And Then I Read: TOM SAWYER, DETECTIVE by Mark Twain

Original magazine featuring the story, cover by Edward Penfield, 1896.

I had never thought of Mark Twain as a series author, but this is the fourth (and final) book featuring Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. In the 1890s, Twain was in financial difficulties and returned to his former successes with Tom Sawyer Abroad, a parody of Jules Verne, and Tom Sawyer, Detective, a parody of detective novels like those about Sherlock Holmes by A. Conan Doyle. I found this one worked better as a story, though neither are as good as the first two Tom and Huck novels.

Tom and Huck are on a riverboat heading south to visit Tom’s Uncle Silas and Aunt Sally, who they last saw near the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They meet a thief, Jake Dunlap, who was part of a gang that stole valuable diamonds. Jake has taken off on his own with the gems, and is in mortal fear of the other two gang members, who are on his trail. Tom and Huck help him escape before leaving the steamboat themselves for their destination. Arriving at the Silas home, they find Uncle Silas being harassed by Brace Dunlap, a wealthy man who wants to marry Silas’s daughter Benny. Brace is Jake Dunlap’s brother, and his other brother Jubiter, the twin of Jake, has been forced on Silas as a farm hand, even though Jubiter does little work and is equally mean to Silas. One night Jubiter disappears under mysterious circumstances, and is presumed murdered by Uncle Silas. Tom and Huck become detectives to solve the crime. Their investigations uncover a body, and there’s a court trial as a capper to the book where Tom plays a major role.

I enjoyed this, and found it a fun read, though as with other Tom and Huck books, the dialect can be difficult to follow at times, and the handling of slaves in pre-Civil War Missouri is often tough to accept as the characters do. Still, recommended.

Tom Sawyer Detective by Mark Twain

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