Publishing: SEXTON BLAKE'S LOST CLUE begins a long sequence of adventures that continue over the next two years in THE MARVEL LIBRARY.
Blake: Reference is made to Sexton Blake's wife in SEXTON BLAKE'S LOST CLUE. This must be Muriel Blake (nee Lane) whom the detective married at the end of THE LAMP OF DEATH (ILLUSTRATED CHIPS issues 225 to 245, 1894/95). The story also introduces his secretary and pupil Wallace Lorrimer who goes on to feature in all the stories in THE MARVEL LIBRARY. We-wee makes his final appearance this year.
What on earth is Griff? Some sort of trained ape? It wears clothes, black gloves, blue-tinted goggles, a bowler hat and a scarf wrapped around its lower face. It breathes through a respirator and its eyes are like 'fiery slits'. Griff is incredibly agile but not very talkative; a sort of half bark, half growl being about as much as he can manage. He's been carefully 'trained' by Sexton Blake but even the greatest of all detectives can't cure the creature of its dislike for uniformed policemen.
Notes: This serial follows on from SEXTON BLAKE'S LOST CLUE in UNION JACK 396. Wallace Lorrimer becomes a member of the Ology Club — a league of scientists who devote their knowledge to sinister ends. He is known there as 'Professor Elias Chuntle' and, at one of the meetings, introduces his friend 'Dr Anton Ludovsky', who is Sexton Blake in disguise. They participate in a gruesome conversation about 'instantaneous death'. Afterwards, they overhear a heated discussion between Professor Septimus Murgatroyd and a stranger. Blake uses a gramophone to record the argument. A few days later, at the village of Bottomly Dale, a corpse is found in a snow-covered field. There are no footprints leading to or from the body; not even the dead man's own. Blake and Lorrimer recognise the man as Harry Dixon, who they have suspected of the attempted murder of Mary Aylin at Battersby-Denton in Essex (see SEXTON BLAKE'S LOST CLUE).
Notes: Sexton Blake learns from the newspaper that, on the night of Harry Dixon's death, Professor Murgatroyd had been making a balloon flight. He reminds Wallace Lorrimer that during a conversation at the Ology Club the professor had claimed that a man falling from, for example, 4,000 yards from the earth, would be dead before he hit the ground. They play the gramophone recording of the argument they overheard at the club. Mary Aylin arrives and recognises the voices as those of Harry Dixon and the professor. She reveals that the latter is now living in a mansion house at Battersby-Denton. Blake goes to Scotland Yard to get an arrest warrant for Murgatroyd.
Trivia: Sexton Blake has an office-boy named Raffles.
Notes: Sexton Blake's assistant, Wallace Lorrimer, reads in a newspaper that on the night Harry Dixon was discovered dead, Professor Murgatroyd's balloon was seen to descend off the south coast. The professor's assistant rowed the basket ashore. The scientist was found to be scratched and bruised, with a shallow knife wound to his chest. He refused to reveal how he came by these injuries. Who, wonders Lorrimer, was this mysterious assistant? Blake returns from Scotland Yard with Sergeant Jenkins bearing a warrant. They, with Lorrimer, travel down to Brighton to arrest Murgatroyd. On the way, Lorrimer tells Blake that Dr. X, the permanently masked president of the Ology Club, who hates Murgatroyd, said that there were only two people aboard the balloon when it took off. In Brighton, Blake leaves the other two to make the arrest while he goes to examine the balloon. In it, he finds a long wicker basket and deduces that Harry Dixon had been transported inside.
Notes: Professor Murgatroyd is arrested. He gives evidence at the inquest into the death of Harry Dixon, stating that when his assistant fell asleep, Dixon sprang from the basket and attacked him, stabbing him in the chest before falling overboard. A month later, the professor's trial takes place and he is found innocent of all charges. Wallace Lorrimer moves to Battersby-Denton where he begins to woo Mary Aylin. However, Murgatroyd is also pursuing her, and he is favoured by her guardian, the miserly John Aylin. When the latter finds Lorrimer and Mary together, he horsewhips Sexton Blake's assistant and angry words fly between them before they part on the worst of terms.
Notes: John Aylin forbids Mary to see Wallace Lorrimer and informs her that she is to marry Professor Murgatroyd. He makes a deal with the latter that he (Aylin) will receive £2,000 on the day that his niece and the professor marry — unaware that Murgatroyd is only after his fortune. Moments after their meeting, the professor watches from behind a hedge as Aylin's handy-man, William Harrison, arrives at the house in a state of inebriation and argues with his master before being dismissed from his job. Murgatroyd subsequently employs the man himself and fosters his hatred of Aylin. Meanwhile, reports of Lorrimer's fight with the old miser circulate around the village, growing ever more exaggerated with each telling.
Notes: A gang of notorious criminals, among whom are Ben the Welsher, Big Burke, Black Peter, and Flash Charlie, conspire to secure a chest, containing a treasure of fabulous value, belonging to Valentine Viderque, of Lavender Terrace, St. John's Wood. Mr. Viderque is an eccentric old man. He distrusts banks and safe-deposits, and keeps the treasure in his own home. At last, however, after many attempts have been made to break into the house, Viderque promises the police that he will remove the treasure to his bank. Black Peter, masquerading as a chestnut merchant, gets wind of this, and telegraphs the news to Flash Charlie, who forthwith carries the news to the meeting-place of the gang, a den known as "The Welsher's Crib," in the Ratcliff Highway, East London. In the Crib at the time is Sexton Blake, detective, cunningly disguised as Old Betty, a watercress-seller. To the astonishment of all, including Sexton Blake himself, the doorkeeper of the crib announces that Sexton Blake, the great "lagger," is outside, demanding admission. All the ruffians present vow that the detective shall not leave the place alive. The doorkeeper of the crib is ordered to admit the visitor.
Trivia: It is worth reproducing the first description of Griff here: Can it be a man—this strange, repulsive creature so stealthily stealing along? Surely no human being was ever so repulsively formed as this? Yet it is garbed as a man!
A bowler hat, long, loosely-fitting black overcoat, baggy trousers, tan-coloured spats, and great ill-shaped boots. But the face! How can we possibly describe it—or, rather, the little that can be seen of it? The bowler hat is full large for the head, and is drawn down over the forehead and skull, and rests upon large, outstanding, and hair-covered ears. Great blue spectacles, of double lens, cover the eyes and some portion of the visage. The nose is very flat, and of great width of nostrils. The unusual sight of a "respirator" can be seen well covering up the mouth. A great and light-coloured muffler also is so arranged that chin and jaws are both concealed; but what little of the face that can be detected is covered to the cheekbones with short and stiff-looking hair of a dull-brownish colour.
There is something strangely inhuman in the general expression, while the small round eyes peer through the deep blue glasses like two brilliant sparks of fire.
Of wonderful breadth of shoulder, girth of chest, and length of arm, this is an individual who must be endowed with prodigious strength. A crooked back and bowed legs greatly add to the general grotesque hideousness of the figure as a whole.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ An excellent and fascinating start to one of Sexton Blake's weirdest adventures.
Notes: "Friends all, the great Sexton Blake, the most celebrated lagger of modern times ..." Thus says the doorkeeper as he introduces a tall, pale-faced, yet handsome, keen-eyed stranger into the crib, locking the door behind him. Realising his peril, the stranger immediately backs down, denies that he's Sexton Blake and reveals that he's actually an out-of-work clerk. The ruffians don't believe him and close in for the kill ... only to find themselves facing the real detective, as 'Old Betty' sheds the disguise. The sight of 'two Sexton Blakes' (for the men are remarkably alike) momentarily sends the villains into a confused paralysis. But they recover quickly and attack en masse. The two 'Blakes' are overpowered, tied hand and foot, and locked into a wooden shed at the back of the crib. Most of the villains leave, fearing that the police may be watching the place. Big Burke, though, dowses the shed with oil and sets it alight before making off. The men are saved by Griff the Man-Tracker, Sexton Blake's assistant. Seemingly half-man, half-beast, Griff is as agile as an ape and as fierce as a wolf ... indeed, he often takes to all fours like an animal. Meanwhile, over in St. John's Wood, Valentine Viderque and his son, Will, load the precious chest onto a hansom cab and begin the journey to the Strand, where they will store it in offices before transferring it to a bank the following morning. But, en route, the chest is stolen from the roof of the cab and the Viderques are beaten unconscious.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Intriguing!
Notes: Sexton Blake, his strange double, and Griff leave the scene of the fire. Blake's new acquaintance is somewhat in awe of Griff. "If beauty always accompanied goodness — as, indeed, it rightly should — my Griff would be of the noblest form and loveliest features! You have but to thoroughly know my mute friend to completely love him," the detective remarks. They go to a hotel where Blake treats the down-on-his-luck clerk to a good meal. Meanwhile, Griff traces the gang to their den and attacks Big Burke. A fight ensues but all escape just as the police show up. Blake, following a paper trail left by his weird assistant, arrives and learns what has happened (Griff mimes the fight). Griff then tracks the criminals like a bloodhound. While this is happening, police officers are investigating the abandoned hansom cab in search of any trace of the Viderques and the chest. They follow a trail of blood to Danks's Mews and, outside a stable, discover the dead body of the elder Viderque and the unconscious form of his son. They mistakenly suspect that the latter has murdered the former. At this moment Blake arrives, Griff having led him to the spot.
Trivia: Griff needs a respirator else the damp English air will make him ill. Blake has dedicated much time to Griff's training.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Another instalment that raises more questions than it answers. Is Griff an ape?
Notes: After regaining consciousness and learning that he is suspected of murdering his own father, Will Viderque makes a run for it, aided by Sexton Blake, Griff, and a sweep named Biggs. The police throw a cordon around the area but too late to stop him getting away. The lad, still stricken from Burke's blow to his head, lays low in a house off Tottenham Court Road.
Trivia: Griff affectionately places his head against Sexton Blake's chest at one point in this episode — once more emphasising the fact that he is more an animal than a human. In fact, he's explicitly described as 'the animal' in one paragraph and we learn that his hands 'became feet when he wished them to be so' and that his huge mouth is filled with fang-like teeth.
Notes: The gang of thieves and murderers are trapped within the police cordon, in premises opposite the stable. They hide the chest. An argument breaks out between Big Burke and another member of the gang, Mike Terry. The latter is beaten into submission by Burke.
Notes: Will Viderque betrays himself to the gang and fights for his life with Biggs at his side. Sexton Blake and Griff come to their aid and they manage to escape to safety. Burke and Terry resume their feud and their fight is overheard by a young plain clothes police officer, who enters the building and confronts the gang.
Notes: The villains leap upon the young plain clothes man and bind him hand and foot. He pleads for his life but receives a brutal kicking from Burke. Black Pete, crawling across the rooftops to avoid the police, brings word from the gang's mysterious and as yet unseen leader; they are to get the chest past the cordon tonight as a raid of every building within Danks's Mews is imminent. The policeman has straw throw over him where he lies so that he cannot observe the gang's actions. He hears them moving the loot. They then carry him up to the roof and he fears that he is to be thrown from it. Meanwhile, Terry, who is being carefully guarded, plots his escape.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ A very short installment with little by way of action or plot developments.
Notes: Sexton Blake, his lookalike, and Griff the Man-Tracker are within the police cordon, watching and waiting, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the mysterious gang leader. The latter, sends another message to his men: they are to get ready to move and must clean up every trace of their stay in Danks's Mews, ensuring no clue remains for Sexton Blake to follow. This means the captured policeman must be silenced. Burke tells Mike Terry that the only way he can prove his worth to the gang is to kill the captive. Once Terry has committed murder, he will not dare to betray the gang. He creeps up to the roof, followed by his colleagues, but, as he raises a knife over the prone form, he is sent flying by a dark shadow. Griff has come to the rescue! Picking up the policeman, Blake's strange assistant bounds away over the rooftops. The gang shoot at Griff then attempt to get back to street level via a nearby house ... but there are policemen inside and a fight ensues. The villains overcome the constables and reach the ground floor where another battle is fought. A number of policemen are captured and blindfolded. These are discovered, a little later, when a larger force of police break into the house ... but of the villains, there is no sign.
Trivia: Griff feels an enmity towards the police which is 'never likely to be overcome'.
Rating: ★★★★☆ An instalment packed with thrilling fights, escapes and daredevil stunts.
Notes: Griff drops onto a hay wagon and, after leaving the unconscious plain clothes policeman amid the straw, leaps away and scurries down dark alleyways until he finds his master's lookalike. Meanwhile, over in Tottenham Court Road, Will Viderque has recovered and is desperate to visit his ailing mother. Biggs, the sweep, agrees to smuggle him there in his cart. But before they leave, Viderque is shot at as he looks out of a window. The bullet narrowly misses him. Back in Danks's Mews, Blake regains consciousness and realises that during the police raid he had been mistaken for a felon and hit over the head with a truncheon. In the confusion, the police had left him there. Now he finds himself confronted by a minor member of the gang; a lookout who did not escape with the rest of the villains. The two men fight furiously and, with Blake already in a weakened state, the detective fears he might be overcome. But he wins through, rendering his foe insensible.
Trivia: At this stage in his career Blake doesn't much like the police.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ A short violence-filled instalment.
Notes: Blake's double manages to obtain a scrap of paper belonging to Big Burke. Something is written on it in a code he cannot decipher.
Notes: Viderque is chased by two policemen. Biggs helps him evade them by pouring a bag of soot over the constables.
Notes: Sexton Blake tries to discover the means by which the gang removed the chest from Danks's Mews. Suspecting that it may have been via the sewers, he climbs into a manhole. Someone closes and locks it and the detective finds himself trapped in a space not much taller or wider than himself. There is no means of escape.
Notes: Biggs takes Viderque to the house of his fellow sweep, Jobson. They treat the nearly exhausted youth's wounds, feed him and put him to bed. Biggs tells Jobson the whole story. The latter shows him a 'wanted' poster — there is a £100 reward for Viderque's capture. Their conversation is overheard by Caleb Carker, Jobson's dishonest assistant. This lad vows to hand Viderque over to the police and claim the money. When Biggs leaves to find Sexton Blake and Jobson goes to the pub, Carker makes his move, locking the unfortunate youth in his room. He then climbs a ladder and enters via the window, brandishing a knife at his prisoner. The two youths fight and Vilderque manages to overcome his assailant, gagging him to prevent him from shouting for the police. Meanwhile, in Blake's Norfolk Street office, Blake's double and Griff the Man-Tracker fret over the detective's absence. They decide to go in search of him and so call for the detective's personal cab. Jiggers, the driver, as he pulls up outside the office, notices a stranger lurking outside. This man asks him to point out Sexton Blake. Jiggers indicates a clerk who is just stepping out of the building. The stranger whips out a pistol and attempts to shoot the man but is prevented from doing so by the cabbie. They fight in the street until the gun goes off, blowing the stranger's brains out.
Trivia: Blake appears to have moved offices from Wych Street to Norfolk Street (the same street in which he lives). The office building is obviously quite large, since Blake's lookalike and Griff descend to the street in a lift. Blake has a regular cab driver named Jiggers. More information is given about Griff in this instalment; the creature is vegetarian. Its 'at home' attire consists of a smoking-cap, long red dressing gown, baggy trousers and vermillion slippers.
Rating: ★★★★☆ More fascinating snippets of information about Griff are given in this episode.
Notes: The fight in Jobson's house attracts the attention of a plain clothes policeman who has been following Vilderque. Hearing the officer hammering on the front door, Vilderque escapes via the window and races off over dark fields with the policeman in hot pursuit. Both fall into a clay pit and the officer is badly injured. The youth nurses him back to consciousness and, in the darkness, attempts to keep his identity a secret. In Danks's Mews, trapped in the manhole, Sexton Blake fights off rats while slowly suffocating. He notices that the mortar between the bricks in one wall appears fresh and starts digging into it. Eventually he breaks through and realises that this was the route taken by the gang when they escaped the Mews with the treasure chest. He finds a coat left behind in the tunnel and, in one of its pockets, a set of numbers which may provide the means to decipher the message his double had stolen from Big Burke. Blake's explorations are interrupted by members of the gang coming along the tunnel. He takes refuge in a dark side-passage but is heard by the villains. They prepare to fire their pistols into his hiding place.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ Another strong instalment.
Notes: Sexton Blake believes that Jimmy Canter, a jockey who is due to ride the surefire Derby winner, Nero, is going to be bribed to throw the race. The detective suspects that the horse's owner, Simeon Duce, will be behind the bribe, motivated by a need to ruin George Mannering, his rival for the attentions of Agnes Callan. In disguise, Blake offers Canter a bribe to test whether he will accept. When he does, the detective has him kidnapped to keep him out of the way. Next, Blake eavesdrops as Duce pays his trainer, Silas Gerridge, to nobble the horse. Gerridge, an essentially honest man, is reluctant but his son is in trouble and needs money, so he accepts the job. Once again disguised, the detective presents himself as a watchman hired by Mannering to keep an eye on Nero during the night preceding the race. After ingratiating himself with the stable-hands by beating the resident bully, Stubbs, in a fight, Blake is given a wild horse to ride by Duce. The animal bolts and runs for miles before breaking its neck while trying to jump a stream. Blake rolls clear and 'commandeers' a horse from a nearby cottage to ride back to the stables. There, he is given charge to watch over Nero but doesn't fall for the trick: the stable signs have been changed and Duce has put him in a stall with a very similar-looking animal. Under cover of darkness he approaches Nero's stall where he is accosted by Silas Gerridge, who mistakes him for a 'nobbler'. Silas cannot bring himself to hurt the horse and so has kept watch to prevent others from doing so. Teaming up, the two men restore the signs to their original position and wait for the nobblers to 'fix' the wrong horse. Then they replace everything as it was, so that Duce believes the job is done when, in fact, the wrong horse has been 'got at'. On the day of the Derby, much to Duce's shock, Nero wins, netting Mannering a tidy sum. In the paddock, the horse kicks and, by chance, Duce receives the brunt of it in the head. On his deathbed, he attempts to shoot Sexton Blake but Silas Gerridge jumps before the gun and takes the bullet. He dies, honour restored. Duce also dies ... but with no honour at all.
Trivia: This is the first of Norman Goddard's Sexton Blake stories. Goddard was perhaps the best of the earliest authors and his later creation of Detective-Inspector Spearing would help increase the popularity of the Blake stories enormously. Nevertheless, in this tale Sexton Blake undertakes some questionable acts which are quite unlike his later incarnation, not the least being that he heartlessly steals a horse from a deaf old man!
Rating: ★★★☆☆ Another strong instalment.
Notes: Viderque tends to the wounds of the plain clothes officer but the man has broken his back and is dying. The youth decides to go to summon medical assistance.
Notes: Caleb Carker spots Vinderque and, together with a fellow urchin, attempts to catch him. A terrific street brawl erupts with Biggs coming to Viderque's aid.
Notes: Carker summons two policeman, informing them that he has tracked down the fugitive, Viderque. The constables stop Briggs and Viderque as they try to get away and ask after the latter's identity. Briggs tells them that Viderque is his assistant, 'John Thomas'. The policemen are doubtful. Just at that moment, a crowd enters the street carrying the plain clothes officer who had fallen into the clay pit. They are taking him to hospital but, as they pass, one of the policemen asks the patient whether he can identify Viderque. The man looks at the youth who had nursed him and fetched help and says "A good deal like but I know the suspected youth too well to be likely to be mistaken. He is not Will Viderque, the suspected murderer!"
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ A very very short instalment.
Notes: The final instalment. Biggs drives off as the policemen busily beat Carker and his friend around their heads for seemingly lying about Viderque's identity. Meanwhile, Blake is still in the sewer tunnels, being swept along by a flood in company with his double and Griff. They are saved by a workman who bears a grudge against Big Burke and the gang. He promises to help Blake round up the villains. He leads them to Murdoch's Wharf and here, after teaming up with Viderque and with the help of cunning disguises, they finally confront the gang. Viderque puts a bullet through Burke's head. (The last we see of Griff is when he goes to bed!).
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ A poor end to a very strange tale that is filled with unexplained mysteries: who was Blake's double? Where did Griff come from?
Notes: Exhausted after his tussle with the Burke gang, Sexton Blake takes a month-long holiday with We-wee in Brighton. At its conclusion, as he's packing to leave, an American banker named Silas P. Hobart pleads for his help. This man believes his considerable riches owe themselves to his possession of a ruby known as the "Fortune Stone." Last night, it was stolen from his hotel room and now he fears that his luck will change for the worse. Blake examines Hobart's room and is able to cleverly piece together a rough description of the thief from tiny clues left behind. The profile matches Seth Hulbert, Hobert's nephew, but Hulbert expresses suspicion of Macy, his uncle's secretary, who also fits the description. It soon becomes apparent that the two men hate each other and are competing for the hand of Hobart's daughter, Kate. We-wee overhears Hulbert arranging to sail to New York on the Lucania. The detective and his assistant book passage on the same ship but, on arrival in America, they lose track of their suspect. A newspaper report announces the return to New York of Silas P. Hobart from a tour of South America. Puzzled, Blake visits him, wondering how the banker could be in two places at once. Astonishingly, Hobart, who has the Fortune Stone with him, doesn't recognise Blake at all. He suggests that the man in Brighton is an imposter and the whole case has been a ruse to get Blake out of the country. Meanwhile, the other Hobart is suffering a reversal of his fortunes, which he blames on the theft of his lucky ruby. Hulbert, who can't possibly be in England and America at the same time, yet appears to be, proposes to Kate and is turned down. She prefers Macy but, before they can deepen their relationship, her father sends his secretary across the Atlantic to attend to the worsening financial crisis. In New York, Blake and We-wee are captured by a gang. Its leader tells them he wants them out of the way ... along with Macy, who upon his arrival in the city was immediately seized and is now produced. Bound hand and foot, the three captives are thrown into the river. Blake has broken his bonds, though, and the attempted triple murder fails. The next day, Hobart arrives, having sailed from England, and is taken to Blake to confront his double. The banker with the Fortune Stone is Hulbert in disguise ... and he is also the leader of the gang. Posing as Hobert, he has been funnelling money from the bank, causing the crisis, while another man, masquerading as Hulbert, has kept the real Banker distracted.
Trivia: We-wee expresses dissatisfaction at having been excluded from the Burke case in favour of Griff. In an illustration, the Chinese boy resembles a teenager as opposed to the previous depictions of youngster. It's a nice (and uncommon) touch of realism ... made somewhat poignant by virtue of this being We-wee's final appearance.
Blake is impressively Sherlockian during the first chapter, though his deductions draw much from the fallacies of the period, such as there being a foot-size/height equation and criminals tending to have green eyes!
The detective receives a considerable financial reward at the finish of the case.
This was reprinted (with Tinker replacing We-wee) in PENNY POPULAR issue 73 as THE FORTUNE STONE (1914).
Rating: ★★★☆☆ One of the better early tales.
Notes: Professor Murgatroyd visits Sexton Blake in his Norfolk Street office. He brings with him a young bank clerk named George Dingle. The previous evening £10,000 had gone missing from the bank. The professor's nephew, Ralph Henderson, is the top suspect and Murgatroyd wants Blake to find him. The detective doesn't trust the professor and so orders his secretary and pupil, Wallace Lorrimer, to follow him when he leaves. Wallace does so and reports back that Murgatroyd had gone to the Ology Club, a meeting place for inventors. Later, Georgle Dingle disappears and is suspected by the police of complicity in the crime. The following morning the papers report that Ralph Henderson has been arrested in the village of Battersby-Denton for the attempted murder of a young woman named Mary Aylin. Blake is able to prove that the young man was nowhere near the scene of the crime; he had been with Rose Denton, his fiance. Henderson, however, remains under arrest, suspected of the bank robbery. He escapes and meets Rose at Blake's office. The detective promises to protect him and sends Rose for safekeeping to his wife. The two men then travel to Brussels to search for George Dingle and, after a week, track him to Bruges where he is killed by an escaped lion (an event made even more bizarre by the fact that the illustrator has drawn a tiger). In his bag, there is evidence that he committed the bank robbery, though Blake remains convinced that Murgatroyd was the brains behind the crime. Back in England the detective discovers that Rose had been the target for murder but Mary Aylin had been killed by mistake instead. This, and the robbery, were all part of the professor's attempt to blacken Henderson's name in order to profit from a relative's Will. With the scheme exposed, Ralph Henderson inherits a fortune and marries Rose. Murgatroyd remains free, to be confronted another day (see THE MARVEL LIBRARY stories, also published this year).
Trivia: Sexton Blake has an office boy and a wife: "If Miss Denton agrees," said Blake, with a smile, "she shall go forthwith to my wife's house, and remain there as our guest — as our honoured and welcome guest — until you return to claim her as your wife!" This must be Muriel Blake (nee Lane) whom he married at the end of THE LAMP OF DEATH (ILLUSTRATED CHIPS issues 225 to 245, 1894/95).
The Editor states: 'The story has been secured from the great detective not without a great deal of persuasion and entreaty. For, though Mr. Blake loves to spin his UNION JACK admirers a yarn, he is at present so busy that he has very little time to call his own. However, I have secured his story, and I think you will agree with me that it is one of the most thrilling he has ever written. When Mr. Blake has concluded his present great case, I shall not be surprised if he puts it before you in the form of an attractive story.'
This tale was reprinted in PENNY POPULAR issue 75 as TWICE CLEARED (1914) with Lorrimer replaced by Tinker and the reference to Blake's "wife's house" replaced by his "landlady's sister's house".
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not the thrilling story the Editor would have us believe but an intriguing one due to that one throw-away reference to a wife.
Notes: In New York, Samuel Dangerfield — a wealthy British merchant from Leeds — calls the Lefferton Crime Detection Agency for help after his son is kidnapped in an act of revenge by his former personal secretary, Felix Thompson. He offers a £10,000 reward for the return of his boy. The agency sends Jefferson Hart who immediately discovers a line of code inside the envelope of the ransom note, presumably left there by mistake. Unfortunately, he is unable to decipher it. Hart correctly guesses that Thompson will sail with his captive for England, so books passage for himself and his client. Young Chris Dangerfield, meanwhile, evades Thompson at the docks, and the villain finds himself voyaging alone. Eager to get home to his family, Chris stows away on the next England-bound ship, unaware that it's the same vessel that his father and the detective are travelling on. He meets Hart and is befriended by him but gives a false name, so the investigator remains ignorant of the lad's true identity. At Liverpool, Chris leaves a letter to be delivered to Hart and then disembarks. Unfortunately, he is spotted by a member of the crew and arrested for travelling without payment. This is witnessed at the dockside by Thompson and his cohort, Medlicott, former manager of one of Samuel Dangerfield's factories. The latter pays for the boy's passage and, posing as an ally, takes him to London. Meanwhile, Hart receives the letter in which Chris describes the facts of his identity and circumstances. Hart is dismayed that his quarry was right under his nose and, after hearing about the captured stowaway, he rushes to the police station only to learn that the lad has already been taken away by Medlicott. Hart catches a train to London and, en route, deciphers the cryptogram. He visits Sexton Blake at his Norfolk Street lodgings and shows him the message, which instructs Thompson to attend a meeting of the "Century League." At the designated time of the assignation, Blake impersonates a member of the League and is escorted by two men to the meeting place where nearly a hundred crooks have gathered. The leader of the group raises an envelope and declares that inside it there is a written report from Thompson concerning the successful kidnapping of Chris Dangerfield. When the police knock at the door, having spotted a housebreaker entering the building, Blake uses the distraction to grab the envelope and slip away. The report gives the address where Chris is being held. Blake wires to Hart to meet him there but when they arrive at the house they find that Chris has escaped. A telegram from Samuel Dangerfield in Leeds confirms it: CHRIS SAFE. ON HIS WAY HERE. Thompson is arrested and Jefferson Hart is paid just half of the £10,000 reward.
Trivia: Jefferson Hart appears in the two serials THE REAL ADVENTURES OF SEXTON BLAKE and KING OF DETECTIVES, both of which appeared in THE MARVEL, spanning this year and next. Those serials are attributed to Percy C. Bishop.
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ A silly tale with a lot of bumbling by Jefferson Hart and only a very brief appearance by Sexton Blake.