and didn’t see The Stoneware Monkey in there at all. In the months (and doubtless years, since I tend to spread an author’s work out somewhat) ahead I have the following to work through:

        The Red Thumb Mark
        The Mystery of 31 New Inn
        The Singing Bone
        The Shadow of the Wolf
        The D’Arblay Mystery
        The Magic Casket
        As a Thief in the Night
        Pontifex, Son and Thorndyke
        The Penrose Mystery
        Mr Polton Explains

        I don’t think anyone recommended Penrose, but it was written around the same time as Pottermack and so seemed worth a look on that bass alone. Very excited to see how our respective RAF journeys progress…!

      3. Ah…a list to work from! The group of people I know who read the type of books I would enjoy is very small, so no canvassing here. I’ll just have to continue to troll you, TC, Curt, Kate, etc. 😁

  1. Jonathan O

    I agree that this is highly enjoyable, although the section where Pottermack goes to the races is slighltly unnecessary. And the Hogarth cover does look great, except that it makes the eponymous character look like a Teddy boy!
    I would bet that not one person in a thousand would have the specialist knowledge required to spot what the oversight was.

    1. It’s still a better cover that that ugly yellow one from Dover. Although I will admit…Dover books last forever!

      I think the racing section was a bit long, but it was also a good example of how Pottermack just couldn’t leave well-enough alone.

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