WHH Short Fiction: “Jem Binney and the Safe at Lockwood Hall”

Review: “Jem Binney and the Safe at Lockwood Hall”, William Hope Hodgson, 1916.

Cover by Jason Van Hollander

This is another of Hodgson’s charming tales about a criminal, here Anglo-American safe cracker Jem Binney. Like Hodgson’s Captain Gault stories, this story is full of deception and gadgets.

Here, to establish his alibi, Jem Binney acts the part of a tubercular man at the boarding house where he is staying. He even plays a phonograph recording of his coughing when he sneaks out at night to case Lockwood Hall miles away, reached by train and a two mile walk.

However, one night, he sees a passenger dressed as a gamekeeper whom he thinks is following him even after he gets off the train.

Thinking the man is another thief looking to steal from the safe at Lockwood Hall,  Binney brazenly confronts the man. He claims to be a policeman, puts the man under “arrest”, and confiscates his loot.

It turns out the man was one of two burglars at Lockwood Hall.

The investigating police discover Binney’s ruse with the phonograph. However, he’s not arrested since he’s still on his way back when the police are at the boarding house.

Binney doesn’t have the last laugh though. He discovers that the loot he confiscated wasn’t gold or silver. It was fossils which were the target of the burglary. We never find out who got away with the gold and silver.

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