Publishing: Harold William Twyman becomes the Editor of UNION JACK (replacing Walter Shute) while Leonard Pratt takes over the SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY.
Notes: Sir Charles Appier and his daughter Beatrice are playing host to a Roumanian
envoy named Stephanos, who is the target of frequent assassination attempts. Though a
brute and tyrant, this man is of great political importance; his death could lead to
another world war. Appier and his daughter encounter an Irishman named McDermott who
looks uncannily similar to Stephanos, so they arrange through devious means for him to
be their guest. Not knowing the true reason for their hospitality, McDermott soon falls
in love with Beatrice. However, after attempts are made on his life, he becomes suspicious.
When he learns that
Zenith the Albino is behind the attacks, he leaves the Appiers and visits Sexton
Blake. Beatrice catches up with him at the detective's Baker Street home and confesses
all. Realising that the girl returns his love, McDermott agrees to continue the charade
but as he leaves the house he is kidnapped by Zenith's gang, the
League of the Last. Sexton Blake follows the clues to a hotel where the League
has its headquarters. There he attempts a rescue but is captured. One of the League disguises
himself as Blake and sets a false trail in order to throw the police off the scent. Zenith
Criminals' Confederation to this but forgets to tell the
Kestrel Syndicate. Kestrel's men mistake the gang member for Blake and kill
him. Meanwhile, after fighting off
Oklahoma Sam, Blake is sentenced to death by Zenith. He is taken to a wireless
room at the top of the hotel and wired up to the equipment. When the next call —
due in 20 minutes — arrives, he will be electrocuted. Tinker mounts a rescue mission
and, after a tussle with
Captain Starlight, manages to free Blake. However, they find that the hotel
is burning. Blake carries Starlight to safety across a narrow beam but Tinker is left
behind. The detective races back into the flames to perform a daring rescue and the two
men barely escape with their lives. The next morning, Beatrice Appier learns from Blake
that McDermott is still in the hands of Zenith. Furthermore, evidence comes to light
that the arch-crook is planning to kill the Roumanian envoy at a fancy dress ball. He
almost succeeds — hidden behind a harlequin costume, Zenith kidnaps Stephanos and
replaces him with a drugged McDermott, which fools
Inspector Coutts but not Sexton Blake. The detective manages to snatch the envoy
from Zenith's grasp, though, as ever, the wily albino escapes capture.
Notes: Sexton Blake meets with Admiral Sir Richard Thorpe who informs
him that information about a new torpedo-boat harbour are being leaked to a foreign
power. Agreeing to investigate, the detective moves to the little town near the
harbour and explores it and the construction site in search of clues. He finds
nothing until he hears tell of a mad woman who lives at Merrilees Farm on the
high downland and who waves her lantern about each night, signalling to her fisherman
husband who had died many years before. This makes him realise how easily a signal
could be sent out to sea. In a small boat, he sails out one night and, sure enough,
spots signals from the shore. Searching for the recipient of this message, he
finds a steamer running without lights. The next morning he locates a bungalow
which belongs to a Mr Erstheim, whom the detective befriends. Invited inside,
he sees a lamp the light of which is directed at Merrilees Farm. A few days later
he summons the Admiral's secretary, Lieutenant Adamson, and together they catch
the mad woman sending a message out to the steamer ... except, beneath the disguise,
the woman turns out to be Erstheim.
Notes: Story features
Mlle. Claire Delisle.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: 'An absorbing romance of detective work and thrilling adventure in London,
France, Germany, and America.'
Notes: After enquiring for a Madame Defage at a hotel on the French coast —
and learning that she is not a guest there — a man named Paul Rudolphe books a
room and waits for her. He is followed by Martin Dubois who, during the night, breaks
into his room and murders him, taking an envelop from the body. When Rudolphe's corpse
is found beside a golf course on the south coast of England, the club manager becomes
Inspector Frenton's top suspect. The accused man consults Sexton Blake who,
upon examining the body, finds a patch pasted against the sole of one foot. Inscribed
upon it are five parallel lines and six black dots. The detective realises that the dead
man was dropped from an aeroplane and learns that a plane owned by Dubois made a crash
landing in France the same night that the corpse was discovered. Furthermore, he deduces
that the dots are musical notes which spell out D-E-F-A-G-E. Blake and Tinker cross the
Channel to Boulogne where they discover that Rudolphe — whose description matches
that of the corpse on the golf course — vanished after staying in a hotel room
next to Dubois. Also now arrived at the hotel is the mysterious Madame Defage. Associating
her with the three black dots, Blake meets her only to discover that she is, in fact,
Mademoiselle Julie of the French Secret Service. She reveals that Rudolphe had
been a courier for the Corps Diplomatique who was on a mission to pass to her top secret
information concerning the political situation in Russia. The detective, his assistant
and the secret agent drive to Dubois' estate where they confront him and demand the return
of the stolen document. He calmly admits to its theft before making a getaway in his
biplane. Tinker, though, has stowed away aboard the machine and ends up in Paris, captive
of Dubois and his partner,
Baron Rodanoff (who first appeared in
THE CASE OF THE KING'S SPY, THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 110, 1920).
These two have the secret document but not the keyword required to decipher it. So, after
making a copy, they come up with a scheme: Rodanoff should contact Julie and sell the
document back to her, learning the keyword when she decodes it in his presence. Following
this plan, the Baron approaches Julie only to discover that she doesn't know the keyword
either. However, Sexton Blake works it out in Rodanoff's presence and the villain makes
a quick getaway with the information. Tinker escapes from the villains and makes his
way to Madam Julie's house where he reveals Dubois and Rodanoff's plan. The detective,
Julie and Tinker race to intercept Rodanoff before he can pass the keyword to Dubois
but the latter spots them and runs them off the road. He then tries to escape in his
biplane. However, Tinker catches up with it and leaps aboard as it's taking off. He causes
it to crash and Dubois is badly injured. The secret document is recovered and Blake and
Tinker begin their journey back to Baker Street. As for the Baron, he lives to fight
Trivia: Tinker seems unusually dense in this tale. He doesn't speak French and he acts as if this is his first experience of flying when, in fact, he's been in the air many times by this point in the saga. Blake also seems rather out of sorts. It takes him ages to work out how Rudolphe's body came to be beside the golf course (it's rather obvious to the reader), he reveals a codeword in front of the villain who's after it, and he even forgets that on the continent they drive on the right rather than on the left! This story was reprinted as THE MISSING SPY in THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series issue 423 (1934) then again as THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING AVIATOR in THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series issue 589 (1937).
Notes: La Simonetta is a new sensation of the operetta. Real name Jane Briggs,
she was discovered by a man named Dantry who, after her brilliant first public performance,
visits Sexton Blake and reports that she has vanished along with her musical director,
Verzelli, and her chauffeur. These latter two are later discovered gassed and unconscious
in her abandoned car. Clues lead to a witness — a dimwitted man named John Dowling.
While the detective interviews him, someone plants a bomb in his car and Blake barely
escapes death. He realises that his investigations are being watched. With
Detective-Inspector Harker, he next visits Dantry who has information about
Stokes, a man who had wanted to marry La Simonetta. However, at Dantry's apartment, Stokes
is found stabbed in the chest. This has plainly been arranged to implicate Dantry, though,
fortunately, he has a caste iron alibi. He also has an object given to him for safe-keeping
by La Simonetta, whom he now reveals to be his fiancée. It is a jade egg — and sealed
inside is an enormous purple diamond. Blake realises that Dowling's apparent stupidity
is a sham and he returns to the man's house to search it but is attacked. He captures
Dowling's cohort, who is then shot by the escaping villain. The badly injured man proves
to be Blanchard — another of the missing singer's former suiters — who has
connections with diamond smuggling. Clues on the gravely injured man lead Blake and Harker
to Dorchester, where they think the criminal mastermind behind recent events might be
located. They are followed by Dowling but know this and turn the tables, following him.
They find his car abandoned and in it the unconscious form of La Simonetta. Next morning
she recovers her senses but her vocal chords and hands have been paralysed by injections.
She nevertheless communicates that she was held captive in a large house and had to sing
while blindfolded to an unidentified individual. When this house is identified, the occupants
have fled. A note is delivered to Baker Street: if Blake hands over the purple diamond,
an antidote to the girl's paralysis will be sent to the detective. Tinker traces the
source of the note to the Italian embassy and Blake realises that a man with Mafia connections
Dr Antonio Ferraro — is the chief villain. The diamond, as demanded, is
handed to the crook's messenger but when a note arrives in return, it does not contain
the antidote. Blake, Tinker and Harker set off in pursuit of Ferraro and find him in
a house with Dowling. Confronted by the detectives, Dowling admits that he left the note,
which was not the one intended by Ferraro, who had given details of the antidote as promised.
Ferraro is disgusted by this and shoots his henchman dead before escaping through a trapdoor.
He flees in a speedboat and boards a yacht in the harbour of a nearby fishing village.
Blake follows but is captured. However, when Tinker sabotages the yacht, the detective
is able to overpower his captors with the exception of Ferraro, who escapes. The diamond
is recovered, as is the antidote to La Simonetta's paralysis.
Notes: In the Yorkshire village of Braybrook, Dr. Eduardo brings a patient to the lodging house owned by Mrs Pannet and her daughter, Edith. Mr Henderson has suffered a nervous breakdown and has lost his memory. While Eduardo is away, Edith must administer medicine three times a day to keep Henderson heavily sedated. Meanwhile, Sexton Blake is commissioned by shareholders in the Oriental Investment Corporation to investigate the disappearance of the company's founder, John Howard, and secretary, Herbert Ferris, along with securities that amount to an enormous sum. Detective-Inspector Harker is also on the case. When the two detectives trace Howard’s yacht and are attacked by a gang, Blake senses that a deeper game is afoot. Tinker finds a photograph of Ferris's twin sister and estranged wife in the company of a Miss Fanshawe, whom Blake knows. When the criminologist locates and questions her, she confirms that she's sharing a house with the two women. However, Harker exposes the truth: Miss Ferris died some years ago and Herbert is masquerading as her. They confront him but, with help from a crook known as Sunny Jim, he escapes and disappears along with his wife. Jim is caught and persuaded to share information with Blake and Harker ... but every time he tries he has a fit. Blake recognises that the man is under a hypnotic influence. A packet arrives for Ferris and is opened by Blake. It contains a blown egg from a bird common to just two locations, both on the Yorkshire coast. This leads him to Braybrook and Edith Pannet. She tells them about Dr. Eduardo, who yesterday received a visit from Ferris and departed in great haste with his patient. A photograph reveals to Blake that Mr Henderson is actually John Howard, and that Eduardo is Doctor Ferraro. Another of Ferraro's thugs, after attempting to kill Blake, reveals that the doctor has used a submarine to travel to a location off the coast of Inverness. Blake tries to infiltrate Ferraro's gang but he is caught and attached to a booby-trap that will kill him and his rescuers when they come. Fortunately, he manages to get sufficiently free that he's able to warn Tinker and Harker. A clue suggests that Ferraro has his base on the island of Eigg, so the investigators organise a tugboat to take them there. In a cave, they discover John Howard bound hand and foot. The submarine appears and attacks. Ferraro then heads back to London where the stolen securities are stashed. The detectives follow and clues lead them to a cellar in a tobacconist's shop and a sealed tunnel the other end of which they endeavour to find. Tinker is successful but ends up locked in a freezer room. Blake and Harker rescue him before then locating the stolen securities. When Ferraro and Ferris come to collect the goods, they are arrested. Ferraro, however, makes a daring getaway.
Trivia: Detective-Inspector Harker plays a very prominent and active role in this case and is much more efficient and accomplished than is usual for Blake's Scotland Yard companions. He is described as "usually sleepy-looking."
Notes: 'A wonderful story of detective work in London and Benares, introducing Granite Grant and Mlle. Julie.' This was reprinted under the same title in THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series issue 443 (1934).
Notes: Sexton Blake and Tinker are invited to an engagement party that Sir John Currier is throwing for his son, Jim, at Wierdale Court in Surrey. Prior to his retirement, Sir John, a civil servant, was posted in India, and though he's generally good-hearted, he is also racially prejudiced. Upon their arrival, Blake and Tinker are introduced to Jim's fiancée, Lillah Hartley, and her widowed mother, Lady Zenda Hartley, who is a prominent figure in English social circles and who lives in the adjoining estate. During the dinner party, Lady Hartley gives her daughter a magnificent ruby as a wedding gift but, that night, after they have returned to their home, the gem is stolen and Lady Hartley is found lying unconscious in her study beside a murdered Hindoo. The local police inspector, Mulberry, is already on the scene and, noting that the murder weapon was Lady Hartley's letter knife, concludes that she was the killer, an assertion that is supported when she recovers her senses and claims to recall nothing of the incident. The absence of the ruby suggests that a third party was on the scene and, when Blake finds footprints, he deduces from them that an Indian of lower caste had accompanied the murder victim. Pedro is fetched and put on the trail. He leads the detectives to a barn where they discover a dropped wallet containing two passports: one belonging to the dead man, Bhur Singh, and the other to Gunga Dass, his servant. The address of a lodging house at London's East India docks is also in the wallet. Blake and Pedro continue to track the fugitive, leaving Tinker to properly search the barn. Dass, though, has doubled back. He attacks the youngster, renders him unconscious, and makes off with the documents. By the time Blake returns, the Indian has escaped and caught a train to London. The following morning, at the inquest, Lady Hartley is formerly charged. Mulberry produces a letter he has found in her study. It is from Singh and threatens to expose her secret unless she meets with him. She refuses to reveal to the court the nature of that secret but Blake begins to suspect that the ruby may have more significance than its monetary value. He recalls that Sir John once told him that a couple of decades ago "the Eye of Kali" had been stolen from a statue in an Indian temple. Could the ruby be the eye? He also starts to think that Lady Hartley may not be as English as she seems. Blake returns to Wierdale to investigate her past while Tinker sets off to the East Indian docks. There, he questions an Indian seaman, not realising that the man is actually Dass, and is coaxed into a trap. Leaving the lad tightly bound in a rat-infested shed, the villain boards ship and begins his voyage to India. Blake returns to Baker Street to find that his assistant is missing. Pedro again proves his worth by leading the detective to the shed. Tinker is rescued and the two investigators book passage on a fast ship to India, hoping to overtake Dass en route. This is achieved and, in Bombay, they discover that Bhur Singh had been keeper of the jewels at the temple of Khan Dar. Blake realises that by returning the Eye of Kali, Dass will be given this position, and will be able to steal the temple's treasure with impunity. When Dass arrives, Blake and Tinker disguise themselves as priests of Kali and approach him, meaning to gain the ruby. However, he sees through their make up and sets a mob on them. They barely escape. Next, they follow him to Madras and trek through the jungle to the temple. There, Dass has already handed over the stone and it has been restored to the idol. He is now being exalted to the rank of priesthood. Blake interrupts the ceremony and reveals to the gathered priests that Dass murdered Bhur Singh in order to take the glory for returning the jewel and to gain access to the temple's treasuresl. Dass is given a choice: British justice or Indian. He chooses the former, signs a confession, and is escorted by Blake back to Bombay and aboard a homeward-bound ship. From this, though, he manages to escape. Blake and Tinker arrive home just as Lady Hartley's trial is concluding. Dass's confession saves her. Blake reveals to Sir John that she is a Parsee and her daughter a Eurasian, and that they had been given the ruby as a gift without ever knowing its true significance. Sir John overcomes his prejudice, agrees to keep their secret, and allows his son's marriage to proceed.
Trivia: This story of racial prejudice was written at the time when such attitudes were deeply engrained in English society, so inevitably there is for the modern reader some severely wince-inducing language, including unbridled use of the n-word. The good news is that it shows that progress has been made. Also, it's nice to see Blake arguing against bigotry in a couple of scenes. Nevertheless, as good, well-written, and interesting as this tale is, the attitudes on display make it a tough one to swallow.
This marks the debut of Gunga Dass.
Notes: A down-on-his-luck gambler, Steel Haviland, is called from Monte Carlo by The Criminals' Confederation. On the train to Paris, he encounters a man named Beswick Carne, an explorer who's been abroad for more than twelve years, and who is now returning to be reunited with his daughter. When the train crashes, Carne is killed and Haviland takes his identity. In Paris, he meets with Confederation man John Venables and is told that Mr. Reece, currently in prison in England, will not hang as he's been deemed insane. Reece's son, The Shadow, will, however, be executed. Meanwhile, Colonel Quartz is still roaming free. Venables instructs Haviland to go England to recover the Confederation's fortune. In London, Dirk Dolland learns that the business in which his money is invested has gone into liquidation. He's broke! Then Ned Hatton calls, tells him he knows where the Confederation's money is, and tries to persuade Dolland to team up with him to steal it. Dolland refuses but, knowing there's a reward for some of the booty, agrees to recover it. He goes to a Dover hotel where Venables is waiting for Haviland to turn up with the money, and there he sees the man calling himself Carne, who is with his daughter. That night, Holland breaks into Venables' room and finds him dead. When he stumbles over the girl's shoe, he hides it up the chimney, convinced that she must be innocent. He is then caught by the police and arrested. Upon finding that Ned Hatton has been killed in Dolland's quarters, Sexton Blake investigates and is led by clues to Dover. In the hotel, he identifies Venables' real murderer and Dolland is set free.
Notes: Story features Sir Ralph Kelgrave and Quong Lu.
Notes: The first ever meeting of the Criminals' Confederation foreign representatives is called, overseen by the vice-president, Max Vogel. The coalition of crime requires reorganisation after its recent losses. Mr Smith is dead, the Shadow has been executed, and Mr Reece is a prisoner in Radmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. A female member, the Black Duchess, pushes for disbandment, knowing the eight million the Confederation has in reserve will as a consequence be divided among the thirteen members present ... or would be if any of them knew where it was. Only Reece knows, and he has told no one. Thus, securing his release is paramount. The Duchess undertakes to fulfil the mission. She starts by paying a visit to Sexton Blake, introducing herself as Ysabel de Ferra, Duchess of Jorsica, a tiny independent island off the south east coast of Spain, and tells him that last night valuable jewels were stolen from her English estate, Marlingham Manor. He drives there with her and she promptly drugs him ... and falls in love with him. The next day there’s a terrible train wreck and Blake is reported as being among the casualties, identified by the contents of his pockets. However, when Tinker and Detective-Inspector Coutts view the body, it is plainly not Blake’s. It dawns on them that the victim was a decoy and Blake has been abducted ... but when they trace him to the manor, they find that its owner has sailed off on her yacht, the Beatrice. On board that vessel, Blake recovers and the duchess informs him that she is a member of the Confederation and has been instructed to take him to Marseilles where he'll be held hostage until Mr Reece is set free. However, she is defying that command and, instead, is sailing for Jorsica. Blake surreptitiously places notes in bottles and casts them overboard. On arrival at the island, the duchess proposes marriage to the detective. He spurns her and she furiously vows to return to the original plan and sail for Marseilles. Meanwhile, one of Blake's massages has been found by Mademoiselle Yvonne. She teams up with Tinker, Coutts and Dirk Dolland and they steam for Jorsica on the Fleur-de-Lys. Once there, Yvonne falls into the duchess's clutches but she and Blake are immediately rescued by their friends.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ A good yarn marred by the absurd coincidence of Yvonne finding Blake's message in a bottle.
Notes: The story takes place in Africa and features Sir Richard Losely and Lobangu.
Notes: Years before the main part of this tales begins, an ex-convict is mortally wounded while saving the life of Judge Devenage. With his dying breath, he asks Devenage to look after his wife and young son, Jim. Devenage discusses the matter with an up-and-coming young detective named Sexton Blake. The Judge believes that Jim, who is descended from three generations of criminals, will inevitably turn to crime. Blake disagrees and thinks that the boy will turn out honest providing that he has a good upbringing. When Jim's mother dies, Devenage decides to put the theory to the test and adopts the young boy, vowing to keep his real background a secret from him. Seventeen years later, during a party hosted by the Judge, Maurice discovers a burglar leaving the house. He tries to stop him and manages to grab a bag of loot and throw it from the villain's reach before his opponent is joined by an accomplice and Maurice is beaten unconscious. Sexton Blake, a guest at the party, comes upon the scene and chases the two burglars but they get away. When Maurice recovers, he tells his story and the bag of loot is searched for but cannot be found. A couple of days later, one of the thieves is spotted lurking in the grounds. Blake identifies him as a man named Brechin who usually works in partnership with a villain named Mickley. Realising that Brechln had been looking for the missing bag, Blake realises that someone in the household must have recovered it and is using the stolen goods for their own benefit. Evidence points to Maurice, and the detective surmises that the boy's heritage has led him astray. Now Brechin and Mickley approach Maurice and attempt to recover their swag but Maurice, who has only sold a small amount of the stolen material, refuses to hand the rest over. The criminals are at a stalemate and Blake, having gathered evidence against them, moves in to make the arrest. Maurice, who bitterly regrets giving into temptation, is sent to America where he earns an honest living as a cowboy.
Trivia: During the early part of his career Sexton Blake lives in the Westminster district of London.
Notes: Sexton Blake is called to Major Gordon's residence where an Indian servant has been found dead. The death seems to be connected to a one-eyed idol which Gordon, who is about to leave on a trip to New York, hands over to the detective for safekeeping. The next day, Blake returns to Baker Street to find that his consulting room has been broken into. An Indian man is dead upon the floor and the idol has gained a second glass eye! Upon closer inspection, the small statue turns out to be a fake — the original idol has been stolen. Tinker, meanwhile, has shadowed the thief to a cargo ship — The Viking — but is caught while sneaking aboard and imprisoned in the hold. Sexton Blake finds clues which lead him to Liverpool to intercept the ship. There he finds Tinker, frees him, and pursues an Indian who has possession of the idol. To his surprise, someone else joins the chase: Granite Grant! Together, and with invaluable help from Pedro, they regain possession of the strange little statue. Grant demonstrates a mechanism by which the idol can be opened, revealing a secret compartment. For anyone without the proper knowledge, attempting to operate this mechanism will have fatal results due to fiendish booby trap installed by the Dalai Lama to protect jewels hidden within. However, there are no gems concealed in the idol now — but rather a document conceding rights to Tibet's oil deposits. This gained, and the deadly needle removed, the idol is returned to Major Gordon and the case is closed.
Trivia: Granite Grant's Secret Service number is 55. As a period piece this reveals just how little was known at the time about Tibet. The idea that it sits upon vast oil deposits which are jealously guarded by a cunning and violent Dalai Lama seems preposterous to the modern sensibility.
Notes: Having condemned Ysabel de Ferre to death for her refusal to deliver Sexton Blake into the hands of the Criminals' Confederation, Max Vogel sails for Jorsica. As he nears the island, he spots Mademoiselle Yvonne's yacht, the Fleur-de-Lys. He cripples it, boards it, and is delighted to find himself face to face with — in addition to Yvonne — Blake, Tinker, Detective-Inspector Coutts, and Dirk Dolland. They are imprisoned and taken to Jorsica. Vogel goes ashore, confronts the Black Duchess, and to her horror, she finds her rule of the island overturned. Mr Reece has also been deposed — Vogel has made himself the new president of the Confederation and Jorsica is to be its new headquarters. Blake, meanwhile, manages to get free. He teams up with the duchess and, as a storm builds, they hurry to a village to muster reinforcements. On the way, they pass "The Pool of Darkness," a geological feature with a history as a place of execution. Before the duchess's supporters can gather, the storm breaks and a tidal wave hits. Tinker and his companions escape during the chaos but afterward all but Yvonne are recaptured and marched to the village where Blake and the duchess are rumoured to have been seen. The pair are seized and Vogel decides to execute his enemies by means of the Pool of Darkness, which proves to be inhabited by a giant cuttlefish. Vogel is on the point of casting the duchess to her doom when Mr Reece suddenly arrives on the scene having escaped from the asylum. Accusing Vogel of betraying him, he issues the death sentence, but Vogel pounces on him and both men fall into the pool. Yvonne and her crew rescue Blake and his friends and, with the Fleur-de-Lys having been lost in the storm, they commandeer the duchess's yacht, the Beatrice, and sail away. Ysabel de Ferre remains with her people. The members of the Confederation left on her island pledge their loyalty to her and she becomes the organisation's new president.
Notes: Story features Mademoiselle Delisle and The Raven.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: Clive Hallington is a financial merchant, so finds it easy to get a loan to buy a diamond necklace for the girl he loves, Miss Breckon, daughter of the famous "Breckonware" pottery manufacturer. Unfortunately, before he can present it to her, it is stolen from him and returned to its owner who then accuses him of trying to pawn it. The apparent fraud is enough to get him arrested but, before the police catch up with him, Hallington consults Sexton Blake. The criminologist examines the empty necklace case and finds microscopic traces of red clay on it. This appears to have some connection to a curious newspaper report concerning Charles Bannister, the chief moulder for the Breckon company, who destroyed a number of crimson china bowls in a sales room. Blake visits a shop that sells Breckonware, arriving just as a man causes a scene by smashing two of the shop's crimson bowls. The vandal makes off but Tinker gives chase and subdues him with some bare-knuckle work. The man turns out to be Bannister. He won't speak but his reaction when Blake asks whether the smashing of the bowls is connected with a diamond necklace is information enough. The detective lets him go. Next, he and Tinker visit the owner of the necklace and discover that it is a counterfeit; the real one is still missing. Detective-Inspector Banks of Scotland Yard then arrives with a number of plain clothes policemen. Blake, though, recognises him as a gangster known as Nihil. A terrific fight erupts and more or less continues for the remaining length of the story, taking Blake and Nihil into Smith's Kitchen and on to a foundry where Nihil falls to his death. Blake recovers the last remaining crimson bowl, smashes it at the wedding of Clive Hallington and Miss Breckon, and draws from the fragments the diamond necklace, which Bannister had hidden in the clay.
Trivia: The fighting in this issue is brutal, relentless, and tremendously well-described ... but in the midst of it there comes a very interesting moment: in Smith's kitchen, a man whose face is entirely veiled, offers Blake a last cigarette ... from a silver case marked with a "Z." Might it be that Zenith the Albino, who was killed in The Case of the Toxic Tulips (UNION JACK issue 898, 1920), might be still alive?
Notes: None at present.
Notes: In Italy, a woman named Madame Stephanie steals a vial that has been entrusted to a young Englishman. It contains two grammes of radium, the rarest and most deadly substance known. She takes it to her compatriot, Stranwitz, who conceals it in the hollow pearl of a necklace. When they find Granite Grant on their trail, the two criminals flee to London to meet with their leader, Doctor Konigstein. Unfortunately, at Charing Cross Station, the necklace is stolen by a petty thief, Jim Beck, who sells it to a Jewish pawnbroker named Isaac Jacobs. Beck finds himself being pursued by Stranwitz and, by accident, ends up asking Sexton Blake for help. The detective is initially reluctant to give aid to the thief but, after Beck is hit by a cab, he decides to investigate. Driving in the Grey Panther to Jacobs' shop, he finds that it has been burgled. Two men make a run for it and Tinker races after them only to find himself captured. Meanwhile, the detective discovers that the pawnbroker has been tied up. Once freed, Jacobs claims that the necklace has been stolen and complains about agonising pain in his hand. Blake takes him to a specialist who reveals that the shopkeeper is suffering from radiation burns. Blake borrows an electroscope and uses it to find the necklace which is still hidden in the shop. Later, at Baker Street, he is visited by Doctor Konigstein who gasses him and takes the necklace. When Blake recovers, he receives a telegram informing him that Tinker has been injured. While rushing to the address given, he bumps into Granite Grant. He then proceeds to the address where he finds himself in the hands of Konigstein who has discovered that the pearl containing the radium has been removed. The Doctor is holding Tinker captive and threatens to gas him to death unless the detective hands over the Radium. Blake refuses and, before Tinker meets an untimely fate, Granite Grant comes crashing to the rescue. The criminals are arrested and the radium is returned to the British government.
Trivia: Strangely, Sexton Blake's rooms all seem to be on the ground floor in this story (in most tales they are on the first).
Rating: ★★★★★ There's rather an unpleasant anti-semitic undertone to this story; typical of the times but uncomfortable for the modern reader. Nevertheless, the tale is great fun.
Notes: Blake and Tinker are driving through a rainstorm when their car breaks down. Seeking refuge in an isolated cottage, they are greeted by a man named Adams. Moments later, the police arrive and demand to know the whereabouts of the owner of the residence, Drummond. Adams explains that Drummond, his good friend, is away and has allowed him to stay at the cottage to await his return. His manner, however, is suspicious, and when the police search the house they discover Drummond's concealed corpse. Adams is arrested for murder. In an upstairs room, a number of sculptures are discovered. They were all fashioned by Drummond and are exceedingly amateurish bar one, a bust that bears an exact resemblance to Mr Reece. On the way to the police station, Adams escapes. Blake, surmising that the killer might return to the cottage, follows and finds the fugitive knifed to death outside the house. He also witnesses a Chinaman searching the place, though this individual manages to evade him and makes off on a motorcycle. Drummond's lawyer arrives with his client's will, in which it is stated that all the sculptures should be given for safekeeping to the People's Museum. The museum will also take charge of a small metal box. Should anyone come forward with a key that fits it, they will be given the entire collection of statues. With this, the case comes to an unresolved halt. Six weeks later, after hosting a tea party for Blake, Tinker, Detective Inspector Coutts and Dirk Dolland, Mademoiselle Yvonne is abducted. Blake receives a phone call from the People's Museum to inform him that someone is on the way there to claim the statues. He spies on the meeting, watching as a veiled woman produces a key that opens the little metal box. She takes something from within it and states that she'll return for the statues tomorrow. When she departs, she is followed by Tinker. Blake returns to Baker Street where a letter is waiting for him. It is from Ysabel de Ferre, the Black Duchess and it informs him that Yvonne is being held prisoner and will not be released unless Blake accepts the duchess's offer of marriage. The criminologist realises that the woman at the museum was the duchess. Before he can act on the information, another telephone call comes through, this from the duchess herself, who pleads for his help before she is abruptly cut off. Tinker returns to Baker Street having followed his quarry to a house on the outskirts of London. To this location, Blake, Tinker, and Coutts hasten, and there they witness the duchess being interrogated by a Chinese man — Hoang Ho, the leader of the Oriental branch of the Criminals' Confederation — who demands that she tell him the whereabouts of the organisation's reserve fund. As his questioning turns to torture, Blake and his colleagues burst in. Hoang Ho escapes. The Black Duchess thanks Blake and tells him that if he allows her to go free she will tell him where Yvonne is. He agrees. Yvonne is located and liberated. Ysabel de Ferre returns to Jorsica after informing Blake that she'd sent Adams to question Drummond, who she was certain knew the location of Reece's missing million. He had killed Drummond. Hoang Ho had sent one of his own men who, in turn, murdered Adams. After Drummond's will was published, the duchess realised that Reece probably carried the key to the metal box. She'd had his body dredged up from the Pool of Darkness (see THE FOURTH WITNESS, UNION JACK 916) and retrieved it from a chain around the corpse's neck. The metal box it opened contained a note detailing the location of the money — inside the bust of Mr Reece! Blake recovers the fortune.
Trivia: In THE BLACK DUCHESS (UNION JACK 910), the Confederation's reserve fund was eight million. Now, for some undisclosed reason, it is just one million.
Notes: Sexton Blake, Tinker and Pedro are on Holy Island visiting the grave of Zenith the Albino (who died at the end of THE CASE OF THE TOXIC TULIPS in UNION JACK issue 898, 1920). Blake, still sensing a motivating force behind recent criminal activity, finds it hard to believe that Zenith is dead. Yet he and Tinker had seen the body with their own eyes. With the tide rapidly rising over the spit of land which connects the island to the mainland, they board a cart and begin the journey back. Also on board are a young curate and an intimidating middle-aged woman, Frau Kranz. As they cross the spit, the tide washes their vehicle into the sea. They take refuge in a hut on stilts, built for just such an emergency. Kranz uses a stone to drum on the walls; a sound that reminds Blake of African 'talking drums'. A response is heard from the mainland and a boat approaches the platform. The detective pulls a gun on the woman and tells her to send it away. By means of the drum, she does so. The next day, Sir George Inting is robbed of his priceless antique collection by a gang led by the 'curate'. A few days after, Blake and Tinker attend a boxing match and recognise one of the contenders, a giant black called Joe Gratten. He had been in the boat and also fits the description of one of the gang. The detective is shaken by the fact that the fighter bears the marks of a deadly African cult called the Leopard Men. He follows him to an old colliery, descending into the mine, going ever deeper until he finds a cavern packed with stolen goods. Then the Leopard Men attack. The detective fights them off but the battle is interrupted by the appearance of Zenith. He tells Blake that when they last met, he had indeed been on the verge of death. But a doctor from the Criminals' Confederation transfused into his body the blood of a Witch Doctor and the albino recovered. He is now 'ju-ju' - thought to carry the spirit of the African, and consequently commands the Leopard Men. He and Blake engage in mortal combat; a terrific fight beneath the surface of the Earth. Just as it seems that the detective has the upper hand, Frau Kranz appears and Blake is captured. The Leopard Men want to sacrifice him; something Zenith will not allow. Again, a battle erupts, this time with the albino at Blake's side. When most of the Leopard Men are dead and just seven of the gang remain, Blake is once again held prisoner. This time, he is left bound hand and foot and alone in the mine with a candle... burning over a pile of explosives! Fortunately, the ever-resourceful Pedro saves the day, though Zenith gets away. As a reward for the return of his antiques, Sir George buys Tinker a motorcycle.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Like Zenith, this story is strangely colourless. The plot isn't as gripping as it should be and the mistake made by the villains which leads Pedro to Blake is far too convenient. However, the fight scene between the detective and albino is wonderfully intense; definitely the highlight of an otherwise forgettable story.
Notes: Four unscrupulous businessmen — Eugene Best, George Hind, "Handsome" Levittson and Sir Bertram Colsdal — plan to corner the market in quinine through illegal means. Their first task is to obstruct production and they employ Zenith the Albino to undertake the mission. He begins by attempting to get market information from a young man named Harry Wilson. When the latter refuses to cooperate, he soon finds himself framed for a murderous atack on his employer, Stoddard. Later, a man pretending to be a doctor tries to force information about a cargo ship — Golden Dawn — from the injured Stoddard. After a terrific fight, Blake captures him and learns that Zenith is behind the crime. Clues lead him to the albino's hideout where he engages in a massive hand-to-hand battle with Zenith and one of his japanese servants. Beaten unconscious, Blake is captured. Meanwhile, George Hind, who has fallen out with Zenith, reveals to Tinker the albino's whereabouts and his plan to kill Blake. The lad rushes to the rescue and, after the pair battle with Zenith's Leopard Men, they make their escape. Tinker is sent to protect the Golden Dawn — which is carrying a cargo of quinine — but is captured by Zenith's henchmen. Pedro comes to the rescue and the mission is completed — Zenith's plans are foiled. Finally, Blake breaks the criminals' 'corner' and leaves them financially ruined.
Trivia: According to the author, Blake's consulting room floor is covered in linoleum rather than a carpet!
Notes: After some years abroad, Harold Bray returns to London and enjoys a night out with his friend, Jimmy Saville. While walking along a street together, an object is thrown through a third storey window and lands near them. It is a mummified head! They take it to the flat from whence it was thrown and find the front door open and the place empty. Walking through the lounge, they enter a strange room. It has a plinth in the center upon which the head had evidentally been displayed and the walls are lined with panels which are decorated with pictures of distorted faces. The two men leave and, a little time later, bump into Sexton Blake and Tinker. The detectives return to the apartment with them but this time it's occupied by a man named Dr. Hulton Brenner, who denies all knowledge of the head. Furthermore, there is no sign of the strange room! The men leave, baffled. Back at Baker Street, Blake informs Tinker that he saw through Brenner's disguise and recognised Rupert Waldo! A man named Kennedy comes to the house in a panic. He tells how, one night after a drunken binge at his club, he was taken to a room — the same as the one described by Bray and Saville — and initiated into a secret society named The Clan of the Seven Heads. He was delivered back to his home hardly knowing what had happened. A few days later, a hooded member of the clan turned up and told him he must undertake a mission to America to assassinate a statesman. Kennedy refused and was then told that his refusal meant death! He fled to Baker Street. Now Sexton Blake and Tinker return to Kennedy's house near Hampstead Heath and find themselves held at gunpoint by Waldo, who informs them that the clan is thousands strong. Out of Blake's sight, Kennedy is shot at and badly injured. The detective and Tinker are taken out of the house and securely bound to electric wires which will become live when the electricity company switches to a different generator at 3.30am. Waldo leaves them to die. However, Kennedy manages to crawl to them and liberates them from their bonds. The trio make their way back to Baker Street to sleep. Later that morning, Mrs Bardell wonders why they haven't awoken. She eventually visits their bedrooms and finds them deeply unconscious. She calls Blake's doctor and he discovers that during the night all three men were injected with a drug which will keep them asleep for about three days. Unknown to Mrs Bardell — and, more importantly, unknown to Waldo — this is all a sham. Blake had been awake when Waldo crept into his room and injected him and, the moment the crook left, he had analysed the drug and administered an antidote. He also gave Tinker the antidote before then phoning his doctor to arrange the deception. Now, only the doctor is aware that Blake and Tinker are conscious and ready for action! That evening, Waldo escorts another drunken millionaire to the headquarters of the clan, ready to be initiated and fleeced. However, Blake and Tinker are watching and as Waldo escorts his prey from the flat, the detectives pounce ... and Tinker is astonished to find that Waldo and Kennedy are one and the same! Waldo admits defeat and explains that from the moment Blake recognised him in his guise as Dr. Hulton Brenner, his one objective had been to put the Baker Street duo out of the game for a while, thus the elaborate ruse of the Kennedy disguise — including self-inflicted wounds and a fake execution by elecrocution. Waldo confesses that there is no 'clan'; the whole thing has been a one man show and it probably would have succeeded were it not for the building's porter who, feeling suspicious, had entered his flat and upon finding the mummified head (which is just a dummy) threw it out of the window in disgust. Detective-Inspector Lennard arrives with a squad of men to arrest Waldo but the Wonder Man breaks free and escapes.
Trivia: The Blake household has two housemaids, one named Maud. Since housemaids aren't mentioned elsewhere (other than occasionally in the very early pre-Baker Street tales), it can be assumed that they perhaps visit for an hour or so on occasional mornings to help Mrs Bardell with her chores. In this tale they are in the house all day but this might be due to the unusual circumstances. Sexton Blake's doctor is mentioned; he is named Davenport and lives nearby.
Notes: With Ysabel de Ferre (aka the Black Duchess) and Hoang Ho both vying for leadership of the Criminals' Confederation, an election is called. The Duchess wins it. Soon afterward, a fanatical diamond collector named Ryan Saul arrives in London from America. Dirk Dolland (aka The Bat), who is dining with an acquaintance named Temple Mayne, overhears Saul bragging about his riches and how he has no fear of burglars. Dolland is tempted to break into the millionaire's home just to teach him a lesson but he resists the lure of his old safe-breaking days. Mayne, by contrast, has no hesitation and walks straight into what turns out to be a trap. When pressed, he confesses to Saul that he is a member of the Confederation. The diamond-mad American tells him to set up a meeting with the president of that organisation. This is done, and Saul tells the Black Duchess that he wants to hire the Confederation's services. She agrees to the deal and, over the course of the next week, London suffers a spate of daring and successful jewel thefts. Mademoiselle Yvonne is one of the victims. Detective-Inspector Coutts asks Sexton Blake to help. Yvonne mentions that Ryan Saul had asked to buy the diamond that was subsequently stolen from her. When Blake hears that another of the victims had been approached by the same man, he visits Saul to warn him to be careful, as he may be the next target. The millionaire dismisses the caution as unnecessary: he has no fear of burglars. Blake advises Coutts to keep a watch on the diamond collector, as he suspects the American might be behind the crimes. Doubt is quickly cast onto this theory, however, when Saul is found knocked unconscious in his home. His diamonds have been stolen and Dirk Dolland has been arrested as the prime suspect! A watching constable had caught the Bat as he recovered after falling from the widow through which he'd broken in. The only mystery is that he didn't have the diamonds with him, which suggests that an accomplice managed to evade the police and made off with them. At the police station, Dolland tells Blake he had intended to steal the gems to teach Saul a lesson and would have returned them the next day ... but when he was climbing in through the window, someone had struck him over the head, causing him to fall. Blake and Coutts investigate Saul's four-storey house and discover a secret elevator. Someone uses it, steps out, and they find themselves face to face with Ysabel de Ferre. She confesses that the Confederation is behind the jewel robberies, that she has come to deliver Yvonne's stolen gemstone to Saul, and that she now realises he has betrayed her by having Blake and Coutts waiting to pounce. The detective corrects her, telling her why he is really there, and she is shocked to hear that Saul has been robbed. She cleverly escapes just as Hoang Ho and his gang arrive, returning for diamonds they had hidden behind the safe when Dirk Dolland interrupted their burglary. Blake and Coutts are captured, tied to chairs, and left with a highly venomous snake while the Chinaman makes his getaway. The Black Duchess returns, kills the serpent, informs Blake that she now knows that Hoang Ho is leading a rebel group, which, she guarantees, will be dealt with by the Confederation, then departs. Blake escapes his bonds and the police let Dirk Dolland go without charge.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: Sir Guy Clanross, Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, has travelled to north western Canada to assess business there. He meets with Angus McLaren, the manager of the region. Clanross's son, Alec, has been working at the outpost — Sir Guy hopes that it will toughen him up — and has formed a bond with McLaren's daughter, Maggie. When Alec's dog team arrives at the outpost without him, and with the guide semi-conscious and with his tongue cut out, a note is found which reads that the younger Clanross is being held for ransom and will be only be returned in exchange for a great deal of furs. It is signed: The Moonslayer. Sir Guy requests help from Sexton Blake and, three weeks before Christmas, the detective, Tinker and Pedro arrive in the northern town of The Pas. There, the bloodhound is set upon by a team of huskies and Sexton Blake gets into a fight with their owner; a giant of a man whom Blake later theorises is the Moonslayer. When the mute guide is murdered, Blake makes out that he and Tinker are giving up on the case and returning to London. Disguised as a half-breed and an indian squaw, they then join a dog race. During the event, they rescue the Moonslayer when he falls through some ice and join him when he rests up in an old man's cabin. The Moonslayer sees through Sexton Blake's disguise and captures him and Tinker, taking them to his hideout. There, they witness his dominance over a gang of crooks. The Moonslayer reveals that his real name is Janssen and tells Blake that he intends to bully Eric Clanross into becoming a criminal, thus giving Janssen the power to bribe Sir Guy. To this end, he has also captured Maggie and now threatens to feed her to his dogs if young Clanross doesn't cooperate. She is attached to a stake by a length of rope and the gang members gather to watch her die. Blake notices that a great many of them are restless and disapprove of Janssen's actions but are too scared of him to raise a protest. The detective steps forward and challenges the brute to a fight. The ensuing battle is a ferocious display of skill against raw power. Skill triumphs, and Sexton Blake is soon standing over the prone form of Janssen. He, Tinker, Clanross and Maggie imprison the gang and gather up the loot that the Moonslayer has stolen these past few months. They then journey back to civilisation where the criminal is handed over to the authorities.
Trivia: A passing mention of Sir Richard Losely is made; apparently he is in the South Seas. Blake and Tinker's friends are all 'married and respectable'.
Notes: William Truben arrives at Baker Street having just been assaulted by a barber named Pierre. Not only were his clothes stolen but he also suffered the indignity of having a picture of a dagger tattooed on his bald head. Sexton Blake agrees to investigate and Truben departs, leaving a coat, which had belonged to his attacker, behind. A few minutes later he is shot in the chest by a member of the 'Brotherhood of the Dagger'. Meanwhile, Blake discovers an Italian banknote in the lining of the coat. On it are written seven Italian names. Later, in the small ads of a newspaper, he spots a message that seems to be addressed to the seven Italians and which suggests that a masked ball is key to the mystery. The detective attends the event and there witnesses — and prevents — an attempt to extort money from the Marchioness of Lindenford. Having scared off the villains, he speaks with their intended victim and learns that her husband, who was believed to have drowned some time ago, is actually alive and in the hands of the Brotherhood. They are demanding twenty thousand pounds for his return. Pierre had been one of their number but had intended to betray them. By tattooing Truben with the Brotherhood's sigil he had hoped to throw an assassin off his track. Sexton Blake and Tinker set forth for Italy. Meanwhile, in Naples, Granite Grant is also investigating Lindenford's disappearance. He follows one of the gang but he is detected and the two men engage in a fight which Grant wins. The next day, a disguised Blake and Tinker arrive and shadow a suspicious character. They, in turn, are shadowed by Grant who is astonished when he discovers who they are. Teaming up with the King's Spy, Blake infiltrates the Brotherhood of the Dagger and is led to where Lord Lindenford is being held captive. Grant and Tinker follow and launch a successful attack on the criminals. The gang is rounded up and Lindenford is set free.
Trivia: This story has a very unusual conclusion. In it, Granite Grant, who has read the advanced proofs of the story as written in the UNION JACK, is furious due to the way he is portrayed by the author. Sexton Blake refuses to reveal the identity of the scribe. The tale — published when the Blake authors were still anonymous — is signed 'W. W. S.'