A Cardinal Sin. By Hugh Conway. (Eden, Remington, and Co.)—The
natural expectation one has of finding something sen- sational in-a work by Hugh Conway is justified by the contents of A Cardinal Sin, a book that is probably known already to a good many people, as it came out some time ago (if we are not mistaken) in three-volume form. It may be described roughly as the story of a game for stakes of almost life and death, played by two men who are impostors ; who stick at nothing in order to win ; who are quite aware of each other's weakness of position ; and who, nevertheless, are neither of them able to utilise the knowledge for their enemy's discomfiture. The winning stroke—which is only played on the victor's death-bed, for the benefit, not of himself, but of his children—involves an amount of strength and resolution that seem incredible in a person whose powers of will and brain have been weakened, as Philip Bourchier's had, by years of indulgence in chloral ; and however striking the account of his dying state of mind may be, and creditable to the author's imagination, we are by no means sure that it represents what is possible. Readers of a psychological turn, to whom the chief interest in the book will probably be the portrait it affords of a man who is at once a murderer and a loving father, must expect to be surprised at its heterodox teaching in the matter of remorse ; for instead of representing remorse as a thing terrible enough for the mere dread to act as a deterrent to crime, the author states distinctly and repeatedly that Philip's sufferings are in no way to be ascribed to this emotion. And a comparison between the picture of Philip and such an one as Therese Raquin—(suggesting itself by very force of contrast)—is apt to excite speculation as to which of the two is likely to be most true to life, and whether by any possibility the wide diversity of human nature can account for both. It may be well (by way of caution to other
novelists) to draw attention to the unsatisfactoriness of the ending, in that it is so contrived as to make the nice people's happiness depend upon the universal acceptation of a lie. A general putting to rights of things wrong by means of the triumph of truth over falsehood, is what is looked for at the end of a work of fiction ; and as one does not like to see falsehood foisted into truth's legitimate place, therefore the method whereby Allan and his wife are saved from impending trouble is not wholly satis- factory, even though one would not for worlds have had the poor young couple made miserable.