I'm a sucker for alliteration. I once wrote flack for a community theater group and would get the paper to print my offerings under such headlines as "Strong Singers Staged Stunningly", and so forth. So naturally, I couldn't pass up this book. For some reason, I had problems getting into it, but after a while, it did grow on me. Chesterton has some interesting viewpoints.
This isn't really a novel but a collection of four short stories, or perhaps novelettes (15,000–17,000 words)
tied together with a common conceit. The book begins and ends with four men around a table in the presence of a noted journalist. In the prologue, the journalist is introduced to the four men and learns that the one thing they all have in common is that they have committed crimes, one a murderer, one a medical quack, one a thief, and one a traitor. They seem like normal people, so what is it about them, the journalist wonders, that led them to crime? Good journalists in those days, we are told, were excellent listeners. People like
to tell their own stories, so one just needs to listen with encouraging interest. Bullying people to get their stories isn't remotely necessary. Thus, he elicits each "felon's story, one novelette at a time. Yes, each did commit the crime associated with him, but in each case it was to provide a better overall result than if he'd not acted out his crime. Something like that.
So, it was an ok read, but not special, basically, just thin entertainment of no particular consequence, and something merely to be finished so I could go on to something better.