Nat Gould

His life and books

A Stable Mystery: and Other Stories

This book was first published in 1921 by John Long after the author's death, and was reprinted in 1935 and 1956.

A Stable Mystery is the first and longest story in the book. Just before a great race the favourite is mysteriously poisoned, and the unexpected winner causes villanous plans laid in the owner's English village to go awry. More poisonings occur, but the puzzle is eventually solved by a determined detective, leading to a satisfactory resolution and a plethora of notable racing wins. A satisfying story, ably told.

The "Other Stories" are His Last Chance and Chased by Fire, two short tales printed at the end of the book, the first having only three chapters and an epilogue, and the second just three short parts.

His Last Chance tells how the only son of an aristocratic Derbyshire family falls in love with a grocer's daughter. Deep in debt, his only chance of rescuing his fortune and winning his bride is to win the Derby. Although easy to read, none of its characters is attractive. The aristocrat is a wastrel gambler, his family are snobs, and the grocer a despised hypocrit. The minor characters are sundry villains. If Nat Gould had been a different sort of novelist, the reader might have thought the story would develop into tragedy or satire. Instead the short tale is summarily wound up in an epilogue that stretches the reader's credulity.

The last of the three stories in the book is a complete contrast. Chased by Fire is a little gem. A story that grips the reader from its outset in a lonely Australian bush pub. The mail coach races desperately ahead of advancing fire and storm. The drama of the elements is matched by the inner turmoil of a rider who has lost his bride. A perfect short story. What a pity Nat Gould didn't write more! (TA)