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The Wrong Box (Librivox Audiobook)

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Total running time: 6:20:02 The Wrong Box is a comedy about the ending of a tontine (a tontine is an arrangement whereby a number of young people subscribe to a fund which is then closed and invested until all but one of the subscribers have died. That last subscriber then receives the whole of the proceeds). The story involves the last two such survivors and their relation Total running time: 6:20:02 The Wrong Box is a comedy about the ending of a tontine (a tontine is an arrangement whereby a number of young people subscribe to a fund which is then closed and invested until all but one of the subscribers have died. That last subscriber then receives the whole of the proceeds). The story involves the last two such survivors and their relations, a train crash, missing uncles, surplus dead bodies and innocent bystanders. A farce really. (Summary by AJM)


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Total running time: 6:20:02 The Wrong Box is a comedy about the ending of a tontine (a tontine is an arrangement whereby a number of young people subscribe to a fund which is then closed and invested until all but one of the subscribers have died. That last subscriber then receives the whole of the proceeds). The story involves the last two such survivors and their relation Total running time: 6:20:02 The Wrong Box is a comedy about the ending of a tontine (a tontine is an arrangement whereby a number of young people subscribe to a fund which is then closed and invested until all but one of the subscribers have died. That last subscriber then receives the whole of the proceeds). The story involves the last two such survivors and their relations, a train crash, missing uncles, surplus dead bodies and innocent bystanders. A farce really. (Summary by AJM)

30 review for The Wrong Box (Librivox Audiobook)

  1. 4 out of 5

    WhatIReallyRead

    This was very fun! The Wrong Box is one of the lesser-known works by Robert Louis Stevenson, and I happened to own a copy. Actually, I've owned a copy for a decade, so it was high time to get to it :D The book revolves around a bunch of relatives - two brothers, their cousin and uncle, his ward, etc. And all of them are up to no good :) There is a grand piano, a misplaced corpse, a dying business and a huge sum of money - so, naturally, shenanigans ensue. The characters are comic in their self-ce This was very fun! The Wrong Box is one of the lesser-known works by Robert Louis Stevenson, and I happened to own a copy. Actually, I've owned a copy for a decade, so it was high time to get to it :D The book revolves around a bunch of relatives - two brothers, their cousin and uncle, his ward, etc. And all of them are up to no good :) There is a grand piano, a misplaced corpse, a dying business and a huge sum of money - so, naturally, shenanigans ensue. The characters are comic in their self-centeredness, attempts to get the upper hand end in hilarious situations, and the book flies by in a moment. It was a quick, light read, nostalgic in its naivety of humor. Loved it!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bev

    Body, body--Who's got the body?! The Wrong Box (1889) is a hilarious mystery spoof by Robert Louis Stevenson and his stepson Lloyd Osbourne. It revolves around Masterson and Joseph Finsbury, two brothers who are the last surviving beneficiaries of a tontine. A tontine is a rather diabolical "investment" scheme--subscribers pay into a fund that is then invested for the lifetime of the participants. It is a winner-take-all scheme meaning that the only one to benefit is the last man or woman standin Body, body--Who's got the body?! The Wrong Box (1889) is a hilarious mystery spoof by Robert Louis Stevenson and his stepson Lloyd Osbourne. It revolves around Masterson and Joseph Finsbury, two brothers who are the last surviving beneficiaries of a tontine. A tontine is a rather diabolical "investment" scheme--subscribers pay into a fund that is then invested for the lifetime of the participants. It is a winner-take-all scheme meaning that the only one to benefit is the last man or woman standing. This, of course, puts all sorts of temptation in the way of the participants (and/or their heirs)--especially once the numbers start to dwindle naturally. I, mean, after all if you have to live to be 100 in order to outlive the competition just how much are you going to be able to enjoy the spoils? And one's sons or nephews might also think it a good idea to shuffle the competition (and you--last, of course) off the playing field so they have an opportunity to enjoy it for you. Michael Finsbury is Masterson's son. He is a successful lawyer who isn't afraid to skate a little close to the wind if necessary to get a client off and win a case. Morris and John Finsbury are nephews (and wards) of Joseph. Because Joseph was not the best of businessmen and managed to fritter away what little money he held in trust for his nephews, Morris has gotten the old man to sign over his winnings from the tontine (should he outlast Masterson). So--more than ever, Morris spends his days watching over dear Uncle Joseph just to be sure that he doesn't catch a cold that turns into pneumonia and leads to death before tontine. He also has a vague feeling that his Uncle Masterson is really dead and Michael is just pretending the old boy is still alive and kicking while he waits for Joseph to keel over. Once that happens, he [Michael] will produce a "tame doctor" who will verify Masterson's death (after Joseph's) and Michael will scoop the pot. This must be avoided at all costs. Morris decides that the best plan would be to head to the country with Uncle Joseph and keep him all cozy at the seaside where he can breathe the lovely country air and be just as healthy as can be. Plans go awry when there is a train smash-up and an elderly dead body is found in the rubble--with bruised face and wearing what seems to be Uncle Joseph's coat. Morris and John are in despair--there goes their inheritance! So they decide to stash the body in an out-of-the-way cottage until Morris comes up with a plan to ship uncle's body to himself in a huge barrel. The barrel gets mislabeled and the body winds up going on an unexpected journey--from barrel to packing crate to piano and back again. Who has the body? And is Uncle Joseph really dead? Is Uncle Masterson really dead? Who is going to inherit all that money? This is an absolutely delightful story--the black comedy is a little unexpected from Stevenson, but it is hilarious. Watching Morris drive himself quietly crazy as he tries to outsmart Michael and track down his missing uncle is great fun. Who would have thought that the most prominent and interesting character in a book would be a dead man who won't sit still long enough for you to get a really good look at him? Not that the other characters aren't interesting, they are. Stevenson always provides great characters and those in The Wrong Box meet his standards. Highly recommended. First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    21 JUL 2014 -- download here -- http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1585 23 JUL 2014 -- in looking for more information about William Dent Pitman, author of The Quincunx Case, I discovered this exact name, "William Dent Pitman," featured as a character in The Wrong Box by Robert Louis Stevenson and his step-son, Lloyd Osbourne. I have a feeling this author is a combination of Stevenson and Osbourne and they were each having a fun time with us readers. I presented this question to Bettie, whose vast k 21 JUL 2014 -- download here -- http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1585 23 JUL 2014 -- in looking for more information about William Dent Pitman, author of The Quincunx Case, I discovered this exact name, "William Dent Pitman," featured as a character in The Wrong Box by Robert Louis Stevenson and his step-son, Lloyd Osbourne. I have a feeling this author is a combination of Stevenson and Osbourne and they were each having a fun time with us readers. I presented this question to Bettie, whose vast knowledge of books is unparalleled. I will cross-post this to my review of The Wrong Box. 22 JAN 2017 - reading this with the 19th Century Literature group at Yahoo. So far, this is a fun read! 2 FEB 2017 - a dark comedy about greed. Morris (and to some extent, John, his brother) are always looking over the fence at what life will be like when everyone is dead and the tontine belongs to them (well, really Morris believes it belongs to him alone), they have lost sight of common sense and the leather business. The Wrong Box is a silly refreshing read - enjoy!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Angie Thompson

    DNF for profanity

  5. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    If you have ever seen the movie that was adapted from this story, you will realize that while the plot and many of the characters remain the same, there are several differences. Most noticeably the Michael Finsbury character (Michael Caine) is much stronger in the book. Also Masterman Finsbury (the wonderful John Mills in the movie) is unseen on the printed page while Joseph Finsbury (the superbly irritating Ralph Richardson) still has a major part in the book. For the most part I prefer the mov If you have ever seen the movie that was adapted from this story, you will realize that while the plot and many of the characters remain the same, there are several differences. Most noticeably the Michael Finsbury character (Michael Caine) is much stronger in the book. Also Masterman Finsbury (the wonderful John Mills in the movie) is unseen on the printed page while Joseph Finsbury (the superbly irritating Ralph Richardson) still has a major part in the book. For the most part I prefer the movie because of the acting, but this book, though confusing some of the time, is entertaining and I'm glad I had the chance to read it. 3.5 stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laura Verret

    Much more humorous and to the point than 'The Wrecker'. While totally unbelievable, it was still quite quite funny. Point in case - Morris's enumerations of 'good' and 'bad' things in chapter six was hilarious. " Bad. —— Good. 4. I have almost no money. 4. But there is plenty in the bank. 5. Yes, but I can't get the money in the bank. 5. But—well, that seems unhappily to be the case. 6. I have left the bill for eight hundred pounds in Uncle Joseph's pocket. 6. But if Pitman is only a dishonest ma Much more humorous and to the point than 'The Wrecker'. While totally unbelievable, it was still quite quite funny. Point in case - Morris's enumerations of 'good' and 'bad' things in chapter six was hilarious. " Bad. —— Good. 4. I have almost no money. 4. But there is plenty in the bank. 5. Yes, but I can't get the money in the bank. 5. But—well, that seems unhappily to be the case. 6. I have left the bill for eight hundred pounds in Uncle Joseph's pocket. 6. But if Pitman is only a dishonest man, the presence of this bill may lead him to keep the whole thing dark and throw the body into the New Cut. 7. Yes, but if Pitman is dishonest and finds the bill, he will know who Joseph is, and he may blackmail me. 7. Yes, but if I am right about Uncle Masterman, I can blackmail Michael. 8. But I can't blackmail Michael (which is, besides, a very dangerous thing to do) until I find out. 8. Worse luck! 9. The leather business will soon want money for current expenses, and I have none to give. 9. But the leather business is a sinking ship. 10. Yes, but it's all the ship I have. 10. A fact. 11. John will soon want money, and I have none to give. 11. 12. And the venal doctor will want money down. 12. 13. And if Pitman is dishonest and don't send me to gaol, he will want a fortune. 13. 'O, this seems to be a very one-sided business,' exclaimed Morris." Nothing like balancing out the pros and cons to arrive at a fresh perspective. :'D

  7. 5 out of 5

    daniel

    THE READER OF THIS REVIEW, if this should meet the eye of, he will hear of SOMETHING TO HIS ADVANTAGE on the next paragraph Hilarious mayhem, too bad the ending was somewhat rushed and surely wasn't up to the prevailing jocularity which characterized the remainder of the story. Preferred character: Michael Finsbury Best chapter: CHAPTER VII. In Which William Dent Pitman takes Legal Advice 'It seems very wild,' said Pitman. 'And what will become of the poor young gentleman whom you know by sight?' ' THE READER OF THIS REVIEW, if this should meet the eye of, he will hear of SOMETHING TO HIS ADVANTAGE on the next paragraph Hilarious mayhem, too bad the ending was somewhat rushed and surely wasn't up to the prevailing jocularity which characterized the remainder of the story. Preferred character: Michael Finsbury Best chapter: CHAPTER VII. In Which William Dent Pitman takes Legal Advice 'It seems very wild,' said Pitman. 'And what will become of the poor young gentleman whom you know by sight?' 'It will do him good,'—said Michael cheerily. 'Just what he wants to steady him.' 'But, my dear sir, he might be involved in a charge of—a charge of murder,' gulped the artist. 'Well, he'll be just where we are,' returned the lawyer. 'He's innocent, you see. What hangs people, my dear Pitman, is the unfortunate circumstance of guilt.' ps: I heartily suggest you to follow this book with the reading of the famous classic of all times "who put back the clock?" whose main character Robert Skill, had probably been—in his own century—more widely renowned than Harry Potter himself. audiobook at: http://librivox.org/the-wrong-box-by-...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    The basis for this novel is a tontine. Stevenson doesn't describe this insurance policy very well. For a tontine everyone puts in the same sum of money, the principle is allowed to grow over the years, and the last one left alive gets the pot. Essentially, if you live to be the last old person, you win the lottery. I had the benefit of having read - years and years ago - The Tontine. As I like serious rather than silly frivolous works, I preferred the Costain. I understand tontines have been out The basis for this novel is a tontine. Stevenson doesn't describe this insurance policy very well. For a tontine everyone puts in the same sum of money, the principle is allowed to grow over the years, and the last one left alive gets the pot. Essentially, if you live to be the last old person, you win the lottery. I had the benefit of having read - years and years ago - The Tontine. As I like serious rather than silly frivolous works, I preferred the Costain. I understand tontines have been outlawed - probably a good thing. As you can well imagine, with a tontine there might be all sorts of shenigans. In this, we learn in the very early pages that there are two men remaining alive. As it happens in novels, the two men are brothers, though estranged. Two nephews have been orphaned and one of the brothers has no issue, so the nephews have been named as heirs. Though there is no murder in this, one of the nephews, Morris Finsbury, thinks his uncle Joseph has done him wrong and so is very anxious to get his hands on that tontine money. Is his other uncle - Masterson Finsbury - even still alive? And what happens when there is a train wreck and a body turns up wearing the clothes last seen on Uncle Joseph! Yes, it's a silly novel. I think farce is an apt description, though perhaps not quite as broad as that humor. For what it is intended, it is probably rather good. It's just not my thing. 3-stars.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Faith Jones

    Robert Louis Stevenson is a household name, whose works include Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He only lived from 1850 to 1894 and this little number was published in 1889, so represents one of his final achievements delivered at the height of his powers. There’s a co-writer, Lloyd Osbourne, but he must have been reasonably good too because I can’t tell which passages are Stevenson’s and which are not. The story feels as if it was written by one mind, h Robert Louis Stevenson is a household name, whose works include Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He only lived from 1850 to 1894 and this little number was published in 1889, so represents one of his final achievements delivered at the height of his powers. There’s a co-writer, Lloyd Osbourne, but he must have been reasonably good too because I can’t tell which passages are Stevenson’s and which are not. The story feels as if it was written by one mind, holding it in the hollow of a single hand with no hint of committee input. RLS is generally thought of as an author of dramatic adventures, but this is a departure because it’s a macabre comedy, a farce if you like. He must have been a serious man with a sarcastic sense of humour that was dying to tunnel its way out of the starched shirt. Excuse the quotation from memory, as the book is no longer to hand, but some of the lines are just as applicable today, things like “Julia often made acquaintances in Bournemouth… and would have greatly preferred more allowance and less uncle.” There’s also “an incident at the railway ticket office which bordered on brigandage”, which sounds familiar and still topical to me. Then, after a supposed murder, failure to declare the death followed by desecration of the corpse and forgery of its signature, “the legal profession can be so petty”. There’s also a massive double train wreck, metal and mutilation, where one of the shell-shocked survivors declares “I think there may have been some sort of accident.” Despite dozens of excellent moments, I marked it down from a four to a three star rating not because I didn’t think it was great stuff but because the language can be stilted, there are slow sections that could have been cut down to keep the action rolling, then it goes a bit wrong near the end and reads like a rush for the finish post. That aside, the core idea is terrific so I’m not underselling this. The tontine idea this is based on is such a wonderfully, exquisitely pointless venture that even though it originated in Italy, I can easily imagine the Victorian English seizing on it and making it their own. It’s brilliant of course, brilliant, but pointless. I think I need that in my life. In brief, imagine the parents of thirty children putting in a block of money for investment. The last surviving child after ninety or so years wins all of the capital and the interest, which has accumulated over the course of their long lifetime. Naturally, they will be as good as dead when they get it and too much of an invalid to enjoy spending anything, so the whole scheme becomes ridiculous, just a way to put wealth out of circulation for up to a century. It’s a good excuse for the author to show the size of the group depleting in different entertaining ways, but this wasn’t explored as well as it might have been. I can see themes in this book that have been re-used in popular culture, such as the body in the piano turning up again fifty years later in The Green Man (Alistair Sim) and I’d say it had some influence on Death of a Salesman and permeated into the roots of detective theatre. The people for whom a tontine contract is not ridiculous are the children/nephews/nieces of the last two survivors as it’s the grandchildren of the original funders who are the true beneficiaries, not the original children at all, there’s the rub, and they have every incentive to prod the oldies to a premature demise. The Wrong Box is black humour, it’s vicious, insulting, full of greed, cruel and utterly immoral, just like money itself. There can only be one winner in this story – and that’s the reader. I hope you like it as much as I did.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This black comedy isn’t what you’d expect from Robert Louis Stevenson, but it is hilarious! Here’s the teaser I gave our book club: Suppose your only hope of coming into your very large inheritance was for your guardian (whom you can't stand) to outlive your uncle, whom you haven't seen in years. And suppose that despite your best efforts to keep your guardian in good health, the two of you are in a train accident. Then imagine that your guardian, who likes you even less than you like him, escap This black comedy isn’t what you’d expect from Robert Louis Stevenson, but it is hilarious! Here’s the teaser I gave our book club: Suppose your only hope of coming into your very large inheritance was for your guardian (whom you can't stand) to outlive your uncle, whom you haven't seen in years. And suppose that despite your best efforts to keep your guardian in good health, the two of you are in a train accident. Then imagine that your guardian, who likes you even less than you like him, escapes in the chaos while you lie unconscious, and that when you come to your discover in the wreckage a dead passenger whose features are no longer recognizable, but who happens to be wearing the exact same outfit as your guardian. Would you not do the only logical thing, and pack the corpse into a barrel and mail it to yourself so you could carry on as though your guardian were still living until you could be certain your uncle is pronounced dead first? And would you not be terribly alarmed when a prankster switched the address labels and you received in the mail, not the corpse you expected, but instead a gigantic marble statue of Hercules?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    Opening: How very little does the amateur, dwelling at home at ease, comprehend the labours and perils of the author, and, when he smilingly skims the surface of a work of fiction, how little does he consider the hours of toil, consultation of authorities, researches in the Bodleian, correspondence with learned and illegible Germans—in one word, the vast scaffolding that was first built up and then knocked down, to while away an hour for him in a railway train! Thus I might begin this tale with Opening: How very little does the amateur, dwelling at home at ease, comprehend the labours and perils of the author, and, when he smilingly skims the surface of a work of fiction, how little does he consider the hours of toil, consultation of authorities, researches in the Bodleian, correspondence with learned and illegible Germans—in one word, the vast scaffolding that was first built up and then knocked down, to while away an hour for him in a railway train! Thus I might begin this tale with a biography of Tonti—birthplace, parentage, genius probably inherited from his mother, remarkable instance of precocity, etc—and a complete treatise on the system to which he bequeathed his name. The material is all beside me in a pigeon-hole, but I scorn to appear vainglorious. Tonti is dead, and I never saw anyone who even pretended to regret him; and, as for the tontine system, a word will suffice for all the purposes of this unvarnished narrative. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1585

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kailey (Luminous Libro)

    This book is hilarious! I didn't know that Stevenson could write like this, since most of his stuff can be rather dark and dreary. This mystery spoof is one ridiculous circumstance after another. The characters are all running circles around each other! There are far too many uncles. Why does everyone and their mother have an uncle waiting in the wings of every scene? haha! Every character seems to be of rather questionable moral integrity but basically respectable and decent until a corpse appea This book is hilarious! I didn't know that Stevenson could write like this, since most of his stuff can be rather dark and dreary. This mystery spoof is one ridiculous circumstance after another. The characters are all running circles around each other! There are far too many uncles. Why does everyone and their mother have an uncle waiting in the wings of every scene? haha! Every character seems to be of rather questionable moral integrity but basically respectable and decent until a corpse appears in their parlor. The same corpse keeps getting lost, and the disguises and mistaken identities certainly keep things humming. I love that from start to finish, we don't see a single policeman or detective. The dialogue is snappy and ... oh, the whole thing is just wild! haha! It reminds me a lot of P.G. Wodehouse's funny books.

  13. 4 out of 5

    A.h.d.

    This comic novel by R.L. Stevenson (better known as the author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped) is a lot of very silly fun. Most of the action involves a much mislaid corpse, but, instead of being a gruesome tale, it's hilarious. The disappointment is the finale, which really doesn't quite hold up. It doesn't really end. It simply stops. The book was adapted as a motion picture, and, unlike so many movies based on books, this film is actually far better than the book. Should you want to laugh un This comic novel by R.L. Stevenson (better known as the author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped) is a lot of very silly fun. Most of the action involves a much mislaid corpse, but, instead of being a gruesome tale, it's hilarious. The disappointment is the finale, which really doesn't quite hold up. It doesn't really end. It simply stops. The book was adapted as a motion picture, and, unlike so many movies based on books, this film is actually far better than the book. Should you want to laugh until your sides hurt, I suggest you skip the book and rent or buy the DVD of The Wrong Box. It features Peter Sellers, Michael Caine, John Mills, Ralph Richardson, Peter Cook, and Dudley Moore - as distinguished a cast of actors as anyone could wish for, and all at the top of their form.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Humor from RLS? This is a comedy based on the notionof a tontine, in which a group of people invest money and the last surviving member takes it all. But what if there is some ambiguity on who is alive and who is not? That is the principle on which The Wrong Box by Robert Louis Stevenson And Lloyd Osbourne is based. Unfortunately, the humor doesn't come off well for this Yankee reader -- perhaps it's a bit too British. It is funny in parts, but sometimes I found it a bit forced. Humor from RLS? This is a comedy based on the notionof a tontine, in which a group of people invest money and the last surviving member takes it all. But what if there is some ambiguity on who is alive and who is not? That is the principle on which The Wrong Box by Robert Louis Stevenson And Lloyd Osbourne is based. Unfortunately, the humor doesn't come off well for this Yankee reader -- perhaps it's a bit too British. It is funny in parts, but sometimes I found it a bit forced.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    When I read the title of this book, I thought it would be a dark horror story but I was wrong. This book is extremely humorous and funnny. I had never imagined! It is very well written and has a mischievous tone and ironic because the author makes fun of the misfortunes that happen to the characters. Also entertains the reader and it invites you to be part of this unique adventure This story is very different from what he wrote in "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" but it shows the versa When I read the title of this book, I thought it would be a dark horror story but I was wrong. This book is extremely humorous and funnny. I had never imagined! It is very well written and has a mischievous tone and ironic because the author makes fun of the misfortunes that happen to the characters. Also entertains the reader and it invites you to be part of this unique adventure This story is very different from what he wrote in "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" but it shows the versatility of the writer and editorial quality.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    To start with the positives: the characters are consistent and well-done, boring Uncle Joseph, grasping Morris, terrified Pitman et al, but they are plonked in a terrible, half-baked plot full of inconsistencies which are never explained or resolved. The humour is rather heavy-handed as well. If this hadn't a) had RL Stevenson's name on it, and b) been turned into a hit film, then it would have been forgotten by now. To start with the positives: the characters are consistent and well-done, boring Uncle Joseph, grasping Morris, terrified Pitman et al, but they are plonked in a terrible, half-baked plot full of inconsistencies which are never explained or resolved. The humour is rather heavy-handed as well. If this hadn't a) had RL Stevenson's name on it, and b) been turned into a hit film, then it would have been forgotten by now.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    Read in March 2000. Reread in December 2016. I didn't enjoy the second reading of this very much, I'm afraid. The humor seemed contrived and I lost patience with the lengthy, digressive preambles for each chapter. This collaborative effort between Stevenson and his stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, seemed to me to be forced and convoluted. Stevenson on his own, I think, has a much lighter touch. Read in March 2000. Reread in December 2016. I didn't enjoy the second reading of this very much, I'm afraid. The humor seemed contrived and I lost patience with the lengthy, digressive preambles for each chapter. This collaborative effort between Stevenson and his stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, seemed to me to be forced and convoluted. Stevenson on his own, I think, has a much lighter touch.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Yibbie

    If you like mysteries that are more a series of misunderstandings and humerus coincidences, as I do, you'll love this story. If you like mysteries that are more a series of misunderstandings and humerus coincidences, as I do, you'll love this story.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    In the world of art, collaboration is always a difficult business. To some extent it is necessary in all performance arts. Music requires collaboration between the composers and performers. Theatre and cinema require a mixture of writing, acting, directing and good effects (costume, lighting, sets etc) to make them work. Where collaboration often falls down is in writing. To have two or more writers working on a project is to doubly dilute the quality of the final product. Firstly you have a good In the world of art, collaboration is always a difficult business. To some extent it is necessary in all performance arts. Music requires collaboration between the composers and performers. Theatre and cinema require a mixture of writing, acting, directing and good effects (costume, lighting, sets etc) to make them work. Where collaboration often falls down is in writing. To have two or more writers working on a project is to doubly dilute the quality of the final product. Firstly you have a good writer tied to a mediocre writer, something that weakens the final work. Secondly, even the good writer is slumming it, and is less likely to put their best work into a collaboration. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote three works with his stepson, Lloyd Osbourne. Notably none of them are as fondly remembered as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Kidnapped, Treasure Island or The Master of Ballantrae. The first of the books they made together was The Wrong Box, and it concerns a tontine. The word may not be familiar to you, but the concept possibly is. 35 youths agree a contract whereby each sets aside a sum of money. The last one to die inherits the total. As Stevenson and Osbourne point out, this is an absurd thing to do, since the last surviving person will be too old to enjoy the money anyway. Nonetheless the idea has been used a few times in fiction, but not (I would imagine) in real life. There are great potentialities in fiction. What happens when the number of living men dwindle? Will the remaining members of the tontine resort to unethical means to thin the number of people who stand between them? While Stevenson and Osbourne exploit the potential elements of black comedy available in such a concept, they take a different path. In fact the action of the story begins in earnest when 33 of the original 35 men have died without foul play, and the survivors are both members of the Finsbury family. Masterson Finsbury is in poor health. His brother Joseph is in better health, but his nephews Morris and John are determined to keep him alive for as long as possible, because Joseph (their guardian) has agreed to forfeit his share in the tontine to them as repayment for leaving them with financial difficulties. However disaster strikes. There is a train crash containing the family, and Joseph’s fate seems uncertain. How will Morris and John manage now, when Masterson’s son Michael is unwilling to share? From this point onwards, I am loath to discuss the plot in any more detail for fear of spoiling it. A series of plots and counter-plots are triggered, based on mistaken identity, attempted fraud, concealment, theft and misplaced luggage items – including the titular Wrong Box. Much of the action follows the progress of the contents of this box. Here the story begins to falter, as there are rather too many contrivances and coincidences, leading to a surprisingly abrupt ending. There is a distinctly satirical edge to the book. The Finsburys do not come off well. The various sons are greedy and devious. Masterson is disagreeable but does not appear much in the book. Other family members are more tolerable. Julia (another niece) is amiable and resourceful, but not especially gifted. Uncle Joseph is a well-meaning bore who is obsessed with imparting his knowledge to others. As this knowledge is more in the way of information, it is tedious to some and patronising to others, especially those who are told how they should be doing their job. Joseph also seems obsessed with telling the lower classes how they could cheerfully exist on a sum of money that he would consider intolerable. There are some amusing moments in the book, and the story is not especially dreadful. However the various intrigues eventually begin to outstay their welcome, and I was thankful that book was fairly short.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tim Pendry

    'The Wrong Box' (1889) was a collaborative work (on broadly equal terms) between Robert Louis Stevenson and his step son Lloyd Osbourne. It is a rather wicked little book. It may be quite surprising to modern readers that its dark comedy could become a Victorian best seller. It divided opinion at the time with shock and disapproval on one side and appreciation on the other, reactions that almost certainly come down to that classic division of personality types between the authoritarian and the li 'The Wrong Box' (1889) was a collaborative work (on broadly equal terms) between Robert Louis Stevenson and his step son Lloyd Osbourne. It is a rather wicked little book. It may be quite surprising to modern readers that its dark comedy could become a Victorian best seller. It divided opinion at the time with shock and disapproval on one side and appreciation on the other, reactions that almost certainly come down to that classic division of personality types between the authoritarian and the libertarian. RLS was definitely in the more libertarian camp. The basic story line is a complex farce centred on three cousins who are the last possible beneficiaries of a tontine which is an arrangement whereby its members put the same funds in a pool to be granted to the last survivor. This is one where we have to try and avoid spoilers. We were slightly irritated by David Pascoe offering too many in his somewhat dull Introduction in this edition. On the other hand, he does a useful job in positioning the tale as a part satire on the railway stand fiction of the time. Is it funny today? Not uproariously but it remains very amusing. I laughed perhaps once, maybe almost twice, but that is not the point ... it would have been laugh out loud in 1889. We can see why and we can still appreciate the brisk pace, farcical plot and satirical characterisation. Given modern tastes, the average modern reader will probably be less shocked at the content, involving a disfigured body being callously carted around in a case of mistaken identity, than surprised that it was even published at that time, let alone appreciated by many if not a majority. Worse, the characters in the novel have, to say the least, little moral character to speak of. They are prepared to do pretty immoral things, are manipulative and self-deluding, adopt an attitude that the only real crime is getting caught or consider their adventures to be little more than a jape. The satire is sometimes cruelly to the point and certainly cynical as one of the cousins (Morris) gets into ever deeper water because of his stupidity, greed and paranoia without ever being truly a bad man, dragging his hapless brother (John) along with him as disaster follows disaster. The other cousin (Michael), a disreputable and rascally but intelligent lawyer, has much fun running rings round his less bright relative until finally he fixes everything to a 'happy end' (except for the poor corpse, of course, which is not really a spoiler) in his own interest. Where the skill lies is not so much in the plot (this constantly keeps the attention) but in the witty characterisation where we find all sorts of human weakness and, to be fair, very little real malice. These are greedy, weak and manipulative people but not cruel or entirely without conscience. An oddity in the history of popular fiction, perhaps an oddity from RLS too, but worth reading as a remarkable insight into what it must really have been like to have been a Victorian and a rare burst of literary honesty about the human condition.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Louie Matos The Mustache

    The Wrong Box by Robert Louis Stevenson is one of his lesser-known works probably because it is a farce revolving around a tontine – a group insurance policy that goes to the last survivor – a bad idea in any era. The tontine inevitably leads to cheating, regardless of the family members, no matter how honorable the group of people, the temptation for shenanigans occurs and Stevenson exploits these temptations by contemplating a family: brothers, an uncle, a ward. This is a family with individua The Wrong Box by Robert Louis Stevenson is one of his lesser-known works probably because it is a farce revolving around a tontine – a group insurance policy that goes to the last survivor – a bad idea in any era. The tontine inevitably leads to cheating, regardless of the family members, no matter how honorable the group of people, the temptation for shenanigans occurs and Stevenson exploits these temptations by contemplating a family: brothers, an uncle, a ward. This is a family with individuals trying to get the better of each other when it appears that the uncle has died. The novel pokes fun at how people that love each other become vultures in the face of loss becoming gain. There is silliness in the truth, but sadness, as well. The language was an impediment to my enjoyment. I believe modern audiences will feel the same way.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Graychin

    This is one of those books Robert Louis Stevenson wrote jointly with his step-son Lloyd Osbourne (to give the kid a boost with publishers), so you might think of it as deuterocanonical RLS. It’s often funny, also macabre, and while the clockwork plot relies too strongly on a series of implausible coincidences, it’s fun to read if only for the prose (which must have been mostly Stevenson's, while the flat characters were mostly Osbourne's). I understand there’s a 1966 film version starring Michae This is one of those books Robert Louis Stevenson wrote jointly with his step-son Lloyd Osbourne (to give the kid a boost with publishers), so you might think of it as deuterocanonical RLS. It’s often funny, also macabre, and while the clockwork plot relies too strongly on a series of implausible coincidences, it’s fun to read if only for the prose (which must have been mostly Stevenson's, while the flat characters were mostly Osbourne's). I understand there’s a 1966 film version starring Michael Caine and Peter Sellers. I’ll have to check that out.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    1870s There are three surviving offspring, Michael, Morris and John, of the two brothers Joseph (71) and Masterman (73), who themselves are the last two members of a tontine. Can the cousins outwit each other to claim the money. Didn't really hold my interest. 1870s There are three surviving offspring, Michael, Morris and John, of the two brothers Joseph (71) and Masterman (73), who themselves are the last two members of a tontine. Can the cousins outwit each other to claim the money. Didn't really hold my interest.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gail Moore

    hilarious This is the most hilarious book I ever read. I was glad I read it on Kindle because I needed the dictionary due to the older English vocabulary, but I just couldn’t put it down!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. The plot can get confusing at times, but the humor is delightful.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dru

    Didn't know Stevenson wrote books like this. This was a good box with a lot of twists. Didn't know Stevenson wrote books like this. This was a good box with a lot of twists.

  27. 5 out of 5

    E.A.

    Although I'm sure there were a lot of references and jokes I didn't get, this was still quite amusing and a charming humorous mystery. There are a lot of quotable moments. Although I'm sure there were a lot of references and jokes I didn't get, this was still quite amusing and a charming humorous mystery. There are a lot of quotable moments.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Phil Altimas

    dint like it at all

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Ryder Roberts

    A crazy novel, liked the whole idea of the plot. Some boys parents placed £1,000 each into a box, the remanding child (now an adult) gets the contents! Some hilarious moments and shenanigans afoot!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kurtbg

    Count of monte Cristo this is not. It seems written specifically for the time (late 19th century.) The entire concept of a tontine leads to one conclusion - to the victor goes the spoils.

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