Monday, March 26, 2012

Short Story Review: The Mysterious Mummy by Sax Rohmer

book cover
Original Publication Date: 1903

Genre: mystery

Topics: honor among thieves, capers


In the Great Portland Square Museum, the fabulously expensive Rienzi Vase goes missing. Does its theft have anything to do with a mysterious mummy that seemed to appear out of nowhere and disappear just as suddenly the night of the theft? And why would a mummy steal a vase?

I decided to try out some short story collections from Librivox, and hit upon a delightful one of short mysteries. The title and start of The Mysterious Mummy are something of a red herring, as the story doesn't have anything to do with mummies, but really focuses on the theft of the vase--obviously a mummy didn't steal anything, but how does it fit into the theft? There's a How To Steal a Million-esque twist in the middle that really made this story fun.

I found it interesting that Sax Rohmer draws a parallel between theft and museums in this story--not just theft from museums, but the theft museums perpetrate. The Great Portland Square Museum is filled with valuable objects looted from Egypt, Italy, and Asia. The fact that the museum owes something but refuses to pay up makes the theft of the Rienzi Vase seem a tale of heroism rather than misdemeanor.

I think if you haven't read Rohmer before, this is a good place to start--the Fu Manchu novels, which he's most famous for, are fun, but pretty racist. At six pages or so, this little brain puzzle is more of a amuse bouche than a mystery, but it's worth checking out if you enjoy stories like To Catch a Thief and The Thomas Crown Affair.

The Mysterious Mummy is readily available on the interwebs, including at Arthur's Classic Novels.