My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Written in 1905, this remains a gripping and exciting character piece that examines the effect of political terrorism on a passive populace. While the characters of the police who pursue the titular four are never more than loosely drawn, those of the men themselves are the clearest fascination, and the gaps in their characterisation just encourage the reader to fill them in by himself.
The plot whips along, the tension palpably increases as the annointed hour of the act moves ever closer, and while the climax has a whiff of the deus ex machina, it’s allowable in the realms of what is, clearly, a pulp novel that outstrips its boundaries.
It’s exciting, stirring stuff, with the added benefit of — quite unconsciously– being a fascinating glimpse into the bigotry and superciliousness of the Edwardian Englishman.