Publishing: Blake author A. G. Pearson dies. The arrival of many of Blake's greatest opponents marks the beginning of the "Golden Age."
Blake: According to THE EARLY CHRONICLES OF SEXTON BLAKE 1: THE GREAT HOTEL MYSTERY, a teenage Sexton Blake went through a lean period, tried to join the police force but was turned down, and finally found a position with Farrow's Private Detective Agency. In BROTHER DETECTIVES! we learn that Blake owns a yacht named The Swift. This is a challenging year for the detective as a plethora of new über-criminals appear, including Dr. Huxton Rymer, Professor Kew, Mlle. Yvonne Cartier and Wu Ling and the Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle.
Notes: A double issue with two stories featuring Sir Richard Losely and Lobangu. The stories are reprints from UNION JACK issues 171 (which was also anthologised in 2009 in THE CASEBOOK OF SEXTON BLAKE) and 181 (both from 1907). The reviews are from readings of the original versions.
Sexton Blake and Tinker are in Africa on a mission to rescue Sir Richard Losely, Governor of Musardu and the Bambarra hinterlands, from a slaver named the White Death. While on reconnaissance around the slaver's camp, Tinker is captured. Blake establishes contact with an African warrior named Lobangu who, though working for the slaver, is sympathetic to the white man and determined to kill the White Death. The two of them sneak into the camp in the guise of buyers and create the illusion that a British task force is attacking. The diversion is successful and Sir Richard, Tinker, Lobangu and Blake make their getaway during the confusion. A thrilling canoe chase and gunfight ensues until the fugitives reach safety. Learning that the White Death intends to travel into unknown territory where a dwarf tribe, the Marani, guards mountains veined with priceless rubies, Blake determines to reach the territory first to set a trap. Lobangu lays a trail, to give the impression that they are fleeing, in the hope that the villains will waste time following the diversion. The group then begins a fast march to the distant mountains, allying themselves with friendly tribesmen along the way. Upon reaching the rocky heights, Blake and Losely parley with the Marani and have soon gathered a small army. They set an ambush for the White Death and attack his safari as it enters a rocky gorge. Soon all the slaver's men are dead and only he remains. Sir Richard challenges him to one-to-one combat. They fight with scimitars and the White Death is killed.
Illustrator: Val Reading
Notes: Sexton Blake, Tinker and Pedro have returned to Africa to join Sir Richard Losely on a mission. However, before they embark upon this, Tinker is sent to fetch Lobangu. He and the giant Zulu chieftain fight their way through hostile natives and journey back to Blake and Losely where Lobangu is informed that Losely is searching for a distant relative. This person, descended from the union of an African explorer of the Losely clan and a half African/half Arab native, stands to inherit a large English estate. Upon hearing this, Lobangu begins to act in a mysterious manner and sends Tinker to bring back wise men from a little-known tribe. Through these, proofs are gained that Lobangu is, in fact, the man Losely has been looking for. The giant Zulu becomes Lord Averstock, sixth baron of Averstock and Marne. He travels to England with his friends who have the difficult task of teaching him the manners and conventions of civilisation. After many an hilarious run-in with the various contraptions and institutions of good old Blighty, Lobangu has had enough and wants to go home. When he reveals that diamonds lie in sacred mountains near where his brother rules the Etbaia, Losely and Blake decide to accompany him. Back in Africa, they find that the diamonds are guarded by a lost tribe of Egyptians who have mastery over natural sources of electricity. They manage to defeat these cruel and corrupt guardians of the treasure and lay claim to the fortune. This ensures the security and prosperity of the Etbaia tribe.
Notes: Rupert Forbes, once a leader of society until he was discovered to be the head of an international gang of forgers, is being transported from prison to court when a train crash gives him the opportunity to escape. He takes the money and clothing of one of the crash victims, Austin Graves, and creates a new identity: Gerald Austin. In this guise, over the next twelve months, he rises to a position of power as a financial magnate. He employs Graves's niece, Dorothy Ford, as his secretary and makes romantic advances towards her, knowing that she is due a large inheritance. She rejects him, being already engaged to Donald Grey, who is the son of a casualty of Rupert Forbes's crooked dealings. Dorothy notices that Austin is a young man disguised to look older. Furthermore, she finds that he is in possession of her uncle's watch. She tells Donald Grey of this and he promises to go to Sexton Blake. However, that night, Grey is framed by Forbes for a robbery and is tricked into going abroad, where he is held captive. Dorothy visits Blake who, after piecing together the clues, is quick to conclude that Gerald Austin is behind events and is, in fact, Rupert Forbes. Meanwhile, Forbes puts into motion another scheme, which deprives a baronet of two hundred thousand pounds. Blake investigates and once again sees evidence of Forbes's involvement. By now, though, Forbes knows that the detective is on to him and so he attempts to murder Blake but is foiled by Pedro. Sexton Blake retaliates by tricking 'Gerald Austin' into leaving examples of his fingerprints, which are then matched with those of Forbes at Scotland Yard. He then taps into Forbes's telephone and learns that the crook is planning to intercept a secret shipment of bullion meant for the Bank of England. Forbes kidnaps Dorothy and takes her to Rotterdam, not realising that Tinker has stowed away on his barge. He imprisons the girl in a cell under the house of Van Hayden, a crooked diamond dealer. Donald Grey is held in the cell next door and manages to escape with his fiancée. Blake arrives at the house disguised as Gerald Austin and is met there by Forbes, disguised as Van Hayden. The detective is exposed, captured and imprisoned on the same barge in which Tinker is hiding. The villains tow this out to sea to sink it but, under cover of a thick fog, Blake and Tinker unfasten the tow rope and make a getaway. They then fake the sinking of the barge. Believing them dead, Forbes returns to London, disguises himself as Sexton Blake, and enters the detective's Baker Street rooms to retrieve the evidence against him. Finding that the detective has foreseen this move, he leaves empty handed. With his assistant, Tony, he then travels to Plymouth to intercept the bullion while disguised as Detective-Inspector Martin. However, Blake and Scotland Yard have set an ambush and Forbes is finally captured. He receives a life sentence.
Trivia: Detective-Inspector Martin is described as being blue-eyed and a wearer of spectacles. Two of the 'street arabs' who occasionally assist Blake are named: The Weasel and Tiny. This is a reprint of UNION JACK issue 269 (1908). It is the middle of a trilogy that began with THE MYSTERY OF THE EGYPTIAN BONDS (THE PENNY PICTORIAL, issue 491, 24/10/1908) and ends with THE MERVYN MYSTERY (THE BOYS' FRIEND LIBRARY, issue 96, Sep. 1909).
Rating: ★★★★★ A long, extremely well-written and thrilling tale.
THE BOYS' REALM · Vol. 12 Issue 600 · 29/11/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 2d
Illustrator: E. E. Briscoe
Other content: Your Editor's Christmas Chat (ed.); Bravo, The Gunners by Captain Malcom Arnold; The Sports Promoter by Andrew Gray; The Rival Marines by Andrew Gray; The Spy of the Team by Arthur Steffens; The Bootboy of St. Bart's by Robert Murray; Blacktown's Xmas Box by Walter Edwards; The Sporting Journalist by Geoffrey Gordon; The Pride of the Plains by Cecil Hayter.
Notes: Double Christmas issue. This short adventure takes place during Sexton Blake's early years before he was established as a consulting detective. Although his age isn't mentioned, he seems to be around 19 or 20. Blake is down on his luck and for the past few months he has earned practically nothing. The tale begins with him taking a physical prior to joining the police force. But having been without a proper meal for many weeks, his condition is poor and he fails the examination. Then a newspaper placard catches his attention. A middle-aged gentleman called Romer Culverston has gone missing; he walked out of his lodgings three days ago and never returned. The police are baffled, so Blake decides to do a little investigating of his own ...
Trivia: Blake lives in lodgings in Victoria.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ By the end of this case, Blake's reputation is given a lift and the story ends with him finding a position with Farrow's Private Detective Agency. It's a slight tale but well told and interesting for the insight it gives into a little known period of Sexton Blake's life.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Issue 48 · 26/4/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Other content: The Cliveden Redskins by Charles Hamilton; Contraband of War by Anon.; The Taming of the Third by David Goodwin; Delhi — Its Loss, Siege, and Fall (article); The Bully of the Barracks by Andrew Gray; The Kidnapped Boxer by Anon.; The Cad of the School by Robert Comrade; The Dreadnought League (ed.); The Boy Mill-Owner by Anon.
Notes: Story features George Marsden Plummer.
Notes: I don't own this issue but the episode's content is summarised in the issue that follows. An eccentric American millionaire named Silas P. Fosdyke is enraged when Sir Henry Lovelace refuses to sell his famous jewel collection. Fosdyke is approached by Count Ivor Carlac, who offers to get the jewels in return for £200,000. The American agrees to this plan. Assisted by a crook named Pendleton — who operates under the alias of James Carter — Carlac kidnaps Lovelace's daughter, Marjorie, and demands the jewels in return for her safe release. Sexton Blake, Tinker and William Spearing take up the case and, together with Marjorie's fiancé, Vincent Treehearn, they track Carlac to a cottage near Beckenham. Carlac sees them approaching and leaps into a car to escape. As it speeds away, Blake dives at it ...
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 62 · 2/8/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: The Dreadnought League (ed.); Won by a Touch by A. S. Hardy; The Fourth Form at Courthope by David Goodwin; Gordon of the Greys by Alec G. Pearson; Buffalo Bill's Boyhood by Claude Custer; Shut from the World by Andrew Craig; The Film Favourite by Colin Collins; Dead Man's Quest by Anon.
Notes: Blake misses the car and Count Ivor Carlac speeds away. Some days later, an almost penniless, George Marsden Plummer decides to break into a large house. However, he spots another man who has evidently had the same idea and so waits for him to open the safe in the building's study. This done, Plummer jumps into through the French windows only to find that the burglar is his old partner John Marsh. The two men agree to work together but are interrupted when the door opens and a man comes through wielding a pistol. Plummer recognises him as Carlac. The three criminals decide to team up to rob Sir Henry Lovelace. His jewel collection will be on display at his daughter Marjorie's coming-of-age party. They'll be guarded by William Spearing. The three crooks plan to kidnap Spearing and — with Carlac disguised and masquerading as the detective — steal the jewels. Plummer, though, secretly plots to betray his two colleagues. They put their scheme into action: Plummer, disguised as the Home Secretary, visits Spearing, lures him into a car and tries to knock him unconscious.
Trivia: William Spearing's detective agency is located on Victoria Street, London. He has two assistants: Steel and Hodges.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 63 · 9/8/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: The Dreadnought League (ed.); Buffalo Bill's Boyhood by Claude Custer; Colts v County by A. S. Hardy; The Film Favourite by Colin Collins; The Fourth Form at Courthope by David Goodwin; The Passing of the King by Robert W. Comrade; Shut from the World by Andrew Craig.
Notes: Finding himself under attack, Will Spearing fights back. George Marsden Plummer's green eyes give away his true identity and Spearing manages to snap handcuffs on him before being overpowered by Count Ivor Carlac. Carlac frees Plummer and they make off with their prisoner. That evening, Sexton Blake accepts an invitation to Sir Henry Lovelace's party and is shown the jewels by Marjorie. He is surprised to find that Spearing (actually, of course, Carlac) objects to his presence. Meanwhile, in a warehouse some miles away, the real Spearing is being guarded by John Marsh. However, Marsh makes a mistake that allows the detective to escape from his bonds. When the crook Pendleton is sent by Marsh to check on the prisoner, Spearing knocks him cold and flees, catching a train to Sir Henry's place. He arrives there just as Carlac departs with the jewels, climbing into a getaway car driven by Plummer. Sexton Blake realises what has happened — and that Carlac and Plummer are working together.
Trivia: Sexton Blake hints that there is a woman in his life towards whom he feels a strong attraction. This is probably a reference to Mademoiselle Yvonne.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 64 · 16/8/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: The Dreadnought League (ed.); Buffalo Bill's Boyhood by Claude Custer; Seven A Side by A. S. Hardy; The Fourth Form at Courthope by David Goodwin; The Horse-Thief by Anon.; Tales of the Boxing Ring by Donnelly Shannon; The Film Favourite by Colin Collins; Shut from the World by Andrew Craig; Dead Man's Quest by Anon.
Notes: William Spearing tells Blake how he had been abducted and Blake concludes that, along with Count Ivor Carlac and George Marsden Plummer, they have John Marsh to deal with. Tinker and Pedro arrive, as does Detective-Inspector Lurgan of Scotland Yard. Blake, Tinker, Pedro and Spearing go to the warehouse where the latter had been held prisoner and, from there, Pedro's nose leads them into a rough area of town where they are attacked by a mob of petty crooks. Just as they are about to be overwhelmed by the crowd, the police come to the rescue. Continuing on the trail, they follow the bloodhound to a train station, catch a train along the same route as their quarry, are led to a taxi rank, from whence they are taken to Streatham Common.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 65 · 23/8/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: Tales of the Boxing Ring by Donnelly Shannon; The Fourth Form at Courthope by David Goodwin; John Drayton's Leap by A. S. Hardy; Buffalo Bill's Boyhood by Claude Custer; The Dreadnought League (ed.); The Film Favourite by Colin Collins; The Adventure at Circle Ranch by Anon.; Shut from the World by Andrew Craig.
Notes: Count Ivor Carlac and George Marsden Plummer return to Carlac's house by Streatham Common. When John Marsh also arrives, Plummer rages at him for allowing William Spearing to escape. After securing the stolen jewels in a safe, the three crooks retire for the night. At three in the morning, Plummer sneaks down the stairs, removes the jewels from the safe, and departs. He is spotted by Blake, Tinker and Spearing, who have just arrived at Streatham Common. Blake sets Spearing on his trail, then he and Tinker return to Baker Street. Detective-Inspector Lurgan is given the address of the house and told of Carlac and Marsh's presence there. The next morning, Blake receives a letter from Plummer in which the criminal informs him that he has absconded with the jewels and urges him to arrest Carlac and Marsh so they are prevented from following him. Spearing reports that Plummer is in the U.S.A. Hotel, disguised as a Frenchman. Blake realises that this is the same hotel where Silas P. Fosdyke is resident. Accompanied by Detective-Inspector Martin, he waits outside Fosdyke's room and pounces as a man emerges. Unfortunately, it is the American millionaire. Inside the room, seeing the ambush, Plummer, who has traded the jewels for Fosdyke's £200,000, flees through a window. Tinker, waiting outside, pursues him.
Trivia: Mention is made of Plummer's murderous attack on Tinker in THE GREAT BANK FRAUD (UNION JACK issue 473, 1912).
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 66 · 30/8/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: The Dreadnought League (ed.); Buffalo Bill's Boyhood by Claude Custer; The Film Favourite by Colin Collins; Other Fellows' Jobs (article); London to Brighton by A. S. Hardy; The Fourth Form at Courthope by David Goodwin; Ned of the Black Blocks by Anon.; Shut from the World by Andrew Craig.
Notes: When George Marsden Plummer sneaks from the house, Count Ivor Carlac awakens and, some moments later, realises that he has been betrayed by his fellow crook. Waking John Marsh, Carlac vows to track Plummer down in order to torture him to death. Carlac compares himself to the fictional Professor Moriarty, revealing that he has hundreds of criminals at his beck and call and will mobilise them to find Plummer. His anger increases when he finds evidence that Plummer has written to Sexton Blake telling him where Carlac and Marsh are hiding (though, of course, Blake knows their location anyway). The two men immediately leave the house and go into hiding, narrowly missing a raid led by Detective-Inspector Lurgan. The next day, Sexton Blake disguises himself as Fosdyke, sends the real millionaire on a wild goose chase, and in his guise enters the man's hotel room, breaks into the safe, and removes the jewels. However, when he turns around he finds that the real Fosdyke has returned and is holding him at gunpoint. Blake persuades the millionaire to admit his part in hiring Carlac to obtain Sir Henry Lovelace's jewel collection ... and then offers to hush the whole affair up in return for a large donation to charity. Fosdyke accepts this opportunity to clear himself. Meanwhile, as Carlac's many henchmen begin to search for Plummer, Tinker is on the trail.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 67 · 6/9/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: The Dreadnought League (ed.); The Scapegrace of the Regiment by Andrew Grey; The Fourth Form at Courthope by David Goodwin; Tom the Trammer by Allan Blair; Buffalo Bill's Boyhood by Claude Custer; The Film Favourite by Colin Collins; The Replayed Match by A. S. Hardy.
Notes: My copy is missing pages so I can only describe a fragment of this episode: Following George Marsden Plummer, Tinker sees him enter a pub. Sexton Blake's assistant swaps his clothes with those of a street urchin and keeps watch on the premises. When a slightly drunken Plummer emerges, he shadows him. Count Ivor Carlac's henchmen jump Plummer and Tinker is overpowered and tied up. Both are taken to Carlac.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 68 · 13/9/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: The Dreadnought League (ed.); The Fourth Form at Courthope by David Goodwin; A Warning to Young Footballers (article); Buffalo Bill's Boyhood by Claude Custer; Champions of Scotland by A. S. Hardy; The Scapegrace of the Regiment by Andrew Grey; Other Fellows Jobs (article); The Film Favourite by Colin Collins.
Notes: Convict 308 — Robert Carling — escapes from Princetown gaol. He discovers a bundle of civilian's clothes and is about to claim them when a stranger rushes on him. The two fight but after a moment the stranger's demeanour changes and they shake hands. Carling explains that he's in dire need and asks for some money. The stranger gives him the clothes and a bunch of seals — all the valuables he possesses. Carling thanks him and goes on his way. He comes across a lonely cottage, and helps himself to food and drink, at the same time changing the old pruning-knife used in his escape for a large carving knife. Then, having refreshed himself, he starts anew for his destination. The governor of the prison asks Sexton Blake to take up the trail of Convict 308, for in the lonely cottage where he'd been the body of a man has been found brutally stabbed to death — and in the fireplace, the pruning-knife. Carling is immediately suspected. Blake, accompanied by Tinker and Pedro, journeys down to the lonely old cottage and starts on the track of the escaped convict.
Trivia: The new serial introduces Captain Horatio Peak. It was reprinted as THE CASE OF CONVICT 308 in THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 7 (1916).
Notes: In the power of Count Ivor Carlac, George Marsden Plummer is deprived of the £200,000 and threatened with torture, while Tinker is told that he will be placed in a weighted sack and dropped into the river. The two prisoners are then tied and bound and left in a locked room. Tinker manages to free himself and makes a bargain with Plummer: if the criminal helps him to escape, Tinker will in turn aid him. They will then agree to go their separate ways. Plummer consents to this. Gaining their freedom, they split up and Tinker calls Sexton Blake, giving him Carlac's location. Led by Detective-Inspector Lurgan and Detective-Inspector Martin, and accompanied by Blake, Tinker, and William Spearing, the police raid the villain's premises. Carlac's men are rounded up. Blake bursts into a room and finds himself confronted by Carlac and John Marsh. They overpower him and tie him up. The same fate falls to Spearing. The two crooks then disguise themselves as the two detectives and calmly walk out of the building. Carlac, though, forgets to take the £200,000 with him.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 69 · 20/9/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Other content: The Dreadnought League (ed.); Buffalo Bill's Boyhood by Claude Custer; A Footballer's Luck by A. S. Hardy; The Fourth Form at Courthope by David Goodwin; The Mystery of the Mine by Anon.; Training Absurdities (article); The Film Favourite by Colin Collins; The Scapegrace of the Regiment by Andrew Grey.
Notes: Pedro's nose leads Blake and Tinker towards the town of Market Dutton. There, some time earlier, Carling visits his former partner in crime, Captain Horatio Peak, and threatens to kill him. Peak had promised that, while Carling was in prison, he would send money to his wife. She, however, had received nothing and had died, leaving Carling's son and daughter as orphans. They had subsequently disappeared. Peak is defended by a young girl named Little Pearl, who Carling recognises as his long lost daughter. After dismissing her, Peak informs the escaped convict that he has been looking after his children and found a good job for his son. He then sends Carling to a place of safety after promising to raise enough cash for him to leave the country. Meanwhile, Blake and Tinker draw ever closer.
Notes: Blake and William Spearing are discovered and freed from their bonds. Blake is frustrated that Count Ivor Carlac, George Marsden Plummer and John Marsh are once again at liberty.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 70 · 27/9/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: The Dreadnought League (ed.); The Fourth Form at Courthope by David Goodwin; The Outside-Right by A. S. Hardy; Other Fellows' Jobs (article); Buffalo Bill's Boyhood by Claude Custer; Stumbling Blocks to Success by John Walker; The Scapegrace of the Regiment by Andrew Grey; The Death Seam by Allan Blair; The Film Favourite by Colin Collins.
Notes: The next day, Captain Horatio Peak, who has no intention of supplying money to Carling, manipulates Little Pearl into reporting the escaped convict to the police. When she does so, Blake and Tinker are present at the police station. They decide to accompany two constables to Carling's hiding place — inside one of a row of abandoned houses. When they confront him, he leaps out of a window and runs away. The two constables, believing that he is making for the river, head in that direction. Blake and Tinker, though, follow him to an old ruined tower.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 71 · 4/10/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: The Dreadnought League (ed.); The Last in the League by Steve Bloomer and Ambrose Earle; Buffalo Bill's Boyhood by Claude Custer; Are We Speed Mad? (article); A Double Disaster by Anon.; The Fourth Form at Courthope by David Goodwin; The Bounder by A. S. Hardy; The Scapegrace of the Regiment by Andrew Grey; The Film Favourite by Colin Collins.
Notes: Carling climbs to the top of the tower and there becomes trapped on a ledge. Blake and Tinker rescue him and tell him that he is wanted for murder. Carling denies murdering the man in the cottage and the detective believes him. Blake sneaks the escaped convict into his hotel and listens to the full story of his escape from prison. However, as the Baker Street man ponders the tale, Carling becomes increasingly nervous and finally panics, attacking Blake.
Notes: I don't currently own issues 72, 73 or 74 but according to the summary in issue 75 the following events occur over the span of these three instalments: Blake hears Carling's story and promises to help. The escaped convict is returned to gaol. Sending Tinker to keep an eye on Captain Horatio Peak and to find an individual that Carling calls 'Blight', Sexton Blake returns to the scene of the murder. He meets a gipsy named Lengro Lea, who tells the detective it was Jeb Irons who committed the murder. Blake returns with Lea to the gipsy encampment where Irons is living. Meanwhile, Tinker sees burglars entering Captain Peak's house and, hearing a scream, hurries to the rescue with Pedro.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 75 · 1/11/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: A Chat With My Chums (ed.); Pride of the Prairie by Claude Custer; Max the Magnificent by Herbert Allingham; The Scapegrace of the Regiment by Andrew Grey; The Terror of the Mess-Deck by Geoffrey Murray; The Last in the League by Steve Bloomer and Ambrose Earle; Buffalo Bill's Boyhood by Claude Custer.
Notes: With Pedro's help, Tinker chases the burglars off, accompanied by frenzied screaming from upstairs. Little Pearl, who doesn't recognise Tinker due to his disguise, tells Captain Horatio Peak that he saved her. Peak, though, is more concerned with his bureau, which he checks to see whether anything is missing. Tinker notes that it is filled with postal orders and cheques. Hitting upon an idea, Sexton Blake's assistant suggests that he was in the street in search of lodgings. Peak takes the bait and offers him a room in the house, which Tinker promptly accepts, giving his name as Wilberforce Clayton. He quickly learns that Captain Horatio Peak and 'Mr Blight' are one and the same. Curious about the screams he had heard from upstairs, Tinker meets the source of them three days later: Mrs Peak — an invalid who begs him to loan her four shillings, which he does. She promptly spends this on drink, gets drunk and attacks Little Pearl, who she accuses of being her husband's spy. Tinker steps in to try to defend the young girl.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 76 · 8/11/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: A Chat With My Chums (ed.); Pride of the Prairie by Claude Custer; Max the Magnificent by Herbert Allingham; The Volunteer by Geoffrey Murray; Playing for Applause (article); Other Fellows' Jobs (article); The Last in the League by Steve Bloomer and Ambrose Earle; The Scapegrace of the Regiment by Andrew Grey; Buffalo Bill's Boyhood by Claude Custer.
Notes: Tinker manages to calm Mrs Peak down and she falls into a drunken sleep. When Captain Horatio Peak returns to the house, he is concerned to find that he has received far fewer postal orders and cheques through the post than is normal. Among the envelopes there is one with a written message from Jeb Irons informing him that plans have gone wrong and demanding that Peak comes to the hiding place tomorrow with money so that he can get out of the country. Tinker also receives a message, from Sexton Blake asking him to meet the detective on the following day. Blake, meanwhile, is in the gipsy camp in the guise of 'Dick Martin', hoping to discover the whereabouts of Irons. Unfortunately, when Inspector Snow of the local police enters the camp in search of a thief, he recognises Blake and this is noticed by Elsa, the queen of the gipsies. Her sons, Tawno and Jose begin to plot against the detective.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 77 · 15/11/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: A Chat With My Chums (ed.); The Last in the League by Steve Bloomer and Ambrose Earle; Pride of the Prairie by Claude Custer; Let it Rip (article); Max the Magnificent by Herbert Allingham; Champion of the Fleet by Geoffrey Murray; The Scapegrace of the Regiment by Andrew Grey.
Notes: Jess, the daughter of the gipsy queen, acting under instructions from Tawno and Jose, lures Sexton Blake out onto the moors. The detective believes that she is leading him to Jeb Irons's hiding place, but in fact she guides him straight into a trap and he is knocked unconscious by Tawno. The gipsy brothers then lower him into an abandoned mine shaft and leave him there to die. Tinker and Pedro, meanwhile, are on their way to reunite with Blake but encounter Tawno and Jose in the road. The gipsies are currently hard up for cash since Jeb accidentally killed the horse — Diamond Star — that he was trying to dope ahead of a race meet. Had his mission been successful, they would have won a fortune but, as it is, their one hope now, they decide, is to capture and sell Pedro. Tinker, of course, is having none of this, so he and the bloodhound square up for a fight.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 78 · 22/11/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: A Chat With My Chums (ed.); Max the Magnificent by Herbert Allingham; Pride of the Prairie by Claude Custer; The Traitor of the Team by Geoffrey Murray; Unexpected Results (article); Other Fellows' Jobs (article); The Last in the League by Steve Bloomer and Ambrose Earle; The Scapegrace of the Regiment by Andrew Grey.
Notes: Deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, Tinker turns and runs away, followed by Pedro and, farther behind, the gipsy brothers. He arrives at an inn where Lengro Lea happens to be drinking. Lea and the landlord, Joe Turnbull, wonder where Sexton Blake — who they know as 'Dick Martin' — has got to. They and Tinker decide to go to the gipsy camp to search for him and are accompanied by Turnbull's hugely strong son, Dave. They set off but on the way are diverted by Pedro's nose, which picks up Sexton Blake's scent. The bloodhound leads them to the old mine.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 79 · 29/11/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: A Chat With My Chums (ed.); Pride of the Prairie by Claude Custer; Max the Magnificent by Herbert Allingham; Other Fellows' Jobs (article); The Green-Eyed Monster by Anon.; Saving His Side by A. S. Hardy; Not Justice! (article); The Scapegrace of the Regiment by Andrew Grey; The Last in the League by Steve Bloomer and Ambrose Earle.
Notes: Upon discovering Sexton Blake at the bottom of a mineshaft, Tinker has Dave Turnbull lower him into it using a long rope. By this means, the detective is rescued. Meanwhile, Captain Horatio Peak is becoming paranoid because he failed to respond to Jeb Irons's letter and expects retribution. Sure enough, Jeb turns up and demands money, telling Peak that he wants to stay in the house for a night. He also confesses to killing the man in the cottage — the murder Carling (Convict 308) has been accused of.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 80 · 6/12/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: A Chat With My Chums (ed.); Pride of the Prairie by Claude Custer; Max the Magnificent by Herbert Allingham; The Fool of the Foretop by Geoffrey Murray; Successes and Failures (article); Other Fellows' Jobs (article); The Last in the League by Steve Bloomer and Ambrose Earle; The Scapegrace of the Regiment by Andrew Grey.
Notes: Jeb Irons suggests that Captain Horatio Peak is as much responsible for the murder of the old man as he is, for Peak was behind the plan to dope the horse Diamond Star — a plan which old man Fulger was meant to be involved in but backed out of before threatening to expose the plot to the police. The gipsy also reveals that Fulger had two letters in which the scheme was outlined — and the whereabouts of these letters is unknown. All this is overheard by an eavesdropper — Peak's wife — who silently flees when it becomes too dangerous to remain outside the door. The Captain tells Irons that he has a plan involving Little Pearl's brother — Carling's son, Brydon — who works as a clerk at Gosset's stables where Diamond Star had been housed. Every Friday, Brydon rides a horse to the bank to pick up £200 in cash which is used to pay the stablehands' wages. Jeb vows that, with help from Tawno and Jose, he will commit a highway robbery. Meanwhile, Sexton Blake goes on a night-time expedition to recover the black box in which are stored Fulger's letters. In this he is successful, and so Peak's part in the crimes is revealed. That same night, Tinker takes Pedro for a walk on the moor and interrupts the attack on Brydon. As he approaches, the horse, frightened by Pedro, bolts and the trap attached to it runs over Jeb Irons. The other two pick him up and flee. Tinker chases after the horse and eventually catches it up, finding Lengro Lea holding it; he had been walking in the road and saw it galloping towards him. In the back of the trap they find young Brydon, badly injured, and they take him to the inn where he's treated by Sexton Blake. Guessing that the gipsy brothers would have taken Jeb to their camp, Blake sends Tinker and Lea with a note to police Inspector Snow. Mr Gosset, of the stables, arrives accompanied by Little Pearl.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 81 · 13/12/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: A Chat With My Chums (ed.); A London Lad in Mill-Land by Escott-Inman; Pride of the Prairie by Claude Custer; Max the Magnificent by Herbert Allingham; Thomson's Luck by Clement Hale; The Football Reporter (article); The Last in the League by Steve Bloomer and Ambrose Earle.
Notes: While Little Pearl nurses her brother, big Dave Turnbull rapidly falls in love with her. Meanwhile, Inspector Snow leads a police raid on the gipsy camp in search of the three 'highwaymen'. Tawno and Jose are taken into custody but the injured Jeb is protected by Jess, who points a shotgun at the inspector. Her mother tries to wrestle the weapon away from her and in the struggle it goes off, killing Jess. Jeb Irons is arrested but isn't expected to live for much longer. He makes a full confession. With his various schemes collapsing about his ears, Captain Horatio Peak decides that the time has come for flight. However, in order to start a new life elsewhere, he requires funds. He therefore starts plotting to rob a charity for which he acts as treasurer.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 82 · 20/12/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: A Chat With My Chums (ed.); A London Lad in Mill-Land by Escott-Inman; Pride of the Prairie by Claude Custer; To a Mess-Mate's Rescue by Geoffrey Murray; Where the Money Goes (article); Max the Magnificent by Herbert Allingham; Other Fellows' Jobs (article); The Last in the League by Steve Bloomer and Ambrose Earle.
Notes: Captain Horatio Peak calls a meeting of the members of the charity and gives them a heartfelt speech about the desperate plight of dog-collar makers. In response, the gathering begins to make its donations — which Peak intends to use to flee the country. However, as the cheques are being written, his wife enters the room and denounces him. He may appear to be a gentleman, she says, but he leads a double life and is, in fact, a bookmaker, swindler, gambler and coward. Peak's guests leave, taking their money with them. Driven to fury, the captain grabs a scimitar that had decorated one of his walls and tries to murder his wife. Just as he swings the sword, a figure leaps into the house and grabs his wrist.
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol. 4 Issue 83 · 27/12/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: A Chat With My Chums (ed.); The Midnight Snow Fight by Charles Hamilton; Pride of the Prairie by Claude Custer; A New Magic Lantern (article); Max the Magnificent by Herbert Allingham; A London Lad in Mill-Land by Escott-Inman; The Xmas Mutiny by Geoffrey Murray; Catches and Games for Christmas (article); The Last in the League by Steve Bloomer and Ambrose Earle.
Notes: The intruder — and Mrs Peak's saviour — is Sexton Blake, who now has all the evidence he needs to prove that Captain Horatio Peak — whose real name is Josiah Peak — committed the crime for which Robert Carling was sentenced. The villain is arrested and sent to trial, where he receives a rather light sentence thanks to the many people who, still under the spell of his 'gentlemanly' facade, are willing to vouch for him. Blake sees to it that Mrs Peak is able to start a new life. Jeb Irons dies from his injuries. Robert Carling is set free and all charges against him are dropped. He is reunited with his son and daughter. At a celebratory meal, Dave Turnbull asks Carling for his daughter's hand in marriage.
Trivia: The final instalment will be in the first issue of DREADNOUGHT of 1914.
Notes: Sexton Blake is feeling rather indignant after Scotland Yard's failure to acknowledge his contribution to crime fighting. The Yard is always happy to take the credit after he tips them off but is slow to thank him. Spearing is a prime example of this attitude, and Blake decides that it's time to teach him and his ilk a lesson. So he lays a bet that he can disappear in London after setting a £500 reward for his own capture. Spearing accepts the challenge. Blake hides ... by joining the police force! In disguise, he becomes 'Constable Brown' and rapidly achieves a string of successful arrests, practically clearing the local area of criminals. Finally, after successfully investigating a murder and catching the perpetrator, he is called to Scotland Yard and Spearing puts him onto the Blake case. The detective has been asked to hunt himself! 'P. C. Brown' makes a trail for Pedro to follow and reports to Spearing that he is on Blake's track. The Yard man accompanies him to Baker Street where they borrow the bloodhound. The trail leads to a pond. Spearing thinks the detective has committed suicide after failing over a case (which Blake finds vastly amusing) but when they drag the pond, instead of a body, they find a sack filled with loot from a recent robbery. The next day, 'Brown' visits a friend he has made in the force, Sergeant Lightening, and reveals his true identity. He arranges to meet Lightening at Spearing's office. There, as arranged, the sergeant exposes Blake in front of the inspector, much to the latter's chagrin. After an initial outburst, Spearing accepts his defeat in good humour and so begins his long and productive relationship with Sexton Blake. Lightening, meanwhile, gets the £500 reward and retires a happy man.
Trivia: This is an abridged reprint of UNION JACK issue 105 SEXTON BLAKE P. C. (1905). The review is based on a reading of that issue.
Notes: An American detective named Cyrus Deep asks Blake to assist him with a case of kidnapping. The 14-year-old son of a US millionaire — Elias Money — is being held to ransom. When Blake is then visited by one of Money's friends, James Carew, he quickly identifies him as the villain; all he needs is evidence. The next day he receives a mocked-up photograph showing the boy being threatened and a note telling him to cease his investigation. He traces the photograph to a down-and-out photographer who confirms that he was commissioned to fake it by Carew. Cyrus Deep continues to flounder as Blake's superior skills keep him guessing but feels a little happier when he's given the task to follow Carew, whom Blake expects to leave the country with his hostage in tow. Unfortunately, Deep is assaulted and left unconscious. Blake learns that the villain and his captive have departed on a steamer bound for America. He sends the recovered Cyrus Deep in pursuit on his own yacht, The Swift, but then learns that Carew has a plan to change ships during the voyage. He and Tinker set sail for New York, overtaking Carew to meet and arrest him at the port.
Trivia: This is an abridged reprint of UNION JACK issue 144 THE AMERICAN DETECTIVE (1906).
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Norman Goddard's version of Sexton Blake is a little too brusque, arrogant and downright rude for my tastes. In this case, he treats a well-meaning fellow detective as an inept amateur for no apparent reason other than to feed his own ego. The tale itself is slight and ends very suddenly, as if Goddard lost interest halfway through.
Notes: Sexton Blake is summoned to Germany by Kaiser Wilhelm II and is accompanied there by a German detective named Gustav Metz. A valuable document has been stolen from that country's war office and the Kaiser wants it back. Irritated by the presumptuous manner in which he is treated, Blake is leisurely in his response, thus earning the enmity of the Kaiser's aide, Colonel von Wortz, and, initially, of the Kaiser himself. After making a reluctant apology, Wilhelm informs the detective that the missing document is a plan for the invasion of England. Blake agrees to search for it but he secretly vows to make a copy for the British government. Given authority by the Kaiser, he proceeds with the investigation. The first lead comes from Detective-Inspector Spearing, who, without knowing the nature of the papers, is also looking for the document. He's been trailing a man named James Setton. Disguised as army officers, the two detectives go to Setton's hotel room where they find him in conference with von Wortz. Blake immediately realises that von Wortz is the thief and Setton the buyer — but rather than arrest them, the detective bluffs and leaves. The next day, with help from Spearing and Metz, he organises the capture of Setton. He then disguises himself as the prisoner and meets von Wortz who, convinced by Blake's mimicry, reveals that the document is to be taken to the fort at Schnellberg. Setton escapes and holds Blake at gunpoint. The detective is then taken to the fort and thrown into a dungeon. He's rescued by Metz and the two men immediately arrest von Wortz and Setton and leave them imprisoned. Blake searches von Wortz's rooms but cannot find the stolen plans. He decides to allow von Wortz to escape in the hope that the Colonel will inadvertently lead him to the documents. This plan works, von Wortz is re-arrested and Sexton Blake, disguised as the aide, takes the plans to Setton and frees him from the dungeon. Together they escape to a train station where Metz and Spearing swoop and arrest Setton. Unseen by them, Blake slips the plans to Tinker who hops onto the train and begins his journey back to England. Blake and Spearing then clap handcuffs onto Metz and leave him locked up while they make their getaway. Back in Baker Street, Sexton Blake finds evidence that Tinker has had the plan photographed as planned — but of his assistant there is no sign. The following day Kaiser Wilhelm walks into the consulting room. He has had Tinker captured and will not return him until the plans are handed over. Blake responds by having Spearing arrest his visitor on a charge of kidnapping. After spending a night in a police cell, the Kaiser relents and delivers Tinker to Baker Street, where a furious Metz is now waiting. Blake hands the plans to him and the Germans depart. Blake retains his copy of the document.
Trivia: This is an abridged reprint of UNION JACK issue 154 THE GERMAN DETECTIVE (1906). The review is based on a reading of that issue.
Notes: A letter, found in a secondhand jacket, is delivered to Sexton Blake two years after it was written. It's author, Anthony Ferrers, writing from the Swiss Alps where he was on holiday with his guardian, John Ward, and that man's son, claims that someone is trying to kill him, though he has no idea why. Blake finds that Ferrers is currently at Crossbrooks, his estate, and goes there to see him. Ferrers nervously claims to have no memory of writing the letter but John Ward informs Blake that the lad had been almost delusional two years ago after the death of his father. Dissatisfied, Blake leaves but his pony and trap is driven off the road by a ghost and the detective is pinned under the wreckage. The apparition, thinking him unconscious, rifles through his pockets and removes Ferrers' letter. As the supposed phantom makes away, Blake identifies it as Ward. After being rescued by local farmers, the detective returns to Baker Street and, with Tinker and Pedro, sets off for the Alps to investigate why the letter had been written. Ward follows and tries to assassinate Blake, first by shooting at him on a train, then by planting a bomb. The detective and his assistant survive these attempts. However, in Switzerland, as they climb up towards the mountain village from which Ferrer's letter had been addressed, they are betrayed by their guide, Kasper Ruegg, who sends them plummeting down a sheer slope. They land in soft snow and begin hiking towards their destination. After narrowly surviving various mountain perils, including an avalanche, they make it to a refuge hut and here find Ruegg, capturing him. A few hours later, John Ward arrives and liberates his henchman, both fleeing. Blake and Tinker pursue but fall into a crevasse. Here they find the body of Anthony Ferrers entombed in ice. Blake reveals that the man he had met at Crossbrooks is Ward's son, who has been masquerading as Ferrers in order to claim the estate. As hypothermia sets in, the two detectives despair of rescue. Pedro, though, has escaped from his keeper back at the hotel where his masters had left him and has followed them up the mountain. Encountering Ruegg on the edge of the crevasse, the bloodhound attacks. The criminal is driven over the edge and falls, landing at Blake's feet. The detective appropriates the dead man's ice axe and, with it, is able to climb to safety, with Tinker following. Returning to the nearest town, they spot John Ward aboard a sleigh and there follows a thrilling chase which finally ends when Pedro attacks. Ward, recoiling from the hound, falls beneath the runner of his sleigh and is killed.
Trivia: This is an abridged reprint of UNION JACK issue 167 LOST ON THE ALPS (1906). The review is based on a reading of that issue.
Notes: George Marsden Plummer, a detective at Scotland Yard, is the rightful heir to the title of Earl of Sevenoaks and the fortune that goes with it ... or, at least, he would be had an accident of birth not placed two others in line before him. Covering his movements with a series of masterful disguises, Plummer visits the first of the men, who having no idea that he is in line to a fortune, works as a coastguard. Plummer informs him that he belongs to an aristocratic family before, under the cover of a thick fog, pushing him over the edge of a cliff. However, unknown to the villain, his victim drops into the sea not far from a boat occupied by Sexton Blake, Tinker and Pedro. They rescue the stricken man and nurse him to health. Meanwhile, Plummer has visited the current Earl of Sevenoaks and murdered him. The police are called and put one of their best officers on the case ... Detective-Sergeant Plummer! With Blake now involved, Plummer is forced to pretend an alliance with him while actually attempting to throw him off the scent at every opportunity. Soon, though, the Baker Street detective realises the truth and a battle of wits and disguises commences. Blake gets battered over the head and shut in a burning house, while Tinker is drugged and nearly drowned, but, ultimately, Sexton Blake wins the day and Plummer is thrown into prison, vowing to escape at the first opportunity.
Trivia: This is an abridged reprint of UNION JACK issue 222 THE MAN FROM SCOTLAND YARD (1908) — The story that introduced George Marsden Plummer. The review is based on a reading of that issue. It also appeared in THE DREADNOUGHT (1912). The original version was anthologised in THE CASEBOOK OF SEXTON BLAKE (2009).
Notes: When Harry Armytage returns home after two years at sea, he discovers that his uncle, Fenton Joyce, has died and the man's daughter, who is Harry's fiancee, has vanished. Harry consults Sexton Blake who discovers that Joyce's grave is empty. It seems that he isn't dead after all. Further investigations reveal that Joyce and his daughter are in the power of the villainous Gaspard Sellars. Blake exposes the criminal's scheme to extort money from Joyce, Sellars plunges to his death, and Harry and his fiancee are reunited.
Trivia: This is an abridged reprint of UNION JACK first series issue 2 SEXTON BLAKE — DETECTIVE: THE STORY OF A GREAT MYSTERY (1894), which is often mistakenly cited as the first ever appearance of Sexton Blake. In addition to it being reprinted here, it also appeared in an even more abridged form in the 2nd SEXTON BLAKE ANNUAL (1940) and again in the VALIANT BOOK OF TV'S SEXTON BLAKE (1968). This review is based on a reading of the original version.
Notes: In a wild area of Northern England, on the outskirts of the village of Weirwater, Bill Ferrers is out to recover a document which will mean the downfall of his enemy, Jabez Speers. As he wanders past marshland, Ferrers is attracted into it by a will-o'-the-wisp. It guides him to a spot where a body lies sinking into the mud; a man he thinks is a victim of Speers. He continues his journey, passes Westrall House, where Speers lives, and continues on through thick fog towards the Westrall Iron Foundry. When he gets there, he finds that it has vanished! Shocked and confused, he attempts to flee but bumps into Sexton Blake who arrives on the scene with Nelly and Eva Ainsley — cousin and sister of Jack Ainsley, the Assistant Government Inspector of Mines, who has gone missing in the region. Workers arrive at the scene, led by Jock Hunt the forge-master, who, the next day, assists the detective when a mob attacks Jabez Speers over the disappearance of the foundry manager, Edwin Wainthorpe. Blake orders the arrest of an elderly man named Ben Thorley, accusing him of murder. Thorley, who had been defending Speers from the mob, escapes. The crowd turns on Speers and tries to lynch him but they are interrupted by a fire which spreads through Weirwater. Hearing that the two women are stuck in the village, Blake goes to the rescue but is tempted into a booby-trapped house in which he finds himself a prisoner with Thorley. They fall through a shaft into a mine where Blake learns that Thorley — who is actually a disguised criminal named Black Joe — and two other conspirators are behind the crimes in Weirwater. Somewhere a document holds the key to the mystery. Black Joe is killed in the mine and Blake escapes in time to find Jack Ainsley and Edwin Wainthorpe. He also unravels the mystery.
Trivia: This is an abridged reprint of UNION JACK first series issue 172 DEAD MAN'S HAND (1897). The review is based on a reading of that issue.
Notes: In Australia, eight men — Ike Vineburg being foremost among them — swindle a ranch owner named Mrs Cartier out of all she possesses. Shocked by her losses, the woman collapses and dies. Her daughter, Mademoiselle Yvonne, realises that a swindle has occurred and vows revenge on the men. Months later, disguised as a male jockey, she joins Vineburg's stables and rises through the ranks until she is given the task of riding in the Melbourne Cup. She purposely loses the race at the last moment, costing Vineburg thousands of pounds. Having herself won a considerable sum, Yvonne sets sail for Europe. Six years later, aboard her yacht — which is captained by Captain Vaughan and has Hendricks as Mate — she plans with her uncle, Jack Graves, running a vigilante campaign against all men of Vineburg's type. By this time, the villain in question is operating as a jeweller in London under the assumed name of Bechstein. With his finances pressed to the limit, he seeks credit on a valuable pearl necklace only to be informed that it is fake; the original has been stolen. In desperation, he calls Sexton Blake. Yvonne discovers this and visits the detective in the guise of an elderly nun. Blake is immediately suspicious and sends Tinker to follow her when she leaves but she turns the tables and captures the lad. Blake's investigations lead him to an isolated farmhouse known as the Grange where Yvonne has her underground base and here he too becomes her prisoner. The next day, they make their escape while Yvonne, disguised as Tinker, visits Blake's Baker Street office to search for the evidence against her. The detective and his assistant arrive and a long car chase ensues, leading them to Yvonne's moored yacht where, once again, Blake and Tinker are taken prisoner. Yvonne offers the detective the chance to join her campaign. He refuses but, when she tells him her full story, he offers a truce providing she gives up the pearl necklace. She does so and they part both feeling strangely stirred by their new-found relationship. Bechstein/Vineburg commits suicide before Blake has a chance to return the pearls.
Trivia: This story marks the first appearance of Mlle. Yvonne Cartier. It was reprinted in a revised (?) form in DETECTIVE WEEKLY (issue 351, 11/11/1939) under the title THE GIRL WHO MADE PEARLS. The review is based on a reading of that issue.
Notes: When Prince Carlo of Eurania visits Bleakmoor Prison, he is attacked by an insane convict and saved by George Marsden Plummer. He promises to reward Plummer by helping him to escape, but though he fulfils a part of the plan, he later has second thoughts and confesses what he has done to Sexton Blake. The detective drives immediately to the prison, arriving there just as Plummer breaks free. The criminal steals Blake's car and flees. He later arrives in the factory town of Great Orville, which is currently suffering a spate of burglaries and has an undermanned police force. Plummer joins up and, as a constable, gets on the track of the burglar, spying on him as he breaks in to the house of Sir Samuel Stranger then following him to his residence. The next day, an indignant Sir Samuel, scornful of the police, declares that he will call in Sexton Blake. This disturbs Plummer, of course, but also — and inexplicably — his superior, Sergeant Mates. When the detective and Tinker arrive, they interview Plummer, who is well disguised, and he gives them a false clue that implicates an innocent man. That evening, he spies on the burglar as he gloats over his ill-gotten gains and is amazed to see him remove a disguise to reveal himself as Sergeant Mates. When Mates goes to bed, Plummer creeps in and removes the greater part of the loot, leaving only sufficient to incriminate the crooked policeman. The next morning, another burglary is reported. Pedro follows a scent to Mates's home and what remains of the stolen goods are discovered there. The sergeant is arrested but is obviously amazed that the most valuable parts of his haul are missing. Back at the scene of the most recent break in, Blake recognises the fingerprints of Plummer and realises that he's masquerading as a police constable. At the same moment, the master villain, seeing that his game is up, flees to the train station with his loot. However, he is spotted by Tinker, who follows him to a hotel in London before then summoning Blake by telephone. Plummer, though, calls in the debt owed by Prince Carlo, who arranges his escape in return for the stolen goods, which are returned to their owners. Blake is disappointed that Plummer is still on the loose, though the crook has fled empty-handed.
Trivia: William Spearing gets a mention.
Notes: My copy is missing its cover. When Dr. Huxton Rymer tries to join forces with Mademoiselle Yvonne Cartier in the tropical country of Salvarita, he gets his wish but on her terms, not his. Together they plot to steal two million in bullion from the country's President — a man named Pearson, who is one of the men responsible for the downfall of Yvonne's family. They succeed in this endeavour and also kidnap Pearson, so that he is blamed for the disappearance of the funds. Sexton Blake is commissioned to investigate and sends Tinker on ahead to Salvarita. However, the detectives are being watched and, out at sea, Tinker is attacked and thrown overboard. Blake is loaned a yacht and travels to the tropical country, which he enters disguised as a sailor. He too, though, is being observed and is followed and stabbed in the back. Ten days later he regains consciousness to find himself in the care of a Spanish woman. The crew of his yacht, with help from Pedro, track him down and the group sets sail on the trail of Yvonne, whom Blake has identified as Pearson's kidnapper. Meanwhile, Tinker, who after many hours at sea was rescued by a passing ship, makes his way back to London and then on to Hong Kong to rendezvous with Blake. After they are reunited, Tinker sneaks aboard Yvonne's yacht, the Fleur-de-Lys, but is captured. Blake disguises himself as the vessel's Chinese cook and joins the crew. Days later, as they approach an island near Fiji, he doses the food with a sleeping draft and thus gains the upper hand. Blake releases President Pearson and hands over the yacht and prisoners to him. Some considerable time later, back at Baker Street, the detective learns that Pearson has been assassinated by a disgruntled soldier and Yvonne and her crew have escaped. Yvonne severs her alliance with Dr. Huxton Rymer.
Trivia: This was reprinted as THE VENGEANCE OF YVONNE in DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 366 (1940). The review is based on a reading of that issue.
Notes: Harry Mayfield's marriage is breaking down due to his addiction to gambling. When George Marsden Plummer — in London under the guise of Vicomte Jules de Faillarde — learns this, he causes the gambling den that Mayfield attends to be raided. He then establishes a new one and sees to it that the young man's losses increase, intending to drive him to suicide. In the meantime, adopting a new disguise, he introduces himself to Mayfield's wife, Nell (see Plummer in Society, UNION JACK issue 490, 1913), as Denis O'Neal, de Faillarde's secretary, and begins to inveigle his way back into her affections. When the girl expresses her concern about her husband to Sexton Blake, the detective becomes suspicious of de Faillarde and has Tinker follow him to find out where he lives. "O'Neal" convinces Nell that she should teach her spouse a lesson by leaving him. She does so, and Mayfield rushes to Blake and asks him to find her. Upon learning that O'Neal had visited Nell, Blake goes to de Faillarde's house to interview the secretary. The man gives an innocent explanation for the meeting but the detective's suspicions are aroused. That night, Blake disguises himself as Mayfield, enters Plummer's gambling den, and tells "de Faillarde" that it is make or break — if he doesn't make up his losses, he will shoot himself. As he gambles and loses, Blake pierces Plummer's disguise. When all his money is gone, he adopts an attitude of despair, and the next day fakes Mayfield's suicide. As O'Neal, Plummer hurries to comfort Nell, who has taken refuge in Boulogne, but he is followed by Blake and Tinker. Mayfield also arrives in the French port, where he is spotted and tracked by Plummer, who is in turn is shadowed by Tinker. They go to a casino, where Plummer picks a fight with Mayfield, which they agree to settle by fighting a duel. While Tinker races to fetch Blake, the two men meet on a beach and battle with swords. Mayfield is badly wounded. Plummer takes refuge in the town's castle ruins while Blake administers emergency first aid to the fallen man. Nell is summoned, and for the next three days, she nurses her stricken husband while gendarmes lay siege to the ruins. Plummer finally emerges, half starved, and after a shoot-out, he collapses and is captured. Mayfield finally recovers and is told that, because the gambling den was illegal and Plummer a swindler, he will get all his money back.
Trivia: This acts as a sequel to a previous story, which I'm assuming is the foregoing issue Plummer in Society (UNION JACK issue 490, 1913), which I don't currently own. In that tale, Plummer, operating under the name Rupert Greer, travels to Switzerland with a rich man named Henry Flayl and attempts to woo his daughter, Nell. When he finds himself really falling in love with her, he proposes marriage. Sexton Blake, however, exposes him as a master crook, and Plummer is spurned.
Notes: In Melbourne, Doctor Huxton Rymer has been leading a dissolute existence since his first disastrous encounter with Sexton Blake. Ever the opportunist, though, when he gets the chance to steal a priceless jewelled dragon statuette from Hang Lee, a Chinese gangster, he seizes it. What he doesn't realise is that the item has enormous symbolic significance and is being fought over by rival Chinese factions: the monarchists — represented by Hang Lee — and the republicans. Rymer persuades a clueless Englishman, Harry Graham, to carry "a package" back to England. Graham, feeling uneasy, decides that rather than acting as courier himself, he will send the item by post to his fiancé, Grace Lansing. When Hang Lee's men attack him, they therefore find nothing. Bewildered by what seems to him an inexplicable assault, he sets sail for England only to have his voyage delayed by a storm. Meanwhile, the other players in the game have avoided the bad weather by sailing via America. Weeks later, they begin to gather in London. At the Chinese embassy, Li Hong, who represents the republicans, commissions Sexton Blake to recover the lost artefact. Blake agrees but Hang Lee learns of his involvement and two attempts are rapidly made on the detective's life. Rymer, still en route, is also attacked by one of Hang Lee's agents and left for dead. Arriving in London, the celestial then visits Grace, who by this point has taken delivery of the package. He tries to persuade her to hand it over but her suspicions are aroused and she refuses. After the man's departure, she opens the parcel and finds the diamond dragon inside. Shocked, she seeks advice from Sexton Blake. He is astounded to learn that she has the very thing he's been asked to locate but when he accompanies her back to her house, they find that the dragon has been stolen. Rymer, having survived the assault, had spied on her while she unwrapped it and took his opportunity while she consulted with the detective. However, he leaves a fingerprint behind, and from this, Blake is able to identify him as the thief. While Hang Lee arranges for Grace to be kidnapped and used as a bargaining chip, Rymer meets with a fence named Morris to arrange for the sale of the dragon the following day. Tinker, having stumbled upon the scene, spies on the meeting before following the master crook. Rymer realises that the youngster is on his track and turns on him, throwing him into the River Thames. Tinker is swept along until he manages to grasp the basement windowsill of a waterside house. Looking into the premises, he sees two men fall through a trapdoor into the room, knocking over a lamp and starting a fire. One of these individuals turns out to be a disguised Sexton Blake, who, having traced Grace to the house, had confronted Hang Lee and plummeted through the trap, grabbing the Chinaman as he fell. Tinker rescues him and they locate and liberate the girl. Blake next disguises himself as Morris and, when Rymer returns to hand over the dragon to the fence, he is handcuffed and arrested.
Trivia: Easter double issue.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Like the pre-twentieth century Sexton Blake tales, the plot of this one is dependent on a sequence of utterly implausible coincidences.
Notes: In Lagos prison, a dying man, Denver Raymond, tells his story to Count Ivor Carlac, to whom he possesses a startling resemblance. Raymond is an heir to a title but not to the big Norfolkshire estate with which it is associated. Three years ago, after leading a dissipated life, Raymond had stabbed a man and been committed to the jail where his health has steadily deteriorated. He shows Carlac a packet hidden in his shirt and tells him that, when he is dead, the count must take it and read the contents. He must use the information to escape, make his way to England, and there masquerade as Raymond, claim the title, find out who has inherited the estate ... and acquire it! This plan is followed, and weeks later, Raymond's nephew, Jack, is ejected from Raymond Towers by Carlac, who now becomes Sir Denver Raymond. The family property and fortune was bequeathed to the dead man's sister, Barbara, who not having seen her brother for so many years, believes Carlac to be him. The crook gains control of her and, with help from gipsies — Joe and Lil — imprisons Jack. He then sets about raising rents and selling land. This infuriates the local farmers who decide to confront him. Tinker and Pedro, who've been tasked by Sexton Blake to locate the missing Jack, accompany them. Meanwhile, it comes to Blake's attention that "Flash Harry" is regularly depositing large sums into a bank account — always in coins — though he shows no sign of having a job. The detective discovers that the crook is living in a flat once occupied by Carlac. Evidence connects Harry to Raymond Towers. At that place, the local villagers voice their objections to "Sir Denver," receive short shrift, and a fight breaks out. In the gloom of the evening, Tinker hasn't recognised Carlac, but Pedro has, and after the villagers return home, the bloodhound tries to attack the master villain, is wounded by Gipsy Joe, and Tinker is captured. The next morning, Blake takes the train to Norfolkshire ... the same train that Flash Harry is travelling on. At the local police station, Blake discovers that Pedro has been chained in one of the cells. The hound, bearing a shallow knife wound, had been found during the night tearing around the village. Accompanied by a constable, the detective encourages Pedro to lead him to Tinker. The trail leads to a derelict riverside house where Gipsy Joe is overpowered and Jack Raymond and Tinker are discovered in the cellar. However, Lil opens a sluice, causing the basement to flood with Blake, the policeman and the two captives inside. When she attempts to close a trapdoor to prevent their escape, Pedro attacks her. She flees but Blake follows her to Raymond Towers where he confronts Sir Denver and recognises him as Carlac. Flash Harry runs away leaving the two men to fight. Lil interferes and Carlac makes a successful getaway on horseback, his scheme in tatters.
Trivia: "Flash" Harry was known as "Swagger" Harry during The Regent Street Robbery (UNION JACK issue 468, 1912).
The manner in which Pedro is described in this story gives the impression that he is not a young dog and that, rather than being a resident at Baker Street, he is taken care of by a vet. This supports my notion that there were many Pedros (see THE SEXTON BLAKE TIMELINE).
"Tinker!" said Lady Armstead, arching her eyebrows. "What a curious name! What is his other name?"
Blake's grave face widened into a smile.
"He has no other name," he said.
Notes: Story features Mlle. Yvonne Cartier. This tale marks the first appearance of the Grey Panther (the monoplane not the car).
Notes: Blake is commissioned to locate Heron Almadale, who has vanished in the forests of central Brazil. Calling on the assistance of Sir Richard Losely and Lobangu, Blake, Tinker and Pedro meet their friends on the banks of the Amazon. They all travel to the town of Itaituba, along a tributary, the Tapajos, up which Almadale has reputedly travelled. There, they recruit a guide, Jose, who hires men and puts together an expedition. They set off, and en route hear rumours concerning a lost race of "white Indians," a hidden city, and a dangerous tribe that lives in the trees. The latter soon attacks but, after a fierce battle, Blake and his friends are able to drive the enemy away by starting a forest fire. As a consequence, the next part of the trek is through ash, and a terrible thirst torments them until they finally find a huge lake. It is populated by pterodactyl-like creatures, so after slaking their thirst, the members of the expedition skirt around its edge to the foot of a high mountain. Taking only Jose and six porters — leaving the rest to establish a basecamp — Blake, Tinker, Losely and Lobangu then begin to climb. At the foot of a glacier, they discover a white native entombed in the ice. It is evidence that the fabled Indian tribe exists. Next, Blake discovers a rock with Almadale's initials carved onto it ... and beneath it, a letter in which the tribe and the route to their city is described. These people, the Loo-chins, are possessed of a vast wealth of jewels, but they're ruled over by an evil high priest named Loo-soo, who — during Almadale's first visit — tortured him horribly. The next morning, the expedition is able to look down upon the city. They hear rifle shots, and realise that Almadale is alive but in trouble. Forging ahead, they arrive at the outskirts of the city where Almadale is holed up in a besieged house. They add their rifle fire to his and race to the building, which they gain, there to find their man in a state of utter exhaustion. He reports that he has killed Loo-soo. He then fires across at the city's central temple, hitting the dynamite that he had formerly planted. The edifice explodes and collapses. The Loo-chin flee, and Blake and his friends take advantage of the opportunity to make their getaway. Almadale has with him a fortune in gemstones. The expedition heads home.
Notes: Three Englishmen have learned that a secret Chinese society named The Brotherhood of the Golden Beetle intends to bring Europe under the heel of the Orient. Two of these men return to Britain before the Brotherhood is aware of their knowledge. The third, Sir George Halliday, is hunted but appears to get away. The leader of the Yellow Beetle, Prince Wu Ling, calls a meeting at which he announces his attention to travel to London to kill the three men and begin a campaign of terror. However, unknown to him, Sir George is not only still in China but is spying on that very meeting! Weeks later, in London, Godfrey Carslake, who is engaged to Halliday's daughter, summons Sexton Blake after finding Sir George dead in his study. At the scene, Pedro goes wild and chases a yellow beetle from the room. Even though Halliday's death appears to be from heart failure, Blake thinks otherwise and begins researching rare poisonous beetles. Soon he has a close encounter with one of the insects, which is placed in his bedchamber by one of the Brotherhood. He is saved from death by Pedro. Tinker, meanwhile, surprises Wu Ling when the Chinaman enters the Baker Street house on some nefarious mission. The villain escapes but Tinker follows him to the house next door to Halliday's. There he is captured and taken to another premises where he is condemned to the 'Room of Glass'. Halliday's daughter is also kidnapped, to be held until all her father's papers, which may contain details of the Brotherhood, are handed over. Sexton Blake follows with the police in tow. He wins a fist-fight against Wu Ling and rescues Tinker and the girl, narrowly avoiding a swarm of deadly yellow beetles. Most of the oriental gang are rounded up but Wu Ling escapes and manages to destroy Halliday's papers, leaving Blake unaware of the Brotherhood's purpose.
Trivia: This story was reprinted in DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 367 as THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BEETLE (1940) and anthologised in THE CASEBOOK OF SEXTON BLAKE (2009).
Rating: ★★★★★ The first story to feature Wu Ling and a terrific adventure. Very highly recommended.
UNION JACK · New series · Issue 510 · 19/7/1913 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Other content: A Word from the Skipper (ed. this week devoted to the 'Coming World War — how the Yellow Races are preparing for the great struggle for the future with the White Nations'); Dick of the Highways by Anon; Guy of the Greenwood by Morton Pike.
Notes: Sir Frederick Baxter returns from his expeditions abroad and is disturbed to hear of the death of his friend Sir George Halliday. Baxter realises that he is the only man able to warn the Government of the plans of The Botherhood of the Yellow Beetle. His wife, Lady Diana, throws a party, which is attended by Professor Kai-San, an eminent Orientalist who, unknown to her, is actually Prince Wu Ling. He invites her, and her daughter Elaine, to view his antiques the following day. When they do so, Elaine is drawn into a room where sits a giant buddha. Looking into its eyes, she falls into a hypnotic trance and Wu Ling instructs her to steal her father's papers and deliver them to him, after which she shall remember nothing. When the spell is broken, she rejoins the other visitors and they take their leave. That night, mesmerised, Elaine unknowingly obeys the Celestial's orders. Next day, when Sir Frederick discovers his loss, he immediately consults Sexton Blake. The detective finds evidence that Elaine committed the robbery but finds it hard to believe as she appears to be absolutely faithful to her father. When she once again responds to hypnotic suggestion and visits Wu Ling for instructions, Tinker follows. But he is captured, bound and gagged, and placed in a coffin. Elaine takes the stolen papers, minus the material concerning the Brotherhood, back to her father's study. Blake follows and realises that she has been hypnotised. When Wu Ling and his deputy, San, attempt to murder Sir Frederick, Blake captures them. He then frees Tinker but cannot prevent his captives from escaping.
Trivia: Blake has two juvenile deputies, Tim and Jerry, who deputise for Tinker when the latter has his hands full.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ This story loses points due to a ridiculous scene in which Blake, who already knows that he's dealing with the Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle, spends ages and ages trying to remember whose eyes the idol's remind him of. Wu Ling is the obvious answer, but the "great detective" takes a whole day before he realises this.
Notes: Police Inspector Bragley is puzzled when a fourth girl, in as many days, is found unconscious in Aylesbury Square. Like the others, she is taken to a nearby doctor, Professor Kew, but once recovered refuses to speak of her experience. Bragley doesn't know it but all four girls have been Kew's "guinea pigs," testing a narcotic he has developed. The inspector visits Sexton Blake and tells him about the case. The detective begins investigating. When Kew learns of this, he decides that, as this is his first foray into crime, he should test Blake. He therefore sends him an anonymous note, which reveals that, at the Ranee of Magwar's ball, he intends to steal her priceless emerald necklace. He challenges the detective to prevent this theft. At the ball, a dissipated young nobleman, Lord Alpineby, who is under Kew's power, gives the Ranee a gift of a small ivory casket. When she opens it, fumes from the narcotic send her into a trance. Alpineby leads her into the garden and leaves her there. Kew then takes the necklace and makes off, though not without his shadowy figure being spotted by Blake. Next day, the detective goes to Alpineby's flat to question him but finds him vanished; and there are signs of a struggle and traces of the drug. He takes the latter to a chemist for analysis but the substance isn't recognised. Blake is referred to the expert in such matters — Professor Kew! — and during the subsequent interview quickly recognises him as the man behind the crimes. Blake sets Tinker to keep watch on the criminal and the lad follows Kew to a house where Alpineby is imprisoned. He sends a note to his guv'nor shortly before falling into the hands of the villain. Blake comes to the rescue and also recovers the emerald necklace but Kew gets away to fight another day.
Trivia: This was reprinted as THE DOCTOR'S DUPES in DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 347 (1939).
Notes: A victim of Chinese pirates, castaway John Strang lands on the island of Kaitu, which turns out to be his attackers' base. From his hiding place, he witnesses the arrival of a captive English girl, who he subsequently rescues. They escape in possession of a box containing a fortune in gemstones. Twenty years later, Strang is a multimillionaire, the girl he saved and married is recently deceased and he has a daughter named Alice. Strang loans £10,000,000 to a Chinese organisation, not realising that it is the Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle. During negotiations, Prince Wu Ling's mentor and right-hand man, San recognises Strang, for San had been chief of the pirates and the gems had been his entire fortune. Wu Ling recovers a down-on-his luck Dr. Huxton Rymer from an opium den and sets him the task of impersonating Strang, who is subsequently kidnapped and held captive. When Alice notices that her 'father' is not acting normally, she voices her suspicions to Sexton Blake and Mademoiselle Yvonne Cartier. The detective sends Tinker to work as a page at the Venetia Hotel in order to keep watch on the room where the bogus Strang is staying. Meanwhile, Blake begins to investigate the millionaire's recent movements. Wu Ling realises that the detective has taken an interest and so kidnaps Alice for extra security. However, unknown to him, his victim is actually a disguised Yvonne. Rymer leaves the hotel and, upon learning this, Tinker takes the news to Baker Street only to be captured by Wu Ling's minions. The next morning, Sexton Blake realises that the bogus Strang, Yvonne and Tinker have all gone missing and, aided by Yvonne's uncle Graves, he begins to follow the clues, tracing Wu Ling to an old country house. Here, the real Strang is being tortured by San, as is a now rebellious Rymer. Tinker manages to escape and leads Blake and Graves to Wu Ling. Blake and the villain make a pact: the detective will allow the Prince to go providing the prisoners are released and Strang's money is returned. Wu Ling agrees to this, though Rymer is found to have escaped of his own accord.
Trivia: This issue is a summer double-length special. It marks the first of a number of meetings between Prince Wu Ling and Dr. Huxton Rymer. John Strang (aka 'Strang the Silent') reappears in SCOUNDRELS ALL UNION JACK issue 613 (1915) and in THE ADVENTURE OF THE BOWERY TAR BABY UNION JACK issue 1,170 (1926).
Notes: For twelve months, John Marsh has been struggling to make a living as a rancher on the American prairies but now his wife, Hilda, is ill and a crooked financier named Jabez Pelham wants him as a partner in a swindle to attract investments to a worthless tract of land. Marsh, though, has promised Hilda that he will stay straight. When he refuses to join Pelham, they fight, and the crook imprisons Marsh in a mine shaft. A crippled Indian smuggles a scribbled note out for him and gives it to a Britisher who travels to New York and hands it to Sexton Blake, who's just finished a case there. Blake and Tinker seek out Pelham but are sent packing. They make their way to Marsh's ranch, where they nurse Hilda back from the brink of death. Later, a white-bearded, bedraggled and semi-delirious man stumbles onto Pelham's land and rants about having discovered, forty miles away, a huge deposit of gold. Pelham and his men immediately ride away to lay claim to it. Left alone, the deranged miner removes his disguise and is revealed as Sexton Blake. Tinker joins him and they descend into the mine shaft to rescue Marsh. Unfortunately, when they attempt to climb out, the rope snaps, trapping them all. Pelham and his men return and discover they've gained two more prisoners, but the villain unexpectedly sets them free. Marsh, Blake and Tinker ride to Marsh's ranch where they discover that Hilda is gone. Blake incapacitates the raging Marsh before then donning a disguise to make himself identical to him. When Pelham rides up and declares that Hilda is his prisoner, "Marsh" agrees to work for him. However, when it comes to signing a contract, he asks that, instead of receiving pay, he should be awarded the right to shaft three, in which he'd been held captive. Thinking it worthless, Pelham agrees, unaware that Blake had discovered gold in it while attempting to dig his way out. While Blake is examining documents pertaining to Pelham's criminal scheme, Marsh recovers, arrives, and inadvertently spoils the detective's ruse. Pelham's men pounce on the two men and attempt to lynch them but Tinker arrives with a posse and routes the gang. Pelham, in attempting to flee, falls into a gully and breaks his neck. Case complete, Blake and Tinker return to England where, weeks later, they receive a letter from Marsh. Hilda's health is restored and gold from the shaft has enabled them to get back on their feet.
Trivia: In The Kidnapped Inspector (UNION JACK 401, 1911), John Marsh's wife was named Julia. Here, she is Hilda, though definitely the same woman, as the author refers to her having previously helped Marsh and George Marsden Plummer escape from Bleakmoor Prison.
Notes: Melville Hendry and Philip Jordan are friends and business partners who own a mine in Tasmania. Unfortunately, Hendry is losing his mind and attempts to kill Jordan. After he fails to do so, the two men sail for Britain. As they approach the home country, Hendry makes another attempt on his partner's life but is foiled by Sexton Blake, who happens to be aboard. Jordan refuses to allow Blake to prosecute. In London, the partners settle into a hotel. Hendry has been given the address of Professor Kew and commissions him to murder Jordan. The professor accepts the job while also swindling Hendry out of a fortune. When Tinker sees the two men together, he informs Blake who promptly dons a disguise and moves into the hotel room next to the wayward mine owner's. He witnesses Kew giving Hendry a syringe filled with cholera bacilli, instructing him to inject it into his partner. The detective, after causing a diversion, replaces the bacilli with water, thus saving Jordan's life. After the murder attempt, Hendry regains his sanity. Kew drugs him and sends to a nursing home. Tinker discovers its location and Blake, disguised as an ailing old man, is booked in as a patient and occupies the same room. He is there when Kew arrives. The professor attempts to hypnotise Hendry into approving a cheque for £200,000 but is interrupted by Tinker, who is spying through the window. A fight breaks out and Kew is overpowered. However, there is no solid evidence against him and, though his schemes are defeated, Blake is forced to let him go. Hendry, now sane, is reunited with his friend Jordan.
Notes: Blake is visited by Louis Sabini, manager of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, who complains that valuables are going missing from the place practically every day. A guest at the hotel, Mrs Aldridge, then calls to tell the detective that all her money has been stolen. A third visitor to Baker Street, an American millionaire named Brand, has had his daughter kidnapped from the hotel and she is now being held for ransom. Blake immediately concludes that all this is the work of Gideon Preece. Disguised, he goes to the hotel, examines the clues, and concludes that Preece is probably posing as a member of its staff. He orders Tinker to mingle with the employees and keep his eyes open while the detective goes to fetch Pedro. Meanwhile, Preece is disguised and working as the hotel's interpreter. Aware of Blake's presence, he nevertheless intends to stay for a further four days, as rich clients are due to arrive and he means to rob them. Tinker, though, recognises him and follows him into the hotel's wine cellar. There Preece overpowers the lad and throws him through a trapdoor into a sewer tunnel. He then captures and immobilises the manager before masquerading as him and arranging for Blake to be served poisoned wine. Just as his intended victim is about to drink it, Tinker, having survived his ordeal, appears and saves his guv'nor's life. The guests, overhearing that Preece is in the hotel, begin to leave in droves, taking their valuables with them. Preece has lost his rich pickings ... but worse, Pedro now gets to work. Knowing he will be detected, the criminal flees. Further investigations reveal to Blake that Preece may have hatched his plot with a man named Vanfield. He traces this individual who confesses that he recommended the hotel to Brand in order to make it possible for Preece to kidnap that man's daughter. It is now imperative that the girl is found, but Brand is panicking and refuses to cooperate. Instead, he raises a loan with which to pay the ransom. Blake goes to the address where the American is to receive the money but it's a trap and he's set upon by Preece. He manages to put a bullet into the villain but fails to capture him. A trail of blood leads Blake to an asylum where Brand's daughter is being held captive. There, he catches up with the wounded man ... but Preece has one last trick up his sleeve. If Blake doesn't let him go, Brand will be killed by a time bomb. Reluctantly, the detective rushes to save the millionaire while Preece, divested of all his stolen loot, gets away ... only to be caught a little later by the police and, ultimately, sentenced to twenty years.
Trivia: It is clearly indicated that other Preece tales have been published between his debut (THE LABORATORY MYSTERY, UNION JACK issue 420, 1911) and this one, yet within that two-year period I haven't found a trace of a single one. Apparently, there's a story that includes Preece visiting Blake's lodgings. Since this reference makes it clear that Baker Street is meant, it discounts all the ANSWERS and PENNY PICTORIAL tales, as the detective is resident elsewhere throughout those (I've checked them, nevertheless, but to no avail).
Gideon Preece is pretty much a second rate George Marsden Plummer. He'd be an excellent character had Plummer never existed but, as it is, he's thoroughly overshadowed.
Notes: Two thugs approach Professor Kew and ask him to remove a bullet from their colleague who was shot during a robbery. Kew agrees and finds the wounded man — Gilbert Dykes — to be a cut above his companions; a gentleman, in fact. The bullet is duly removed but the professor realises that Dykes has consumption and will die soon anyway. Three months later, Lady Marjory Mountjoy hits on a novel idea for a fund-raising party. She has a small model ambulance built into the back of which her guests will deposit jewellery. The items will be auctioned off to raise money for hospitals. Kew learns of this and employs Dykes in a scheme to rob the ambulance of its cargo — what he doesn't realise is that Lady Mountjoy and Dykes are old acquaintances. The robbery goes without a hitch — the body of the ambulance, filled with jewels, is replaced with an empty copy. When this is discovered, Sexton Blake, who is a guest at the party, begins investigating. Unknown to him, Tinker witnessed the swap, followed Dykes, and has fallen into the hands of Professor Kew who has paralysed him with a drug. The next morning, worrying about his assistant's absence, Blake discovers evidence that points at Dykes. He also learns that his suspect is Lady Marjory's cousin and that they had been childhood sweethearts. Meanwhile, Tinker is taken to a hospital where Kew advises that a brain operation is necessary to cure him of the paralysis. The patient is wheeled into an operating theatre where, fully conscious but unable even to blink, he listens in horror as the surgeon decides that no anaesthetic will be required. Sexton Blake tracks down Gilbert Dykes who confesses to his crime and reveals Kew's whereabouts. The detective confronts the professor who, cornered, offers a deal: he will prevent Tinker's death at the hands of the surgeon and return the stolen jewels in return for his freedom. Blake agrees to these terms and Kew telephones the hospital to stop the operation. Tinker is rescued and cured of his paralysis. Dykes attempts to revenge himself but before he can reach Kew his illness overtakes him and he dies.
Trivia: This was anthologised in THE CASEBOOK OF SEXTON BLAKE (2009).
Notes: American Secret Service man Bryant Kennedy visits Sexton Blake at Christmas and enlists his help. He has been investigating how vast numbers of illegal Chinese immigrants have been entering the States and the trail has led him to England. After he departs, the Duchess of Carrisbrooke arrives and asks Blake to investigate the disappearance of her daughter, Sybil, during a trip to Cardiff. Probing the girl's past, the detective is told that, while the family were in China the previous year, Sybil had rejected the attentions of a man named Dr Li-Fuang. Blake quickly learns that this man is, in fact, Prince Wu Ling. During Christmas dinner with Mademoiselle Yvonne, Blake discusses the case and, unknown to him, she decides to help by trying to get herself kidnapped the same way as Sybil. The detective makes her a gift of a fabulous Chinese carved jade sphere, then departs. The sacred sphere was once handed from emperor to emperor until the Ming Dynasty gave way to the Manchu, at which point it was lost. The detective leaves a letter warning her to keep it hidden, for it would be much prized by Wu Ling. Yvonne places it in a small chamois bag that she wears on a chain around her neck. She then travels to Cardiff with her uncle Graves and puts her plan into action. Meanwhile, from the Eastern Queen, docked in that same city, Dr Huxton Rymer comes ashore intent on investigating the disappearance of Sybil, for whom a huge reward has been offered in the newspapers. He witnesses the kidnapping of a girl and learns that she is to become the wife of a Chinese governor. She, along with thirty-nine illegal Chinese immigrants, is taken aboard the Eastern Queen where Rymer finally sees through the disguise and recognised her as Yvonne. A fortieth immigrant joins the ship and it sets sail across the Atlantic. This fortieth Chinese is, in fact, a heavily made-up Sexton Blake and he is quick to notice Rymer's presence. As the voyage progresses — and with Yvonne's yacht Fleur-de-Lys carrying Tinker, Pedro, Kennedy and Graves not far behind — Blake overhears Rymer proposing marriage to Yvonne, who summarily rejects him. He also manages to find a way for her to pass to him the sacred sphere for safekeeping. At last the ship reaches Canada and its human cargo is transferred to another ship, bound for America. Blake manages to get a note to his allies, who follow. In American waters, the Fleur-de-Lys attacks. During the terrific battle that ensues, Rymer gets away with Yvonne as his prisoner. Discovering the route along which Sybil had been sent, he follows the trail to Boston. In that city, Prince Wu Ling and his lieutenant, San, interrogate Sybil in an attempt to discover the purpose of her father's diplomatic missions to China. She tells them nothing and the interview is interrupted by the arrival of Rymer and Yvonne. Wu Ling immediately sentences Rymer to a lifetime of slavery as a consequence of his past betrayals. His encounter with Yvonne, though, is disrupted by yet another arrival: Sexton Blake. Blake informs him that the place is surrounded by Kennedy's Secret Service men and demands the return of both women, the closure of the illegal immigration route and the handing over of sixty-eight immigrants. In return, he will allow Wu Ling to go free. The prince has no choice but to agree to this arrangement. Yvonne then begs Blake to plead for Rymer's release. Wu Ling refuses the request, so Blake exchanges Rymer's freedom for the sacred sphere.
Trivia: Double Christmas issue.
Trivia: This was anthologised in THE CASEBOOK OF SEXTON BLAKE (2009).
Rating: ★★★★★ Simply one of the best Sexton Blake tales of all time.
Notes: In a ward at St. Cyr's, Professor Francis Kew operates on the victim of a road accident and learns from his patient's incoherent babbling that the man is a blackmailer. The next morning, Kew uses a truth serum to gain further details. The man, it turns out was once a chauffeur in the employ of someone named Marcus Hendrigg. One day, they had found an unconscious man by the side of the road. Upon searching him, they discovered that he was Anthony Glave, returning from South Africa to claim his entitlement: Warbury Hall, a big estate at Deignmouth. Hendrigg arranged matters so that Glave was committed to an insane asylum under the name "Jacob Weber" while he — Hendrigg — stole his identity and inheritance. The chauffeur had been paid for his silence but was attempting to extort more from Hendrigg. Kew travels to Warbury Hall and confronts the imposter, telling him that he'll rid him of his blackmailer in return for fifteen thousand pounds. Meanwhile, Sexton Blake is approached by the father of Anthony Glave's sweetheart, Hazel, and is commissioned to find the missing man. He quickly discovers that Glave must have been on a train that was destroyed in a terrible collision. The next day, Hazel tells Tinker she doesn't believe that Glave died in the crash and she wants to visit the scene of it, for she has frequently dreamed of Glave lying injured beside a road. They go and her dreams prove accurate, the landscape is exactly as she envisioned it. Blake is summoned and learns that a man matching Glave's description is in the local asylum. Tinker takes Hazel to see the outside of the place, little knowing that Professor Kew is inside examining "Weber," who has amnesia. The crooked surgeon leaves the asylum and is much disconcerted when he encounters Tinker outside. Returning to Warbury Hall, he receives a telegram informing him that the blackmailer has died. Hendrigg is also aware of this, having steamed the missive open. Realising that Hazel will identify the man in the asylum, Kew and Hendrigg kidnap her but, as they drive away, Tinker spots them and records the car's registration. Blake traces it to Warbury Hall. Kew realises that Hendrigg will not be as easy to extort money from as he'd thought, so he reveals to Hazel that "Weber" is, indeed, Glave and that his memory can be restored. Kew, however, will only perform the operation if he is paid fifteen thousand. Hendrigg overhears this deal and vows to kill Kew. Knowing his game is up, he sets fire to the hall with Hazel still in it and makes a getaway, taking Kew with him. Blake and Tinker arrive at the scene and rescue the girl before then pursuing the villains. Hendrigg sends his car plummeting into a quarry, intending to kill himself and the professor. Kew jumps from the vehicle in the nick of time. Blake captures him and makes a deal — Kew will go free if he operates on Anthony Glave. This is done. Glave and Hazel are reunited ... and Sexton Blake wonders at the humane side of Kew that possesses such skill.
Trivia: The "old landlady" who looks after Blake and Tinker bears little resemblance to Mrs Bardell.
Rating: ★★★★★ The scene where Blake rescues the girl from the blazing building is truly thrilling.
Notes: Story features Laban Creed.