Publishing: In October, UNION JACK increases size from 20 to 24 pages, introduces a colour
cover and a new price of 2d.
The first Blake story by W. W. Sayer (better known as Pierre Quiroule) is published. William Walter Sayer was born in 1892. His first tales featured Detective-Inspector Will Spearing (without Sexton Blake) and appeared in PLUCK. After his war service, Sayer became a full-time writer and wrote his debut Blake novel, in which he introduced Granite Grant. In his next, he created Mademoiselle Julie and, from then on, the two secret agents would appear together in a great many hugely popular tales. He gave up writing Sexton Blake stories in 1930 but he may be the most reprinted author in the series, as his tales were continually republished right up to 1986. W. W. Sayer died in 1982.
Notes: None at present.
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Notes: This was the final issue of DETECTIVE LIBRARY. The following week it
was amalgamated with NUGGET WEEKLY.
Notes: None at present.
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Notes: 'A Romance of England and the South Sea Islands.' This was later adapted
as a non-Blake story entitled SOUTH SEA LOOT with the detective being replaced by
Nelson Lee (THE NELSON LEE LIBRARY second new series issue 136, 1932).
Notes: The King's Spy,
James "Granite" Grant, is pondering whether to delay his wedding to actress
Laura Valentine until his next mission is completed when he is knocked out by two men,
Dykes and Crick, and delivered to
Baron Rodanoff. His clothes are removed and given to a man — his spitting
image — who then impersonates him, pretending to be amnesiac. A government minister
commissions Sexton Blake to find out how the memory loss happened. The detective visits
Miss Valentine and is spotted by Dykes and Crick. They report his involvement to the
Baron. Blake quickly realises that 'Grant' is an imposter. That night, Dykes and Crick
fall out over money and Dykes murders his partner. The next day, Miss Valentine introduces
Blake to an acquaintance: Baron Rodanoff. The detective has already gathered evidence
that suggests the Baron's involvement in the affair and the two men are immediately wary
of each other. After their meeting, Rodanoff tries to move Grant to a new location —
a house in a remote village named Denesford — but the prisoner escapes and manages
to telephone his fiancé before being recaptured. Tinker, meanwhile, has followed
the trail to Denesford and watches the house. During the night, the Baron's pet baboon
escapes from the premises and is chased by a number of his men. A frightened Tinker tries
to get away but falls into a deep pot-hole. He wanders lost in underground tunnels until
hearing the baboon approaching. Blake, meanwhile, concerned about his assistant's absence,
uses Pedro to track Tinker to the brink of the pit. He lowers the hound down by rope
then follows and tracks Tinker to where the lad has collapsed. Pedro encounters the baboon
and kills it in a terrific fight. When the trio retrace their steps they find the rope
gone, removed by Rodanoff. By following the ape's scent, they eventually find a route
out of the tunnels. After returning to London, Blake organises a raid on the Denesford
Inspector Bradley. Dykes is arrested and Granite Grant rescued. Baron Rodanoff
returns to Russia to fight another day. The tale ends with Grant happily married and
considering settling down.
Trivia: Granite Grant is described as having a dark, short-clipped beard and back-combed hair. Baron Rodanoff reappears in THE SECRET OF THE SIX BLACK DOTS (THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 169, 1921).
Notes: A Chinaman named Wu Ling (this is a completely different character to
the Wu Ling who is president of the Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle and who, incidentally,
hasn't featured since the first issue of the SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY back in 1915) comes
under suspicion when his wife, a white woman, is shot by a man whom Sexton Blake identifies
Leon Kestrel. Money seems to have changed hands and Wu Ling is obviously far
more than the simple laundryman he appears. However, he remains tight-lipped about the
crime, leaving Blake and
Detective-inspector Harker puzzled. Blake takes matters into his own hands and
virtually kidnaps Wu Ling in order to question him. The Oriental tells his story; how
he had stolen a diamond from a mine in South Africa only to be cheated out of it by Kestrel,
who paid him a fraction of its worth; how Kestrel killed his wife; and how he, Wu Ling,
has vowed revenge. Taking pity on the man, Blake sets him free asking only that he be
informed should Wu Ling track down Kestrel. Wu Ling does, indeed, catch up with the criminal,
intending to kill him. Kestrel, however, has gained power over Wu Ling, so that when
Tinker, who has followed Kestrel to his lair, joins Sexton Blake in an attack on the
criminal mastermind, the two detectives are surprised to find their prey being protected
by Wu Ling. Kestrel, it turns out, has kidnapped the Chinaman's child. Blake disguises
himself as Wu Ling, meets with his arch foe, and tricks him into revealing the whereabouts
of the child. He thoroughly frightens and humiliates Kestrel but, unfortunately, cannot
prevent a last-minute escape.
Trivia: According to this tale, Mrs Bardell's late husband had a career in the Police Force and was 6' 1" in height. Sexton Blake is described as having a 'slightly bald head and iron-grey hair'. Despite the fact that much of this tale is rather slow and dull, the scene where Blake takes great delight in terrifying and humiliating Kestrel is tremendous.
Notes: 'An Exciting Story of Detective Adventure in England, China and Tibet'.
Part one is recounted by
Hon. John Lawless, part two by
Notes: 'A Narrative of a Remarkable Invention, and a Grim Fight to Prevent the
World being Flooded with False Gold.'
Notes: 'A Sensational Mystery that will for ever lie Buried in the Silence of
Notes: 'A Splendid Detective Adventure in which the Centre of Sexton Blake's
Professional Interest is on One of Two Men Fighting for the World's Boxing Championship.'
Notes: 'A Thrilling and Unique Detective Story introducing Instances of Curious
and Mysterious Indian Magic.' This tale is recounted in first-person by
Hon. John Lawless.
Notes: Leonard H. Brooks was the brother of Edwy Searles Brooks and many, possibly
even most, of his stories were actually written by his more famous brother. He died of
gas poisoning in 1950.
Notes: In his autobiography, this author revealed that he was paid £60
each for the two Blake stories he wrote this year.
Notes: 'A Manchurian Romance' featuring
Hon. John Lawless. This was later twice adapted for non-Blake stories, the first
time with Blake being replaced by
Ferrers Locke in THE TEMPLE OF FEAR (THE BOYS' FRIEND LIBRARY second series
issue 316, 1931), and the second time with Blake being replaced by
Nelson Lee in THE PRISONER OF THE TEMPLE (THE NELSON LEE LIBRARY second new
series issue 134, 1932).
Notes: 'Telling how a strange call for help came to Sexton Blake. Introducing
Granite Grant, the Secret Service man.'
Notes: Story features
Leon Kestrel. This was later adapted as a non-Blake story entitled THE HOUSE
OF HORROR with Blake replaced by
Nelson Lee (THE NELSON LEE LIBRARY second new series issue 137, 1932).
Notes: 'Introducing that Battle-worn Zulu Warrior,
Shumpogaas, the Staunch Friend of Sexton Blake in the Past.' (See SEXTON BLAKE
IN THE CONGO, BOYS' FRIEND issue 294 through to 313, 1907). Also features
Notes: 'A Magnificent Detective Tale of Stirring Adventures in England and
Central Africa, including Sexton Blake, Tinker, and the
Hon. John Lawless.' This story was later adapted as a non-Blake tale (he was
Ferrers Locke) and appeared as THE PERIL PIT in THE BOYS' FRIEND LIBRARY second
series issue 300 (1931).
Notes: Story features
Dr. Lepperman and
Notes: None at present.
Notes: A man breaks into the Veuxpillo Art Gallery in London and replaces a
painting with a faked version. Before he can leave another man arrives, kills him, and
makes off with the genuine canvas. The body is discovered — and left — by
Granite Grant. Sexton Blake is called to the crime scene. He finds and identifies
Grant's fingerprints. He also notices a woman observing his movements and instructs Tinker
to follow her. The youngster does so, little realising that it's
Mlle. Julie. She spots that he's on her track and arranges for him to be captured
and held prisoner. Blake, meanwhile, has realised that the painting is a forgery. When
he places it in the hands of an expert it is stolen by Mlle. Julie, who thinks it's the
genuine article. She is disappointed to find that it does not have what she's looking
for concealed in its frame: a cipher. Tinker manages to get a message to Blake who comes
and rescues him. The detective finds a telephone number and code word which he uses.
He is given a time and place to meet the 'chief' ... who turns out to be
Sir Vrymer Fane, head of the Secret Service. Sir Vrymer reveals that the man
killed in the gallery was Gustave Fulk, and that he had stolen a cipher through which
documents relating to the London/Paris agreement on the Turkish question could be deciphered.
A man — the murderer — working for a Turk named Kalib Pasha, is believed
to have possession of the cipher. Granite Grant, for the English, and Mlle. Julie, for
the French, are pursuing this man ... and now so is Sexton Blake. The trail takes them
all to Algeria and a mosque: Ak-el-baran. Here all the participants gather and, through
trickery, Tinker gains possession of the real painting. A struggle ensues and the building
catches fire. Blake is caught up in the inferno and only just escapes thanks to the timely
arrival of Pedro. Finally, the two secret agents and Blake meet together and Tinker hands
over the painting upon the back of which is the secret they've all been hunting.
Trivia: We are given a nice picture of the inside of Blake's home: 'All Blake's curios and relics, his documents and papers, his pipes and tobacco-jars — the pictures on the wall, the antlers, the tanned-hide shields, the rusty, antiquated weapons, the boxing-gloves and foils ...'
Notes: 'A Thrilling and Original Detective Story of Adventure in England and
Syria, introducing Sexton Blake, Tinker, and the
Hon. John Lawless.' This was later adapted as a non-Blake story entitled DESERT
FOES with Blake replaced by
Nelson Lee (NELSON LEE LIBRARY second new series issue 147, 1932).
Notes: 'A Stirring Detective Narrative, introducing Sexton Blake and Tinker
in Exciting Adventures in the mountains of Kerry and by the lakes of Killarney.'
Notes: During his travels in Spain, Britisher Richard Ashurst wins the hand
of Jacinta Lopez, much to the displeasure of her suitor, Juan Zarella. He returns to
England with her as his bride. Fourteen years later, Sexton Blake and Tinker are on their
way to a party thrown by Lord Tanquar, who lives in a country estate, when a fellow partygoer's
jewels are stolen aboard the train. The thief escapes and Blake postulates that the man
threw the jewel case from the train and would search for it later. Lord Tanquar lives
near the Palgrave estate and his daughter, Millicent, is engaged to be married to the
eldest Palgrave son, Philip, whose first wife had died years ago. Tanquar's party commences
and, during it, the safe is burgled by a man who answers to the same description as the
jewel thief. Two weeks later, the strange events continue when Hugh is attacked in the
grounds by an intruder — a Spaniard — who then escapes and, some time later,
attacks Philip, who knocks him unconscious and leaves him. When the man is then discovered
by the local constable with a bullet in his heart, the evidence suggests that Hugh killed
him. Philip keeps quiet about his own involvement. Sexton Blake is called to investigate
and it soon emerges that Millicent loves Hugh rather than Philip. The elder Palgrave,
though, refuses to cancel their engagement. Hugh is arrested but Blake believes him innocent
and discovers clues which lead him to think that a woman may have committed the crime.
He also learns that the victim is Juan Zarella and that Philip's first wife was Spanish.
He and Tinker travel to Spain where they learn the story of Richard Ashurst and Jacinta.
They also discover that Zarella had been loved by the daughter of a local bandit, Sancho
Valdez, and that she recently travelled to England. When Valdez discovers that the two
Englishmen know that his daughter has murdered Zarella, he captures them and commands
that they be shot at dawn. However, Spanish soldiers arrive and Blake and Tinker are
rescued. Confirming that Richard Ashurst and Philip Palgrave are one and the same man,
they return to England. Blake investigates the Palgrave family's past while Tinker shadows
Philip, who has gone to his London house for the week. Tinker reports to Blake that Palgrave
has been attending a gambling club in a disguise which matches the description of the
man who stole the jewels and robbed the safe. With
Detective-Inspector Widgeon, Blake raids the club and captures Palgrave who
promises to come clean and clear his brother's name. However, he breaks his word and
eludes the detective, heading back to the railway line to try to find the lost jewel
case. Blake pursues him and, in trying to evade the detective, Philip is hit by a train.
On his deathbed, he confesses all. Blake informs Hugh that his brother had been victim
of a 'black streak' which arises every few generations in the Palgrave family. Hugh,
now proclaimed innocent, marries Millicent.
Trivia: Professor Platinum receives a mention in this story. Blake visits one of the professors who taught him at Oxford: Professor Drysdale.
Notes: A French detective named Gaston Cochemard asks Sexton Blake to
call on him at Lambert's Hotel. Operating under the name Ballantine, Cochemard
has recovered stolen jewels but is now living in fear of a crook known as
The Rat. When Blake arrives, he finds that Cochemard has departed. The
French detective had apparently forgotten a small parcel which, via a telegram,
he asked the hotel manager to recover from a hiding place in the fireplace and
forward to him in Dover via a District Messenger boy. Blake realises that this
parcel contains the jewels but he also theorises that The Rat will try to exchange
the parcel with an identical one containing a bomb. The detective travels to
Dover and intercepts the messenger, a boy named
Raggles, who confirms that a man tried to swap the parcels. However,
Raggles had cleverly reversed the exchange without the man realising. At the
hotel, Blake spots The Rat and he and Raggles give chase. During the pursuit,
the bomb the criminal unknowingly carries detonates, killing him.
Trivia: M. Gaston Cochemard is said to be the French equivalent of Sexton Blake and the two have known each other — and occasionally worked together — for many years. This story is a 'Blakenised' version of a Gordon Fox— Detective tale of the same title which was published in DREADNOUGHT, 12/07/1913.
Notes: 'A Dramatic Tale of a Mysterious Sequence of Theatre Robberies, which
Draw Sexton Blake once again on the Trail of
Leon Kestrel, the Master-Mummer.'
Notes: 'An Unique and Thrilling Story of a clever camouflage, introducing
"Granite" Grant, the famous King's Spy, and the famous Detective of Baker Street,
London, W.' Also features
This was reprinted as THE LIVING SHADOW in THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY second series issue 451 (1934).
Notes: Story features
Hon. John Lawless. This was later adapted as a non-Blake story entitled THE
TREASURE OF THE HUNGER DESERT with Blake replaced by
Nelson Lee (THE NELSON LEE LIBRARY second new series issue 149, 1932).
Notes: None at present.
Notes: This adventure occurs nine months before
THE ISLAND MYSTERY (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series 69, 1919). Jasper Bowman, son
of millionaire shop-owner Timothy Bowman, wants to marry Gwen, a distant cousin who works
as a shopkeeper in his father's business empire. Concerned at the conditions his father
forces the workers to endure, Jasper treats them to an outing. However, the company 'spy',
James Phelps, learns of the and informs Bowman sr. who, upon seeing Gwen and his son
dancing together, promptly dismisses her and disowns Jasper. The stress of this causes
him to faint and, while he is unconscious, Phelps helps himself to the company chequebook
and, the next day, withdraws £2000 for himself. However, he has been seen by the
shop's floorwalker, who happens to be
Aubrey Dexter. Dexter has been looking for a chance to get his hands on Bowman's
money, and this is it. Phelps quickly finds himself in Dexter's power and together they
plot to raid the millionaire's strongroom. Meanwhile, upon discovering the missing funds,
Bowman sr. blames his son and commissions Sexton Blake to find out whether his suspicions
are well-founded. Blake traces Jasper to a farm, where the youth, now married to Gwen,
is struggling to make a living. In the guise of a Frenchman, the detective suggests to
Jasper that they burgle his father. Jasper agrees. On the night of the planned robbery,
Blake takes Timothy Bowman to the store on Regent Street in which is located the strongroom.
They find that it has already been burgled. While they are there, Jasper arrives leading
Detective-Inspector Martin and
Detective-Inspector College. He is determined to capture the Frenchman, not
realising that it had been Sexton Blake. Bowman sr. now sees that his son is innocent
of any wrongdoing and they are reconciled. Upon examining the scene of the crime, Blake
picks up clues which suggest the involvement of Aubrey Dexter. Pedro tracks the cracksman
to his hotel room but Dexter escapes from his pursuers. Phelps does not fare so well,
and is arrested.
Trivia: Aubrey Dexter has had his teeth removed so that he can use false ones when in disguise. Tinker hates being referred to as a 'boy' and has been trying to grow a moustache.
Notes: In 1890, Prince Bismarck's private secretary stores a box filled with
his employer's memoirs in the vaults of Goyle's Bank, London. He puts the bank receipt
in a flask which he throws into the Thames. He is never seen again. Thirty years later,
the flask is found by a river worker who takes it to Sexton Blake. A German agent named
Stromburg has a brief tussle with the detective before raiding the bank and stealing
the memoirs. By intercepting a letter from Lord Vavasour to Stromburg's employer, Count
Dorflisch, Blake learns what the box in the bank vault had contained. Vavasour's letter
concerns a forthcoming meeting between him and Dorflisch. When this occurs at Vavasour's
home, Mylton Towers, Dorflisch reveals that the memoirs contain damning facts about Vavasour's
father. His attempted blackmail is cut short though; Vavasour leaves the room for a moment
and when he returns he finds a man dead on the floor and Dorflisch gone. But even worse,
he discovers that important government papers pertaining to Persia have been stolen from
his desk. A disguised Sexton Blake arrives on the scene to investigate and sees that
the dead man is Stromburg. Meanwhile,
Sir Vyrmer Fane, head of the Secret Service, sends
Granite Grant to find out what has become of the Persian documents.
Mademoiselle Julie also appears on the scene. Between them, they identify the
real killer, reclaim Vavasour's lost papers and recover the Bismarck memoirs.
Trivia: The author states that Sexton Blake was a mere schoolboy back in 1890. This, of course, cannot be accurate, since the detective's first recorded adventure was published in 1893. According to the timeline I've constructed from careful study of Blake's cases, he was thirty years old in 1890.
This was reprinted under the same title in THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series issue 432 (1934). It was later reworked for THE LONDON EVENING STANDARD as SEXTON BLAKE SOLVES IT and again as SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 5th series novel 28 with the title THE CASE OF THE BISMARK MEMOIRS (1966). My copy appears to have belonged to whichever editor it was who chose to re-issue the story and it has many notes in the margins and words and phrases struck through in pen — words and phrases that did not appear in the later reprints.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ This is enjoyable but hard to swallow — too many people are running around the crime scene while the police do nothing but watch.
Notes: John Dane, the owner of a large department store, has become the target
of the League of the Cobblers' Last. Some time ago he had accidentally killed a business
rival. A man named Grey has been instructed by
Zenith the Albino to secure a position in the store. He does so by threatening
to expose Dane's secret. In desperation, Dane confesses to his fiancé, Moira,
who advises him to seek help from Sexton Blake. The detective frightens the blackmailer
away but, having seen him use the secret mark of the League, he suspects that Grey's
presence in the store has been for some other purpose. And indeed it has: during his
time there, the small-time villain gained details of the safe and its contents. The Baker
Street detective, knowing when the safe will be most full and therefore most likely to
be robbed, lays a trap accompanied by
Detective-Inspector Coutts, Tinker and Pedro. Sure enough, Zenith and his gang
break through a wall from the next-door building and begin cracking the safe. Blake leads
an attack and the criminals are rounded up. Zenith, though, gets away, audaciously leaving
a note declaring that he will finish the job the following day. The next morning Blake
hears that Dane has moved the store's valuables from the safe to his own home in St.
John's Wood. Following a lead, the investigator looks into the background of Mr Grey.
While he is doing so, the League of the Last, disguised as a film-making unit, robs Dane.
With his business now on the point of bankruptcy and Mr Grey recommencing his blackmail,
John Dane is on the point of fleeing the country when Sexton Blake intervenes. The detective,
aided by Moira's father, corners Grey and exposes him as the man Dane supposedly shot
dead. The store owner is innocent of murder and Grey, his disguise pierced, is found
guilty of blackmail. Finally, Blake manages to recover much of the stolen loot ... but
of Zenith, there is no sign.
Trivia: In case you didn't know (I didn't!), a cobblers' last is an iron cast around which shoes are moulded.
Rating: ★★★★☆ A slight but entertaining tale. But why is Zenith's gang named The League of the Cobblers' Last? This is never explained.
Notes: On page 7 Blake makes a reference to
Marston Hume. This is the only mention of Hume outside of the PENNY PICTORIAL
where his encounters with (and eventual defeat by) Sexton Blake were recorded.
Notes: This is a short and simple story that begins in the thick of the action
with Sexton Blake in darkest Africa looking down the barrel of a pistol. It's an unusual
and gripping start to the tale but it actually feels like a couple of early chapters
are missing. The detective is on an expedition to find lost ruins but it's only later
that we learn the reasons for the journey: a former client has been killed but before
he died he sent Blake a map describing an ancient Roman city in which a fortune of gold
and jewels can be found. Blake has been en route for some time with the client's killer
hot on his tail. This villain, Strives, is determined to lay claim to the treasure and,
to help him, has hired the services of the Manoorie, a vicious tribe of cannibals. Blake
is also assisted — by
Sir Richard Losely and
Lobangu. The two safaris venture into unknown land where they encounter the
Forest of Ghosts. This is an area where all the trees are dead and festooned with moss,
where no birds sing and everything is silent. Here, one of the bearers is crushed to
death by a huge creature resembling an armadillo. It's a dinosaur! Blake shoots it and
the natives devour the corpse. Apparently it tastes like crocodile tail. After temporarily
shaking off Strivers and his cannibals, Blake reaches the ruins and discovers the gold.
However, his explorations are interrupted when a herd of dinosaurs enters the city. Fortunately,
the beasts are distracted by the arrival of the pursuing party and poor old Strivers
gets his head bitten off. Blake and co. wait until the herd disperses with the coming
of daylight then build canoes and escape back to civilisation.
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ Strictly a pot-boiler, this is a quick and mildly entertaining read but, with the exception of a very good opening paragraph, it has little else to recommend it. The forest of the title should have a haunting atmosphere but the author was obviously in a hurry. The descriptions don't do it justice and there's no real sense of the mysterious or of oppression and danger. In fact, nothing in this tale is dwelt upon long enough to bring it to life. As for the tribesmen, the pigeon English they speak (and which is used by Blake and Losely when addressing them) is truly appalling: 'Blake strode into the midst of the bearers, a light cane in his hand. "What name this fool palaver?" he said angrily. "You make dem monkey noises, you lib for trouble one time, my word!" And he emphasised his remarks by a cut or two at the nearest bare backs.'
Zenith the Albino and his cohort
Jim the Penman obtain an example of handwriting from the manager of Potter's
Bank. With this, they intend to forge a letter giving them access, in the guise of carpenters,
to Mortlake bank, which they plan to rob. Unfortunately, events go awry when Jim's rough
handling causes the death of the manager. The two criminals depart and, by chance, a
young man named Elphinstone, who is the manager of the Mortlake branch, stumbles upon
the murder scene and is accused of the crime. Sexton Blake and
Detective-Inspector Coutts investigate and, while they are doing so, the Mortlake
Bank is robbed. Blake sees the connection between the two events and ascertains that
Zenith and the Penman are involved. The albino tricks the detective into a rendezvous
at a lodging house known as The Beggars' Hotel and there ambushes him. During a tremendous
fight, Zenith receives a gunshot wound to the shoulder but ultimately his men overpower
Blake. However, Tinker, suspecting that something is wrong, has followed his guv'nor
and now steps in to rescue him. The criminals scatter and escape but there are enough
clues remaining for Blake to be able to run down and arrest Jim the Penman. Elphinstone
is declared innocent.
Trivia: It is confirmed for the first time that Zenith's gang, The League of the Cobblers' Last, is part of the Criminals' Confederation. Tinker goes to the cinema with Nipper ( Nelson Lee's assistant) during this story. George N. Philips was one of the few Blake authors to frequently reference other authors' characters in such a fashion.
Notes: This was based on the silent movie THE FURTHER EXPLOITS OF SEXTON BLAKE
— THE MYSTERY OF THE S.S. OLYMPIC.
Notes: After a series of setbacks at the hands of Sexton Blake, the
Criminals' Confederation has recovered and is now prospering from a secret location
somewhere in London. Despite his best efforts, Blake has been unable to find a single
clue to the nefarious organisation's new headquarters. After yet another fruitless day,
he returns to Baker Street only to find himself confronted by an armed crook. The man
— Simon Martin — says he's willing to reveal the Confederation's whereabouts
in return for a pardon, a reward, police protection and passage to a secret location
overseas. Blake agrees to this but before Martin can utter another word,
Mr Reece appears and shoots him. Blake is unable to catch the master criminal
but all is not lost; Martin is wearing a bullet-proof vest. A call to
Detective-Inspector Coutts brings that worthy gentleman to Blake's door with
a squadron of constables in tow. They bundle Martin into a police van and drive towards
Scotland Yard. En route, a lorry crashes into them and drives away. Blake is knocked
unconscious. An ambulance arrives and Martin is given medicine before Blake is placed
in the vehicle and driven away. Martin collapses — poisoned! The ambulance was
driven by Confederation men and now Sexton Blake is their captive! Meanwhile, in the
Argent Hotel, which is under new management,
Dirk Dolland encounters
Mademoiselle Yvonne, who is waiting to meet Blake. When the detective doesn't
show up, Dolland goes to Baker Street and meets Tinker. While they both wonder where
Blake is, Yvonne is kidnapped. She finds herself at Blake's side in the hands of
Mr John Smith,
Sir Philip Champion and Mr Reece. They are informed that Martin is on the brink
of death. If he betrays the Confederation, they will be killed. If he dies without speaking,
they will live — but as prisoners. Word reaches Smith that Martin has passed away
... without saying a word.
Trivia: Sexton Blake keeps a framed photograph on his desk of Inspector Coutts taken on the day he had accepted an O.B.E. We learn a few more details about Sexton Blake's home, too: an alley leads from Baker Street down the side of the house to the back. A high wall with a gate leads into the paved back yard, in which is Pedro's kennel. A shed is against the house beneath Blake's bedroom window (seems rather risky!) and a back door leads into the kitchen. The ground floor is up one level. Blake's study has a curtained alcove on the right of the fireplace behind which are kept sundry books, an old globe and other clutter. Blake's bedroom opens directly onto the study. This story was rehashed in UNION JACK issue 1,508 THE SQUEALER (1932).
Notes: Sexton Blake teams up with
Nelson Lee in this issue. The story is told through letters written between
Tinker and Nipper, Blake and Lee, and others.
Notes: Three days have passed since Sexton Blake and
Mademoiselle Yvonne were taken prisoner by the
Criminals' Confederation (see
THE INFORMER, UNION JACK issue 858) and, so far, Tinker,
Detective-Inspector Coutts and
Dirk Dolland have found no clue to their whereabouts or to the location of the
organisation's secret headquarters in London. In those headquarters, locked in a cell,
Blake manages to slip a small note into a roll of bread. Uneaten, the roll eventually
finds its way into the hands of a tramp who upon reading that there's a five pound reward
for delivering it to Tinker, takes it to Baker Street. Coutts, Dolland and Tinker are
delighted at this evidence that Blake is still alive, though the detective was unable
to give them a clue to his whereabouts. Tinker, though, questions the tramp and learns
that he was given the roll at the back entrance of the Hotel Argent. Meanwhile, Blake
manages to escape from his cell and out of the Confederation's headquarters via the sewers.
After being attacked by rats and almost drowned, he is swept into the Thames, where he
is rescued by the police. He proceeds to Baker Street and meets up with his friends.
They inform him that his message seems to have originated at the Argent. A telegram arrives
John Smith inviting Blake to dine there. Proceeding to the hotel, Blake &
Co find Mademoiselle Yvonne seated at a dining table with
Sir Philip Champion,
Mr. Reece and John Smith. After an exchange of words the lights go out for thirty
seconds. When they come back on, the criminals and Yvonne have vanished. Blake finds
that their table stands on a concealed trapdoor and realises that the Confederation's
headquarters is beneath the hotel. He has the manager arrested but can't prevent him
from pressing an alarm button. The Confederation members flee through the sewers and
escape with Yvonne still in their custody.
Trivia: This was rehashed in UNION JACK issue 1,508 THE SQUEALER (1932).
Notes: Sexton Blake is asked to look into a spate of cargo robberies along the
Thames. Aboard a steamer, he and the river police disturb a gang of crooks who flee into
the darkness. One man, Ben Webley, is captured. He insists that he is nothing to do with
the gang but refuses to say why he sneaked aboard. Next day, Webley's niece, Nancy, visits
the detective and says that he went to the vessel on her behalf to fetch a note from
her admirer, an American sailor named Pete Radley. However, the letter from Radley asking
him to do this turns out to be a forgery. Webley, it seems, has been set up. After Blake
spots a known criminal named Ethel Matrol lurking near Nancy's tobacco shop, he discovers
that her associates, Dave Brunting and Tandy, are being released from prison. He arranges
to have them detained and he and Tinker disguise themselves as the two crooks. Ethel
makes contact and they find themselves among a twenty-strong gang of thieves in an old
river-facing warehouse. The lights are turned out and the gang leader arrives. He is
a short thick-set man known as
The Owl due to the fact that his eyes glow and he can see perfectly well in
the dark. He calls Blake into his private chamber and the two men don diving suits, pass
through an air-lock, and walk out onto the bed of the Thames. Blake is led to a metal
cylinder located beneath a cargo ship. He realises that the thieves tow this out to the
ships, fill it with stolen cargo, and then sink it to be recovered later. Following The
Owl's instructions, he affixes a chain to it. He and the gang-leader return to the air-lock
and The Owl signals for the container to be winched in. Meanwhile, his gang have been
tipped off that Brunting and Tandy are not who they seem. Tinker is captured but Blake
makes a break for it and fetches police reinforcements. While they are raiding the warehouse
and rounding up the gang, Tinker escapes and follows The Owl as he flees the scene. The
crook drives to an office but, from there, eludes the young detective. Tinker does, however,
learn that his real name
mightem> be Signor Bartello.
Trivia: Tinker was taught the art of escapology by a famous music-hall artiste (the author frequently makes this assertion in his stories).
Notes: Sexton Blake and Tinker accompany Chief Detective-Inspector Lennard to a murder scene where a man named Huggett has been found stabbed to death in his lodgings. His corpse was discovered when a bright green stain was noticed on the ceiling of the parlour beneath his room, this from a pungent chemical that had been spilt on the carpet. Lennard opens a cupboard and finds a second corpse inside it — killed by a gunshot — indicating that a third man must have been present. Blake asserts that this person entered by jumping up to the window, though it seems like an impossible feat. Having come to his conclusions, he then leaves the mystery to Scotland Yard but, nearly two months later, Lennard reports that it remains unsolved. Now, the Yard man is working on a case of fake gold jewellery that's being sold as the real thing. Blake looks into the matter, visits the premises named as the faux gold dealer's office, and discovers a green stain identical to the one at the murder scene. Three days pass, then Tinker witnesses a biplane crash-landing onto a workshop behind a house. He later learns that one of the two survivors is a member of the Wayfarer's Club, to which Blake also belongs. The detective visits the man, who claims that he and his companion were pulled from the burning wreckage by the house owner, Robinson, who though burnt badly appeared to be totally impervious to the pain. Ponting also displays a piece of canvas from the plane that had been stained bright green by something in the workshop. Blake realises that the third individual in the Huggett case, the dealer in fake gold, and Robinson are all the same man: Rupert Waldo! He visits the wrecked workshop, finds evidence that it is where the fake gold was produced, but is then enveloped in a net having walked straight into a trap set by the "Wonder-man." Waldo appears and reveals that he witnessed Huggett's murder through his room's window, leaped up, and fought with the killer. The latter fell over and accidentally shot himself with his own gun. Waldo then discovered Huggett's formula for making gold, took it, and has been taking advantage of it ever since. As he gives this explanation, the good-natured crook fails to notice Tinker creeping up behind him. The youngster hits him over the head, knocks him cold, and liberates Blake. The net is then employed to bind the criminal. The police are summoned and Waldo is given into their custody ... from which he immediately escapes.
Trivia: This story is recounted in first person by Tinker who refers to it as a "curious, patchy kind of case." Indeed, it's made clear that there are other cases being pursued at the same time as this one.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ The bright and breezy writing style makes this an appealing story but the case is so illogical and so dependent on coincidences that it's entirely unconvincing.
Notes: Blake, Tinker and Pedro are enjoying a fishing trip on the Norfolk Broads when they encounter a young woman in distress outside an isolated old house. Inside it, Blake finds a murdered man and is still present when a second man comes creeping in. This proves to be G. J. Egerton, an eccentric naturalist and the owner of the property. He lives in a houseboat nearby and subsists by renting the house to visitors to the Broads. The most recent tenant was a man named Mace, who a Mr Rigshaw — guardian to the young lady — had come to visit. Rigshaw conducts a mysterious business via the post, and it was a letter received that had prompted him to come to see Mace. Upon arrival, they had joined a party of a dozen men. The girl went to bed. In the morning, she discovered the house empty and Rigshaw dead. Blake begins to investigate and discovers in the kitchen twelve tumblers, each different to the others; a magnifying glass; a tea tray; a stick of chalk; and a ten-year-old letter to Scotland Yard giving the address of "the man you are looking for" and on which a thumb-print is clearly marked. The same print is on the magnifier. Blake theorises that Rigshaw wrote the letter, which resulted in Mace ("the man") being sent to prison. The latter, though, was recently released, so gathered his associates, collected their thumb-prints on the tumblers, identified the writer of the letter by means of that evidence, and took his revenge. Blake realises that Egerton was one of the twelve men present. He demands to know how they were summoned and agrees to give Egerton five minutes to get away — since he has no evidence that he has committed any crime — in return for that information. Egerton tells him that Mace summoned them in the name of the League of the Last, a branch of the Criminals' Confederation, and signed the order with the mark of Monsieur Zenith. Blake calls Detective-Inspector Coutts who, after consulting the records, states that the decade-old letter concerned a murderer named Shandon. Blake thinks that this man — who's been using the name "Mace" — is bound to return to the house to retrieve the incriminating letter. This is also the opinion of Egerton, who's left a letter for Blake to find in which he states that he has been selected by the League to kill Shandon for his misuse of Zenith's signature and would rather the detective capture that man than he have to commit murder. So Blake lies in wait and pounces when the killer arrives. After a brutal fight, the crook flees to Egerton's houseboat but Blake catches him and binds him hand and foot. The boat, however, has broken its moorings and is drifting toward a sluice. Reluctantly, Blake cuts his prisoner loose and allows him to swim to safety. Farther downriver, he himself gains the shore and sets off in search of a house. He finds one, only to discover that it’s occupied by Zenith and a woman named Mademoiselle Louise de la Beaucaire. Zenith invites the detective in to tend his wounds and dine but the peace doesn't last long — Oaklahoma Sam arrives to announce that Tinker has been captured ... and all hell lets loose. A terrific battle breaks out and Blake is in dire straits until, just in the nick of time, Coutts arrives with reinforcements. Zenith and his cohorts escape but Blake is saved from certain death. The albino sends Pedro to find his master ... after strapping a time bomb to the bloodhound! Tinker fights free, sets off after the dog, and after a thrilling chase, manages to disarm the infernal device. The next evening, Blake returns to the isolated house, thinking that Shandon is probably hiding there. Zenith has thought the same, and when the detective arrives, they're already surrounding it. Inside the residence, Shandon knocks the already weakened Blake unconscious. When he spots the men surrounding the house, he mistakes them for Coutts and the police, so takes Blake's clothes and exits, only to be shot dead in the investigator's stead. Zenith's gang departs, satisfied that their worst enemy is no more.
Notes: While the police clear out and search the Argent Hotel — formerly
the headquarters of the
Criminals' Confederation — Sexton Blake,
Dirk Dolland and
Detective-Inspector Coutts show the Home Secretary around. During the tour,
they encounter a disguised Confederation man who seems to be searching for something.
He escapes and, after a fruitless chase, Blake returns to Baker Street. Later, he is
visited by Coutts who tells him that the Home Secretary and
Sir Henry Fairfax, head of Scotland Yard, have both been kidnapped by the nefarious
organisation. The detective receives a letter from
John Smith, President of the Confederation, in which a compact is proposed:
the two men will be returned safely provided one of Smith's men is allowed to enter the
hotel unhampered and unwatched for ten minutes. An accompanying letter from the Home
Secretary bids Blake accept the deal, so he does. After the Confederation man has made
his visit, Blake investigates and find that something was retrieved from a secret compartment
in a piece of furniture. When Coutts tries to open it, there is a massive explosion which,
miraculously, everyone survives unscathed. Meanwhile, a meeting of the Confederation
is called and
Mr. Reece gains support for his proposal to kill Blake & Co. once and for
all. This runs counter to the wishes of John Smith and
Sir Philip Champion and marks Reece's ascendency within the organisation. Now
operating under the name the Tip Top Film Company, the Confederation sends a man to Baker
Street who proposes that Blake and his friends should portray themselves in a film about
their fight against the criminal gang. It will be, they are told, a wonderful item of
propaganda against the Confederation. This argument persuades them and soon Blake, Dolland,
Tinker and Coutts find themselves tied to pillars in a film studio to enact an action
scene. However, when
Mademoiselle Yvonne is brought out and tied up with them, Blake realises that
they've fallen into a trap. Reece sets fire to the studio and the Confederation men depart,
leaving the detective and his friends to burn to death. Pedro comes to the rescue, chewing
through his master's bonds. They all escape the blaze but fail to recapture Reece and
his cohorts, who sail away on a yacht.
Trivia: This was rehashed in UNION JACK issue 1,513 CROOKS DIVIDED (1932).
Detective-Inspector Coutts visits Baker Street to inform Sexton Blake that the
yacht belonging to the
Criminals' Confederation has sunk in a storm. Pieces of wreckage have been discovered
on the Belgian coast and among them have been found, apparently, the bodies of
Sir Philip Champion and
Mr. Reece. Coutts has with him photographs flown over from Belgium; they show
the corpses of the three criminals. Coutts leaves for the continent to examine the bodies.
Meanwhile, Dolland goes home and finds a letter, delivered the day before, which invites
him to help retrieve — and take a share in — a large amount of stolen loot.
He suspects that this might be a hidden cache left by the Confederation and kicks himself
that he's missed the appointment with its mystery writer. Shoving the letter into his
coat pocket he goes to his club. When he leaves, he finds that his hat and coat have
been accidentally given to someone else. He traces this person to 14 Stamford Row and
finds the man in the house slumped across his desk, seemingly dead. Moments later, though,
the man revives and tells Dolland to call the police. Dolland leaves the house but remembers
that there was a telephone in it and so returns. He finds that the man has vanished.
A search reveals that he was the person responsible for the letter and Dolland suddenly
realises that he might have walked into a trap. He hastily leaves the house just as a
taxi cab draws up. Inside it, Dolland sees John Smith! The taxi speeds away and Dolland
goes to Baker Street and tells Sexton Blake the full story. Blake identifies the house-owner
as Denver-Maughan, a shady criminal lawyer. However, having received a telegram from
Coutts which confirms that the three dead bodies are definitely Smith, Champion and Reece
— all now buried — the detective refuses to believe that it was Smith that
Dolland saw. Things get worse for Dolland;
Detective-Inspector Teach arrives and arrests him on a charge of attempted murder.
A safe-deposit room has been broken into and Dolland's hat was found at the scene. The
deposit box broken into, it turns out, belonged to Denver-Maughan. Blake takes the investigation
back to 14 Stamford Row where he finds John Smith and immediately handcuffs him. Smith
explains that Reece is now president of the Criminals' Confederation and that Denver-Maughan
had been the organisation's treasurer. The deposit box had contained the Confederations'
loot, which they have now reclaimed. Blake reflects that while Smith is at last captured,
the Confederation will become much more ruthless with Reece at its head.
Trivia: It's not explained how the three corpses were so convincingly those of Smith, Champion and Reece. This story was rehashed in UNION JACK issue 1,513 CROOKS DIVIDED (1932).
Notes: Sexton Blake teams up with
Nelson Lee in this issue.
Notes: George Jacob Smith receives a death sentence for the murder of the artist
Sir John Grad, for whom he was a butler. Sir John had been killed in a room containing
four life-sized statues. The only way in or out of the room is via a corridor in which
the butler had been seen at the time of the crime. Elsie West, his fiancé, calls
for aid from Sexton Blake, insisting that her intended is innocent. The detective, while
investigating the artist's empty house, interrupts a burglar who, after a terrific fight,
gets away without recovering what he had come for. Blake is able to identify the man
as a model named Shrai who had posed for Sir John. He visits the man's lodgings where
Zenith the Albino and
Oaklahoma Sam. After being captured, he is driven away in a mock ambulance and
taken to an iron foundry where
The League of the Cobbler's Last have gathered. While he awaits his fate, Pedro,
who followed the ambulance, arrives and is told to fetch Tinker. Zenith orders Blake
to be put to death beneath a giant press. At the very last moment before the detective's
Detective-Inspector Coutts and a squad of policemen crash into the factory aboard
a small goods train and a battle ensues. Many of the gang are rounded up but Zenith gets
away. Learning that the albino will be attending a masked ball that evening, Blake, Coutts
and Tinker also make an appearance. Once again, though, Zenith eludes them. The Baker
Street detective once again visits the home of Sir John and here he finds Shai who, in
attempting to tackle Blake, is crushed when one of the statues falls on him. He confesses
to the murder of the artist. George Jacob Smith is set free from prison.
Notes: While Sexton Blake and
Detective-Inspector Coutts puzzle over the fact that
Mr. Reece and
Sir Philip Champion are apparently alive, despite the fact that Coutts saw their
Dirk Dolland encounters a new mystery. Gun shots are heard from the apartment
below his in Jermyn Street. When he investigates, he finds that the shots were fired
in a room locked from the inside ... but the room is empty! When the coat Dolland lost
the previous day is found, the ex-burglar realises that the apartment had been occupied
Villiers, the man who had stolen the funds belonging to the
Criminals' Confederation. He then intercepts a message to Villiers from Mr.
Reece. It instructs the man to meet Reece at a certain house, wearing a disguise. Dolland
decides to take Villier's place. Meanwhile, Blake is summoned to prison by
Mr. John Smith who informs him that Mr. Reece intends to betray the Confederation
by meeting with Villiers and making off with the funds. The detective visits Dolland
in time to see his disguised friend depart on a mysterious errand. He follows but a gunshot
from an unknown source injures Tinker and delays Blake, who loses track of his quarry.
Dolland travels to an isolated cottage in Devon where he meets with Reece and manages
to overpower him. Blake, meanwhile, follows on Dolland's tracks and finds Villiers, who
has been caught by the police. He then encounters Dolland and is astounded to see that
Mr. Reece has, at last, been captured.
Trivia: This takes place the day following DIRK DOLLAND'S DILEMMA (Union Jack issue 869). The story was rehashed in UNION JACK issue 1,518 THE SHADOW (1932).
Notes: Blake and Tinker are holidaying in Hampton on the Thames. One morning
they find a dead rabbit drained of its blood.
Detective-Inspector Coutts arrives and reports that a man has been pulled from
the river, having died a similar death to the rabbit's. Blake is visited by a young man
named Willington-Smale. His uncle, a professor who lives on a houseboat, has forbidden
him to marry his ward, Nora Grierson — Blake surmises that this is because the
old man is misappropriating her trusteeship funds. Willington-Smale tells him that one
night he found himself paralysed and noticed a haze in his room. Blake examines his wrist
and finds a puncture wound. Later, during a crooked gambling party thrown by the uncle,
Blake poses as the young man's valet and foils a plot to kidnap Miss Greirson. He then
sabotages the means through which the gamblers are being cheated. The whole operation,
he deduces, is being run by the
League of the Cobblers' Last, that branch of
The Criminals' Confederation overseen by
Zenith the Albino. The professor is obviously an accomplice of this villainous
organisation. Clues suggest that the recent deaths have been caused by a giant venomous
spider. Next morning, Blake is overcome by a paralysis and the death-spider, exuding
a deadly miasma, appears and bites his wrist. Tinker arrives just in time and, after
flicking the spider aside, applies a tourniquet to his guv'nor's arm. The professor is
less lucky; just after telephoning Zenith to ask for assistance, he is killed by the
spider which is then crushed by Blake. Tinker sets off to fetch the police. Meanwhile
Zenith arrives and captures Blake, binding him to a chair and leaving him alone aboard
the houseboat with a time bomb ticking away. It explodes, setting the boat alight and,
as it sinks, Blake sinks with it — only to be rescued by Tinker once again. They
race after Zenith. The trail leads to a riverside factory which the police successfully
raid before lying in wait for the albino. When he arrives and is cornered, he pulls a
bomb from his cloak and threatens to set it off. They back away from him and he flees,
leaving the bomb behind. Upon closer inspection, it proves to be a box of chocolates!
Trivia: There's a nice passage in this tale in which Blake contemplates the fact that Tinker is 'destined for greatness' and will, ultimately, be the man to beat all the master criminals.
Mr Reece receives a long prison sentence. While in court he threatens that '
the Shadow' will have vengeance. During the following night, Sexton Blake receives
a call from
Detective-Inspector Coutts who informs him that the judge who convicted Reece
has been murdered. At the scene of the crime, "The Shadow has avenged" has been written
on a mirror and the only opening into the room through which the killer could have passed
suggests that the villain is freakishly small, though fiendishly strong. Later that night,
Blake himself is attacked in his bedroom. He manages to survive but doesn't catch sight
of his assailant, who escapes in the dark. Next morning, Coutts and Blake decide to visit
John Smith in prison but when they get there they find that he's been strangled
to death. Later the same day,
Sir Philip Champion telephones the detective and warns him that Reece is about
to escape from Pentonville. Blake races back to the prison but too late; in the midst
of a pre-arranged riot, the new president of the
Criminals' Confederation has been sprung!
Trivia: This story was rehashed under the same title in UNION JACK issue 1,518 (1932).
Notes: An invitation to a masked charity ball arrives at Baker Street. The event
is to be hosted by Lord Stedley at the Orient Hospital. With Sexton Blake not due back
from Paris in time to attend, Tinker invites the
Hon. John Lawless. Costumes are delivered to Baker Street with compliments from
Stedley and, in due course, the duo arrive at the sparkling affair, which is also attended
by the Maharajah of Muralpoor, who sports a massive jewel on his turban. A waiter shows
Tinker and Lawless to Box 6. A little time later, he returns to tell them that someone
wishes to see them. He leads them to the foyer but whoever it was has gone. As they return
to the box, all the lights go out. In the darkness, they stumble over an unconscious
man. The lights come back on to reveal the Maharajah — minus the jewel! The next
day Blake returns and agrees with Tinker that someone had tried to frame them for the
robbery. The fact that it occurred in the dark leads them to suspect
The Owl. While tracing the origin of the costumes, Tinker spots the waiter and
follows him to a tenement building. Given the opportunity to search the man's room, the
youngster slips in only to find himself face-to-face with The Owl. The crook knocks him
unconscious and leaves him bound and gagged on a bed. Meanwhile, Blake follows a man
who recovers the costume used by the thief and is led towards the tenement building.
John Lawless encounters one of The Owl's henchmen,
Big Harry, who is in possession of the diamond and arranging to take it to Amsterdam.
Lawless engages in a fist-fight with this man, takes the gem, then reads a note from
The Owl which instructs Harry to meet him at the tenement. Lawless goes there and, with
Blake's help, rescues Tinker and tackles The Owl. The latter, though, thanks to his ability
to see in the dark, manages to escape.
Trivia: Sir Richard Losely and Lobangu make a fleeting appearance.
Notes: The manager of Lyverett Mansions — a block of flats in London's Maida Vale district — brings a mystery to Sexton Blake's attention. A Greek millionaire named Polacoss rented one of the apartments three weeks ago but, though there's evidence that he makes use of it, he has never once been seen there, and the staff are getting the jitters. At the Greek Embassy, Blake learns that Polacoss has come to England to sell three steamers to a shipping company. The deal will be completed tomorrow and the money handed over. As evening draws in, the detective and his assistant visit the scene of the mystery. Tinker climbs an external service lift, breaks into the flat, and conceals himself. The tenant arrives and though the flat is utterly without light he spots the hideaway, knocks him unconscious, and ties him up ... he can see in the dark! He is Count Bonali aka The Owl! Meanwhile, Blake, going in disguise to a Greek social club, is there informed that a blind man, upon being told that Polacoss was coming to England, had taken great interest in him. Given descriptions of this man and of the tycoon, Blake realises that an impersonator is attempting to swindle money out of the shipping company. After gaining the blind man's address, Blake goes there and breaks into the unlit residence. He engages in a ferocious fight with its unseen occupant, who manages to escape. Blake returns to Baker Street, finds that Tinker is missing, and goes back to Lyverett Mansions, where he meets with his assistant just as the youngster escapes his bonds. They hide as The Owl arrives carrying an unconscious man — the real Polacoss — over his shoulder. They ambush him but he evades them and speeds away in a car. Blake gives chase in a taxi while Tinker goes to the aid of Polacoss. The plot is foiled ... but Blake's taxi breaks down and the Owl gets away.
Trivia: Blake speaks Greek fluently. Tinker "had practiced the art of getting out of bonds under one of the greatest music-hall experts of the day."
The author explains in detail that it is illegal to enter a house without permission but then has both Blake and Tinker "breaking and entering" without any just cause.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Considering the other cases of this period, Blake's initial interest in the minor mystery of an unseen tenant is rather unconvincing.
Notes: With this issue, UNION JACK introduces a colour cover, increased page
count and a new price of 2d. Story features
Notes: An ex-jailbird named Carne writes to Sexton Blake to tell him that he
has information concerning the whereabouts of
Mr Reece. However, when Blake,Tinker and Pedro go to meet him at his tobacco
shop, they get lost in a dense London fog. Attracted by a woman's scream, they enter
a store and become separated. Blake finds evidence that the scream came from
Mademoiselle Yvonne (though this turns out to be a ruse) but before he can investigate
he is attacked and rendered unconscious by
The Shadow. Tinker is confronted by Reece, who pulls a lever which opens the
floor, sending Tinker and Pedro hurtling into a sewer which washes them into the Thames.
The youngster is dragged ashore by the bloodhound and is found by
Sergeant Mace, with whom he goes to Carne's shop, only to find the old crook
dead, murdered by The Shadow. Meanwhile,
Sir Philip Champion visits
Detective-Inspector Coutts at Scotland Yard and informs him that he wants revenge
on Reece for the murder of
John Smith and will take the Yard man to where the villain is hiding. Coutts
accompanies Champion to the premises where Blake was overpowered but it has been booby-trapped
and he and Champion find themselves trapped in a blazing inferno. Tinker and Mace come
to the rescue, having used Pedro to follow The Shadow's trail from Carne's shop. The
bloodhound then follows Blake's scent. The detective has recovered consciousness and
been introduced to The Shadow — a boy-like killer who happens to be Reece's son.
The crooks leave Blake in the keeping of four thugs, who have orders to hang him at dawn.
Pedro leads Tinker and Coutts to the detective's rescue and, led by Champion, and in
Richard Test's speedboat, they all pursue the criminals who are fleeing aboard
a ship. Reece, though, has planned ahead — he and his son transfer to a seaplane
Trivia: An excellent story for Pedro fans! It was reprinted in UNION JACK issue 1,247 as BEHIND THE FOG (1933).
Notes: One night, during a ferocious storm, Fortescue Thurston places a letter in his safe that, the following morning, will bring him a great deal of money. Outside his residence, a police constable notices a woman with a pistol lurking in Thurston's garden. He clambers over the wall but slips and knocks himself out. Seconds later, a massive bolt of lightning hits the house and destroys the study. When help arrives, Thurston, who has survived the disaster, demands that the safe be recovered from the rubble. However, when the police unearth the heavy metal pedestal upon which the safe had stood, they discover that the strongbox has vanished. Sexton Blake happens upon the scene and Thurston commissions him to find the safe, which contains diamonds along with the essential letter. The criminologist discovers evidence that someone had been concealed behind a screen in the study when the lightning struck ... and further proof that a woman had been at the window. When the unconscious constable is discovered, the police authorities, thinking he was attacked, get on the wrong track. Blake, though, realises that the woman is the key and uses Pedro to track her scent straight to ... Baker Street! Waiting in his consulting room, she introduces herself as Irene Sylvester and begs him to come to see her father, who is being blackmailed by Thurston. She'd been attempting to confront the villain herself but was driven away by the storm. Mr Sylvester is waiting for Blake at a near-abandoned warehouse on the riverfront. Blake promises to do as she asks but, after she's departed, he sets Tinker to follow her, and the youngster trails her to the warehouse where she is attacked by two ruffians. When he intervenes, it proves to be a trick, and Tinker is overpowered, captured, and imprisoned on a barge. The next day, Blake visits the warehouse and is greeted by the girl. She introduces him to her father but the detective hasn't been fooled — he reaches out and rips the wig from her head, revealing her to be Frank "Sissy" Hudson, a crook and female impersonator. Handcuffing him, Blake then turns his attention to Mr. Sylvester, whom he identifies as a disguised Rupert Waldo. Holding him at gunpoint, the detective confesses that he's known all along that Waldo was responsible for removing the safe (who else could be strong enough!) and that he was aware that "Sissy" was luring him into a trap to get him out of the way. Waldo divulges that Hudson had been commissioned to steal a document from the safe and had asked the Wonder-man to help him, with the diamonds as the reward. The storm had ruined their plan but Waldo had, nevertheless, managed to make off with the safe. The diamonds and documents are now in a barge on the river ... and so is Tinker ... except, unknown to Waldo, the lad has escaped and now pounces, throwing a thick ship's rope around the master crook and binding him tightly. On the barge, Tinker's former captors are expecting Blake to be unconscious and lowered to them by crane in a large bucket, so the detective has himself sent down by this means in order to surprise them. Unfortunately, after Tinker starts to turn the crank, Hudson gloats that a link in the chain is stretched to breaking point and Blake is about to plunge to his death. Upon hearing this, Waldo demonstrates a remarkable feat of strength by breaking his bonds, diving out of the window, and grabbing the snapping chain so that he forms a human link between the upper part of it and the lower, to which the bucket containing Blake is attached. He keeps hold until Tinker lowers the bucket to the barge. By now the police are closing in. Grateful for his life having been saved, Blake allows Waldo to flee the scene. Hudson and his cohorts are arrested, though, and the stolen items are recovered. Thurston reveals that the letter contains evidence against a man who once blackmailed him.
Trivia: Much of this story is recounted in first person by Tinker.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ The entire story is a set up for the stunt, which was probably thrilling in the days before superheroes. For the modern reader, unfortunately, it's pretty mild stuff.
Notes: Jacob Donnithorpe, a diamond dealer, discovers that the famous Rhanee's
diamond which had been in his safe has been replaced by a clumsy imitation. He consults
Sexton Blake and it's quickly revealed that Mrs Donnithorpe took the diamond to use while
crystal-gazing and was drugged while looking into it. The gem was then stolen and switched
with the dud. The detective pays a visit to Mrs Donnithorpe's psychic; a man known as
Kraken. He turns out to be
Zenith the Albino and Blake soon finds himself surrounded by members of the
League of the Cobblers' Last. Making a daring escape, he summons
Detective-Inspector Coutts and 'Kraken's' house is raided by the police. Zenith
slips through the cordon but his car is followed by Tinker. However, Blake's assistant
is spotted and attacked. Thinking him dead, Zenith continues on to an old windmill. Tinker,
who was only faking, calls Blake who arrives in time to save the lad from a second attack,
this time from a recently released prisoner who had grown suspicious while asking directions
to the mill. This man, Bentinct, is a diamond cutter, summoned by Zenith to break up
the Rhanee's diamond. Blake disguises himself as Bentinct and heads for the mill but
he is seen and followed by
Oaklahoma Sam who, in turn, is observed and followed by Tinker. Upon arrival,
the detective and albino fight a pitched battle which first favours the one man and then
the other until, finally, Coutts arrives with his men. Zenith escapes and climbs out
onto one of the windmill's sails. They revolve under his weight, lowering him to the
ground and he races away. Blake has, at least, recovered the stolen diamond. He goes
in search of Zenith's lover,
Mademoiselle Louise de la Beaucaire, who had been seen in the albino's car.
The detective finds the car concealed in a gravel pit. He also finds Zenith and the girl
there. When the master criminal tries to back the car out of the pit, an accident occurs
and Blake, acting instinctively, saves the couple from certain death. The detective and
his opponent engage in hand-to-hand combat and plunge into a sheer-sided pool. Zenith
is pulled out by Louise ... and, returning the earlier favour, he then saves Blake's
life — though not without first extracting a promise of one hour's grace in which
to make his getaway.
Notes: The Marquis of Hammerton consults Sexton Blake after his huge collection
of rubies disappears overnight. The gems were taken from showcases in his library but
how this was done is a mystery, since the room in question is so secure that it's virtually
a bank vault. At Hammerton's house,
Detective-Inspector Lennard is at a loss and greets Blake warmly. He shows the
detective the scene of the crime and, like the Scotland Yard man, Blake can see no clue
as to how the burglary was committed. However, when Hammerton mentions that the antique
table in the library was a gift which had arrived just the day before, Blake's interest
is aroused. The piece of furniture, he learns, was sent by a Chinese mandarin named Si
Fang Chu who had visited the house the previous week. Some moments later, while the detective
is examining the grounds, a letter arrives from Si Fang Chu. In it, the oriental informs
Hammerton that he had accidentally made a gift of the wrong table. He asks that it be
returned via a truck that is waiting outside and he promises that a better table will
be delivered in its stead. Upon learning of this, Sexton Blake examines the table. Though
he finds nothing suspicious, his attentions have a startling affect: its top slides open
Rupert Waldo emerges from hiding! The crook admits that he was the Chinaman
and then renders Blake and Hammerton unconscious with knockout gas. Waldo places the
detective in the table, which is then loaded into the truck and driven away. The crook
leaves the house, eludes a pursuing Tinker, and returns to his flat. However, Blake,
who had faked unconsciousness, is waiting with reinforcements and Waldo finds himself
captured. The detective recovers the rubies but Waldo breaks his bonds, leaps through
a window and escapes.
Trivia: Blake is paid £20,000 for this case and also receives a priceless ruby as a token of thanks.
Notes: Having escaped from Sexton Blake in England,
Mr Reece and his son,
The Shadow, drive to Paris and set up headquarters in a secret room of the Hotel
des Vielle Temps. Here they meet Number 444,444, the head of the
Criminals' Confederation's New York branch. Reece gives him a four-part mission:
to set up a new HQ in London, to kill Sexton Blake, to recover the half million in cash
that had been stolen by
Villiers, and to undertake a scheme which will net the Confederation billions
of pounds. Some days later, in the restaurant of London's Argent Hotel,
Dirk Dolland bumps into an old friend; a thief named Ned Hatton. This man challenges
him to prove that he has not lost his skill — he wagers that Dolland cannot remove
a revolver from an American's room without getting caught. Dolland makes the attempt
but is discovered by the American, whose name is Colonel Quartz, and is forced to sign
a document agreeing that he will do the colonel one service when called upon to do so.
The call comes very soon: Dolland is dining with Sexton Blake, Tinker,
Mademoiselle Yvonne and
Detective-Inspector Coutts when Quartz asks to be introduced. He ingratiates
himself with the diners and informs them that he has purchased a stable and that he has
a horse, Silverheels, which is sure to win a double even though most people regard it
as a dud. A bookmaker, overhearing this, allows Quartz to place a bet which, if the horse
wins, will net him millions. Coutts, meanwhile, has news: Villiers has told him where
the Confederation money is hidden — it's in the flat below Dolland's! Accompanied
by Quartz, Blake and Co. go there and find the strongbox. Suddenly, the lights go out
and the box is snatched from Coutts's hands. Dolland thinks he catches a glimpse of Ned
Hatton but they are unable to catch him. Over the next few days, Quartz lays bigger and
bigger bets on his horse. When it wins the first of the two races, the bookmakers start
to panic. Blake and his friends are invited to Quartz's estate for the second race. During
the night, Blake overhears, via the chimney, the colonel conversing with Hatton and The
Shadow. He realises that Quartz is the Confederation's agent and that Silverheels is
being doped. At the second race, the police close in and Quartz and The Shadow are arrested.
Hatton escapes with the Confederation loot.
Trivia: This story was rewritten for UNION JACK issue 1,529 SEXTON BLAKE WINS! (1933).
Notes: Young Lord Elsingham has recently arrived in Britain from South Africa
after learning that he's inherited the Elsingham title and estates. He's also inherited
the family ghost, which supposedly visits each Lord Elsingham three times: the first
to warn; the second to doom; and the third to escort him into the spirit world. The previous
two Lords both died violent deaths after seeing the ghost — and the current one
visits Sexton Blake, afraid that the same will happen to him, having already seen the
ghost once. Travelling to Lavernock Hall, on the coast, Blake and Tinker see, spying
on them from a nearby house, a recluse named Detton. Upon arrival at the hall, they are
visited by the apparition of an old man. Blake dives at it but it vanishes in a cloud
of smoke and the detective is then distracted from following by the collapse of his host.
Elsingham has been struck by some sort of well-aimed gas cloud. The detective performs
artificial respiration and, as Elsingham revives, a girl arrives. Gwendoline Detton is
the recluse's daughter and Elsingham's fiancee. Blake is shocked when the butler, Dent,
angrily orders her out of the house before, himself, being dismissed by the young baron.
The detective discovers that the 'ghost' — which he suspects was Dent — had
appeared via a secret passage. They follow this into deep dark caves and to the mouth
of a pit. Here, they are attacked and Pedro is thrown into the well, landing with a splash
at the bottom. Their unknown assailant escapes, so Blake and Tinker make their way back
to the house, where they are rejoined by their bloodhound, who had been swept out to
sea via the caves. At the recluse's cottage, Detton — who is one and the same man
as Dent — sits in conference with
Zenith the Albino. Detton reckons to be the real Lord Elsingham and intends
to murder Sexton Blake's client in order to reclaim the title. The albino has agreed
to help (Detton is No. 2,736 in the League of the Cobblers' Last) but in payment wants
to gain possession of an oil painting belonging to Elsingham. This picture contains the
secret to a hidden treasure. Blake discovers the secret but is overheard by Zenith, who,
with his gang, rushes to a nearby island where the valuables are buried. Blake and Tinker
follow in an aeroplane and crash land on the island. Blake captures Zenith, who then
tries to escape in the plane. The detective leaps into it and they fight while the aircraft
spins out of control. Blake overcomes his opponent but Zenith escapes and calls in the
Criminals' Confederation. They steal the treasure from the detective but Tinker
has the last laugh, and the crooks depart empty handed.
Julian Villiers, the
Criminals' Confederation man, is executed in prison. Moments later, a police
constable is shot dead and a note, in
Mr Reece's handwriting, is found pinned to his corpse. It reads:
In memory of Julian Villiers.
Detective-Inspector Coutts receives a phone call from Reece. The villain promises
The Shadow and
Colonel Quartz aren't released within 24 hours, a police constable will be murdered
every hour. Coutts sends Sergeant Brown to trace the call. The Sergeant rushes to a callbox
at Westminster Bridge Station ... and a short time later is found inside it — almost
dead from asphyxiation! Once again, there is a note from Reece claiming responsibility.
Blake thinks they are being fooled — that Reece can't possibly have made his way
back into Britain from France ... but when Reece calls him at Scotland yard and tells
him to return home for proof, the detective — after narrowly avoiding a booby trap
— finds that the criminal mastermind has taken a photograph of himself in the consulting
room! The next day, Reece's campaign begins and each hour a policeman is shot dead or
badly wounded. Blake arranges to be in court for the trial of The Shadow and Colonel
Quartz and there he spots a man communicating via blinked Morse Code with Quartz. The
man is captured by Coutts. The message is in code but once Blake cracks it he discovers
that an attempt to free the prisoners will be made when they are transported back to
Brixton Prison. Upon learning that they are already on their way, the detective gives
chase and arrives just as the attempt is made. He manages to prevent The Shadow's escape
but cannot stop Quartz from fleeing. Later, Blake examines the man from the court and
is able to connect him with Pontori's International Circus. While he is doing this, Tinker
is kidnapped. Reece calls the detective and informs him that Tinker,
Mademoiselle Yvonne and
Dirk Dolland are prisoners of the Confederation and will be killed if The Shadow
isn't released by 10pm. Blake and Coutts lead a police raid on the circus and there capture
Mr Reece. The three captives are found and released. Quartz, though, remains at large.
Trivia: Detective-Inspector Coutts and his wife have a baby son. In SUSPENDED FROM DUTY (UNION JACK issue 1,519, 26/11/1932) another son, named Tom, is mentioned. He was killed in the Great War.
Notes: After the suspicious death of her sister, Florence Carshalton asks Sexton
Blake to investigate. He visits her home and discovers clues which suggest that her uncle
Vulpin, who is also her guardian, is attempting to kill her so that he might inherit
her fortune. Blake finds the house is thick with the scent of flowers and Florence, who
has now fallen ill, is being denied fresh air. Vulpin has developed a species of tulip
with toxic pollen and has employed these as a means of murder. Tinker follows the villain
to an opium den where, to his shock, he finds that Vulpin has a double identity and is,
in fact, a Chinaman named Wing Lo. Captured and bound, Tinker is thrown into a river
but, fortunately, an apparently oblivious opium addict had passed him a knife, so he
is able to free himself and escape drowning. Meanwhile, Wing Lo is visited by
Zenith the Albino who informs him that the
Criminals' Confederation has organised a convention to which he, Wing Lo, is
invited. At this, the opium addict comes to life, proving to be a disguised Sexton Blake.
The detective captures the two villains and then leaves the building only to run into
Detective-Inspector Coutts, who has been fetched by Tinker. They raid the opium
den but find that
Oklahoma Sam has liberated Zenith and murdered Wing Lo. Blake, Tinker, Coutts
and a squadron of police constables next gather on Lindisfarne Island where the Confederation
is due to meet. From hiding, they observe the arrival of
Waldo the Wonder-Man,
Count Ivor Carlac,
George Marsden Plummer and Zenith, who is accompanied by Oklahoma Sam,
Captain Starlight and a handsome youth. The meeting commences but when a Scotland
Yard man enters the scene and proves to be an agent for the villainous organisation,
Coutts is so infuriated that he launches an attack. Blake and his allies have little
choice but to join the battle, though the odds seem hopelessly against them. However,
when a massive storm strikes the island, the fight is abandoned and everyone runs for
cover. Some hours later, Blake and his friends emerge from shelter and find that the
Confederation forces have escaped ... except for Oklahoma Sam and the youth, who proves
to be a disguised
Louise de la Beaucaire. These two stand guard over the dying Zenith, who has
been crushed by a falling wall. The albino utters a few words of farewell to the detective
and passes away. Oklahoma Sam is arrested.
Trivia: Sexton Blake has roses in the back garden at Baker Street. However, in most mentions of the house's rear, there is a walled yard rather than a garden.