“The Business of Madame Jahn” by Vincent O’Sullivan


(Above: I’ve tried a lot of different beers in my life, but have never heard of this one. The search begins…)

For week 38 of Deal Me In 2014, I drew the seven of diamonds which I had assigned to this story of a murder for greed – and a haunting…

I had not heard of the author Vincent O’Sullivan until I read about him at Paula Cappa’s blog (actually, I think I have a growing list of authors I can say that about). O’Sullivan lived from 1868-1940 and was an American writer of supernatural fiction and friend of the great Oscar Wilde. This short tale is from his first collection of stories, “A Book of Bargains.” His latter life was a tragic one as his formerly well-to-do family was struck down by financial ruin. Wikipedia reports that “in latish middle age found himself ruined, wrote his last book (Opinions) under terrible conditions, and, dying in Paris, ended anonymously in the common pit for the cadavers of paupers.” How sad.


The story begins with us learning that its protagonist, Gustave Herbout, has committed suicide shortly after inheriting the estate of his deceased aunt. There is speculation about why – now of all times, when he has finally come into some manner of wealth – Gustave would choose to end his life.

So what is Gustave’s problem? Like many people (maybe you know some yourself), Gustave craves a life that is beyond his means. A life of a boulevardier, frequenting chic cafes and sharing stories of wealthy and titled relations with “obsequious” friends – stories that he knows cannot be verified or found to be his own mere fabrications. He also knows that he stands to inherit a sum of money from his aged aunt, Madame Jahn – an amount that could support him in this ideal lifestyle that he has not earned through his own efforts. He begins to ponder, though, how much longer she might live and realizes she might “hold on” for many years yet…

A nice story, though not among my favorites of DMI2014. Read the story yourself online at http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/mmejahn.htm

Had you heard of, or read anything by this author?

(Below: Monet’s painting of the Boulevard des Capucines, where the morally bankrupt Gustave liked to roam and feed his self-delusions…)



  1. Dale said,

    September 21, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    I haven’t heard of this author before, but Gustave sounds like an intriguing, even if not likeable, character. And the Monet and Seven of Diamonds are awesome!

    It’s also hard to believe that it’s Week 38 already!


    • Jay said,

      September 22, 2014 at 7:00 am

      It’s hard for me to believe also! Next week will be the 3/4 point! I read several other stories last week for the R.I.P. challenge, one was a Shirley Jackson story (The Summer People) that nearly blew me away. I’m already thinking about my 2015 roster…


  2. Paula Cappa said,

    September 21, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Love Monet’s painting and that swirling sky. A really good visual for this story, Jay.


    • Jay said,

      September 22, 2014 at 7:01 am

      Thanks, Paula. And thanks for steering me in O’Sullivan’s direction, 🙂


  3. BookerTalk said,

    September 28, 2014 at 1:54 am

    I’ve never heard of this author either. Would you be inclined to read anything further by him on the basis that this one storymmightnnitnhavenbrrn his best?


    • Jay said,

      September 29, 2014 at 8:15 am

      Yes, I think I’d read him again. I’m a bit unusual in that I actually like the writing style of authors who wrote a century ago… 🙂


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