Dr Syn - 1915 & 1998

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Review by Julian Lewis Doctor Syn was written by Arthur Russell Thorndike in 1915.  This was by far the sagas darkest chapter.  This story would ultimately become the climax to his saga.  It outlined the exploits, set sometime between 17951805, of the parish vicar of Dymchurch whose dark past was uncoveredwhen excise men investigated the local smuggling in Kent.  Although Syn had previously outwitted the excise men, as would be chronicled in later books, he finally meets his match as his pirating past finally caught up with him in the sagas conclusion.  This is my favourite of the series, and since this book was written as a stand alone novel requires no previous knowledge of the other stories, so can be read as the first or last in the saga. 

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This is one of the rarer books in the initial Dr Syn series. It sells for up to $500 on the ebay.com site. In hardback, the initial pressings were in error as Thorndike was spelt incorrectly as Thorndyke on the front cover and correctly inside. This early 1915 edition is the most sought after.

                            Syn Saga Reviewed      By   Clive Griffiths

In 1915 an author by the name of Russell Thorndike perhaps unwittingly created what was to become a legend in it's own right. The legend was a series of books that, though based on fact the characters, exploits, and adventures were fictitious, although if you are lucky enough to be able to read them it is sometimes difficult to believe that they are not all fact. The story set in the mid seventeen hundreds was about a man called Christopher Syn an Oxford College Graduate, Doctor of Divinity, man of many talents. The books depict one mans lifelong struggle in the search of happiness, from the moment his new bride was kidnapped by a former suitor the die was cast. The chain of events which tore him from a comfortable position as vicar of Dymchurch-under-the-wall in the county of Kent, England, drove him into the depths of despair and then on a quest of vengeance. For years he chased them, from port to port, country to country, sometimes getting close, but never close enough, and if any got in his way there was only one outcome, "Death". He became known as an infamous pirate "Captain Clegg " who rained terror on the high seas.
After many years he decided to give up the adventurous life and return to his original calling, even in this fate played a hand when he was shipwrecked onto the very beach at Dymchurch where it all began. Once again welcomed into the village by his old friend Sir Anthony Cobtree, the local squire, he settled down into his rightful role as vicar but inevitably this wasn't to last. One day his close friend Mipps who had been with him through all his piratical years and had settled in the same village came to him for help. Mipps had got himself involved in local smuggling activities and the Customs and Excise were hot on his heels. Syn adopts the disguise of a scarecrow and saves the necks of all those involved and then finds himself elected as their leader. From then on he became a kind of latter-day Robin Hood, not only looking after the spiritual needs of his parishioners but also lining their pockets with gold. For years he led the smuggling ring on Romney Marsh to the benefit of all except the authorities to which he was a great embarrassment. Eventually they catch up with him along with a ghost from his days as "Clegg" the pirate with the resulting untimely and somewhat sad death of Syn. Overall I have always enjoyed reading these well-written historical mystery books.

The only criticism I have is that the author seems to have abandoned Syn in his hour of need, help was nearby in the form of Mipps yet he did nothing why? Did Syn really die?