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The Hands of Mr. Ottermole

CRITIQUE | THE TEXT

A Tea-Shop in Limehouse first editionFirst edition of 1931 collection
By Thomas Burke
Publication details ▽ Publication details △

First publication
1931 in collection A Tea-Shop in Limehouse

Literature form
Story

Genres
Mystery, crime, horror

Writing language
English

Author's country
England

Length
Approx. 7,500 words

Notable lines

At six o'clock of a January evening Mr. Whybrow was walking home through the cobweb alleys of London's East End. He had left the golden clamour of the great High Street to which the tram had brought him from the river and his daily work, and was now in the chess-board of byways that is called Mallon End.

First line

Mr. Whybrow wasn't going to get any tea that evening—or any other evening. Mr. Whybrow was going to die. Somewhere within a hundred yards of him another man was walking: a man much like Mr. Whybrow and much like any other man, but without the only quality that enables mankind to live peaceably together and not as madmen in a jungle. A man with a dead heart eating into itself and bringing forth the foul organisms that arise from death and corruption.

Go away, Mr. Whybrow. Go away from that door. Don't touch it. Get out of the house. Run with the Missis to the back garden, and over the fence. Or call the neighbours. But don't touch that door. Don't, Mr. Whybrow, don't open...
Mr. Whybrow opened the door.

The first news of the affair sent a tremor through London generally. Here was a murder of two inoffensive people, not for gain and not for revenge; and the murderer, to whom, apparently, murder was a casual impulse, was at large.

"Couldn't it be that parts of our bodies aren't really us, and couldn't ideas come into those parts all of a sudden, like ideas come into—into"—he shot his arms out, showing the great white-gloved hands and hairy wrists; shot them out so swiftly to the journalist's throat that his eyes never saw them—"into my hands!"

Last lines
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CRITIQUE | THE TEXT