The Vanishing Man - Freeman,  R. Austin (Richard Austin) This is author R. Austin Freeman's third Thorndyke book, published in 1911. The Vanishing Man is the US title; in the UK it's known as The Eye of Osiris. Available here (Vanishing Man) and here (Eye) at Gutenberg.When you have the disappearance of someone early in a book you somehow know that later in the book there will have to be a reappearance in some form or another. That means that there's not going to be a mystery of the sort where the reader's going to be working every minute to try and solve something - you can see what's coming long before the author will serve it up. So with this sort of mystery you just sit back and enjoy the form. It will also help if you are a fan of Eqyptology and bookish research types, as the story contains plenty of both. Since I've loved the field since King Tut first toured the US in the 1970s (which I missed and regretted it bitterly), I enjoyed the 1900s version of the science that so many characters had an amateur interest in. (The gentleman historian/archeologist is definitely A Thing in this story.)There's a love story, which would seem overly gushy if this wasn't written in 1911. Actually the love story - and much of the book - felt as if it could have been set in Dicken's London, because it seemed that old fashioned here and there. Then again, you could say that about parts of London which seem stuck in older historical times.The worst I can say about this is that it moves slowly, and you will have no problem guessing quite soon things which seem deeply mysterious to the main characters. For me the best parts were reading the descriptions of London neighborhoods, pondering the daily rounds of a local doctor, and enjoying a female character that was positively shown to be a bookish expert.Quotes:Chapter 8, Miss Bellingham feels strongly about an Egyptian mummy in the museum:"This is my friend," she said. "Let me present you to Artemidorus, late of the Fayyum. Oh, don't smile!" she pleaded. "I am quite serious. Have you never heard of pious Catholics who cherish a devotion to some long-departed saint? That is my feeling towards Artemidorus, and if you only knew what comfort he has shed into the heart of a lonely woman; what a quiet, unobtrusive friend he has been to me in my solitary, friendless days, always ready with a kindly greeting on his gentle, thoughtful face, you would like him for that alone. And I want you to like him and to share our silent friendship. Am I very silly, very sentimental?"...We stood awhile gazing in silence at the mummy—for such, indeed, was her friend Artemidorus. But not an ordinary mummy. Egyptian in form, it was entirely Greek in feeling; and brightly coloured as it was, in accordance with the racial love of colour, the tasteful refinement with which the decoration of the case was treated made those around look garish and barbaric. But the most striking feature was a charming panel portrait which occupied the place of the usual mask. This painting was a revelation to me. Except that it was executed in tempera instead of oil, it differed in no respect from modern work. There was nothing archaic or even ancient about it. With its freedom of handling and its correct rendering of light and shade, it might have been painted yesterday; indeed, enclosed in an ordinary gilt frame, it might have passed without remark in an exhibition of modern portraits. And there is history for this: here is Artemidorus' portrait, found on the exterior of his mummy.Chapter 9: "Speaking of bitumen," said I, "reminds me of a question that has occurred to me. You know that this substance has been used a good deal by modern painters and that it has a very dangerous peculiarity; I mean its tendency to liquefy, without any very obvious reason, long after it has dried.""Yes, I know. Isn't there some story about a picture of Reynolds' in which bitumen had been used? A portrait of a lady, I think. The bitumen softened, and one of the lady's eyes slipped down on to her cheek; and they had to hang the portrait upside down and keep it warm until the eye slipped back into its place. But what was your question?""I was wondering whether the bitumen used by the Egyptian artists has ever been known to soften after this great lapse of time.""Yes, I think it has. I have heard of instances in which the bitumen coatings of mummy cases have softened under certain circumstances and become quite 'tacky.' But, bless my soul! here am I gossiping with you and wasting your time, and it is nearly a quarter to nine!" I am now dying to know if that story of Reynolds' picture is true.Ch 13, every now and then I did have to look up something:Hither I betook myself after a protracted lunch and a meditative pipe, and, being the first to arrive—the jury having already been sworn and conducted to the mortuary to view the remains—whiled away the time by considering the habits of the customary occupants of the room by the light of the objects contained in it. A wooden target with one or two darts sticking in it hung on the end wall and invited the Robin Hoods of the village to try their skill; a system of incised marks on the oaken table made sinister suggestions of shove-halfpenny; and a large open box, filled with white wigs, gaudily coloured robes and wooden spears, swords and regalia, crudely coated with gilded paper, obviously appertained to the puerile ceremonials of the Order of Druids.Happily there is a wikipedia page for shove-halfpenny.Ch 15, Miss Bellingham and our narrator/hero have a chat in a cemetery: "I don't think I have ever been here before; and yet there is something about the place that seems familiar." I looked around, cudgelling my brains for the key to the dimly reminiscent sensations that the place evoked; until, suddenly, I caught sight of a group of buildings away to the west, enclosed within a wall heightened by a wooden trellis."Yes, of course!" I exclaimed. "I remember the place now. I have never been in this part before, but in that enclosure beyond which opens at the end of Henrietta Street, there used to be and may be still, for all I know, a school of anatomy, at which I attended in my first year; in fact, I did my first dissection there.""There was a certain gruesome appropriateness in the position of the school," remarked Miss Bellingham. "It would have been really convenient in the days of the resurrection men. Your material would have been delivered at your very door. Was it a large school?""The attendance varied according to the time of the year. Sometimes I worked there quite alone. I used to let myself in with a key and hoist my subject out of a sort of sepulchral tank by means of a chain tackle. It was a ghoulish business. You have no idea how awful the body used to look, to my unaccustomed eyes, as it rose slowly out of the tank. It was like the resurrection scenes that you see on some old tombstones, where the deceased is shown rising out of his coffin while the skeleton, Death, falls vanquished with his dart shattered and his crown toppling off."I remember, too, that the demonstrator used to wear a blue apron, which created a sort of impression of a cannibal butcher's shop. But I am afraid I am shocking you.""No, you are not. Every profession has its unpresentable aspects, which ought not to be seen by out-siders. Think of a sculptor's studio and of the sculptor himself when he is modelling a large figure or group in the clay. He might be a bricklayer or a road-sweeper if you judge by his appearance. This is the tomb I was telling you about."