British author R. Austin Freeman (1862-1943) primarily wrote detective stories and is best known for his legal/forensic investigator Dr. John Thorndyke, using Freeman's early experiences as a colonial surgeon to help inspire and inform his work. Freeman is credited with inventing the inverted detective story, where the identity of the criminal is shown from the beginning, demonstrated in some of the stories included in this volume:
"The Assyrian Rejuvenator"
"The Foreign Office Despatch"
"The Chicago Heiress"
"The Lizard's Sacle"
"The Paste Diamonds"
"The Kailyard Novel"
As Bob Schneider noted for GA Detection, Romney Pringle lives by his wits and keen observational powers, being a consummate student of human nature. The "gentleman" moniker is relevant to the handsome, charming Pringle because runs a pseudo literary agency, eschews violence and—-when not participating in his criminal pastimes of patent medicine fraud, forgery or burglary—-enjoys fine art, bicycling and boating. He's also a master of disguises and has skills that help him track down his prey, usually other criminals, including experience in chemistry and gemology.
Freeman had a detailed and personal knowledge of the backstreets of London, Highgate and Hampstead in the years prior to World War II, and his descriptions are one of the most charming aspects of his writing, counting no less than T.S. Eliot and Raymond Chandler as fans. There are criticisms, too, including Freeman's tendency to be repetitive in certain catch-phrases, dialogue, settings and character types, but such quibbles can be overlooked in the grander scheme of Freeman's storytelling.