Publishing: Author William Murray Graydon achieves a 'double' by having written 100 stories in the UNION JACK and 100 in THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY.
Rex Hardinge makes his debut as a Blake author. Charles Wrexe Hardinge was born in India in 1904. He settled in England shortly before the First World War and later joined the army, only to be invalided out in the early 1920s. Hardinge then moved to South Africa where he worked on an orange plantation. That is where he wrote his first Sexton Blake story, which proved an instant hit. He carried on writing while travelling back to India then, around 1929, moved back to England to be a full-time author. He created Slim Corrigan and took over Sir Richard Losely and Lobangu after the death of Cecil Hayter. During the Second World War Hardinge was parachuted into China. His action-packed life continued into his later years, when he was in the news headlines after helping to capture an escaped convict on Dartmoor. He died in Dawlish, Devon, in October 1988.
Blake: THE MAN WHO WALKED BY NIGHT reinforces the fact that Blake lives on Baker Street West (rather than North, as is stated elsewhere). It also reveals that he has an African Agent named Frank Schulyer. THE GREAT BUDGET CONSPIRACY confirms that Mrs. Bardell has a sister named Mary Ann Cluppins, and adds that Mary Ann is the widow of a water rate collector of Bermondsey, William Cluppins.
The second wave of super-crooks is boosted by the arrival of Paul Cynos, Mr Mist, and Krock Kelk. The latter instigates a period of American influence: the "gangster issues."
Notes: When Welsh villager Pauline Lloyd wins a local beauty contest, she takes her £100 prize money and runs away to London where she falls into the clutches of gang leader, cocaine dealer, and nightclub owner, Doctor Eugene Sen. At the Yellow Harlequin club, Splash Page encounters a confidence trickster he knows named Samuel Lines, and together they see Pauline in the company of one of Sen’s girls, Sonia L’Estrange. Immediately, they realise that the naive young woman is in over her head. Lines, whose daughter died after becoming addicted to Sen’s drugs, has dinner with Pauline and warns her that she's keeping dangerous company. Disturbed, she runs to L’Estrange, who calms her with sleeping tablets before then injecting an experimental drug created by Sen that robs Pauline of all moral judgement. A week later, Lines reports to Page that Pauline’s personality has utterly transformed. They attend the nightclub and Page sees for himself how the innocent Welsh girl has become a hard-eyed gold digger. When a notorious playboy tries to force himself on her, a young man from her village — Lee Burns, who loves her and has followed her to London — intervenes. She callously spurns him. That night, Sen strangles his wife, Lil, whose drug use has made her unstable. The next day, Splash calls on Sexton Blake and Tinker, who have just returned from an overseas case, and reports that Pauline Lloyd has been found dead on Mitcham Common, her face made unrecognisable with acid. While he is recounting what he knows of her, Doctor Sen arrives and asks Blake to investigate the murder. He implicates Lee Burns and, moments later, news comes through that Burns has been detained by the police. While evidence piles up against the young man, Tinker follows Sen and witnesses him being confronted by Lines, who accuses him of the killing and vows revenge for his own daughter's death. Blake visits the mortuary and discovers that the corpse is not Pauline. Furthermore, his investigation proves that Doctor Sen was the murderer. While Blake is busy establishing that the victim is Lil, Sen transforms not only Pauline’s personality but also her appearance. She is now “La Belle Estelle,” a vamp through whom he intends to rob many a gullible fool. Blake interrogates L’Estrange, who, in the throes of drug withdrawal, offers up vital information. That evening, all the principals are present at the Yellow Harlequin when Blake and Coutts lead a police raid upon it. Sen is arrested. At his trial, he is sentenced to death, giving Lines his long-awaited revenge. Pauline recovers from the drug and returns to Wales, there to marry Lee Burns.
Trivia: Blake and Tinker don't make an appearance until halfway through the story.
Notes: It's "the season" in High Society and, at and around Dangerston, a burglar is at work. Jewels have been stolen from locked rooms, and American millionaire Vansittart considers it a problem too complex for the local police. He calls in Sexton Blake. The detective discovers evidence that a French-style araiguee — "spider" — is responsible for the clever break ins. He sets a trap by having the newspapers report the presence at Dangerston of Lady Malancourt, who has brought with her the famous Malancourt diamonds. When a courting couple — Molly Tremaine and Captain Lascelles — have a slight disagreement. Molly flirts with Blake to make Lascelles jealous. Mrs Vansittart gives the detective a stern lecture concerning his unwitting role in these proceedings. That night, Blake asks Lascelles and Mr Vansittart to join him in his room, which is opposite that of Lady Malancourt, and to watch and wait with him in the dark. The "spider" strikes ... and so does Blake. Captured, the masked burglar is exposed as Molly Tremaine! The girl, not as well off as she appeared, had been using skills learned from a dishonest French tutor to increase her wealth, fearing that, if Lascelles had learned of her financial straits, he would have refused to marry her. The stolen jewels are returned and Lascelles states that he will wed Molly and take her to Canada to start a new life. Blake and Vansittart agree not to press charges.
Trivia: This story first appeared in THE PENNY PICTORIAL issue 463 (1908) as A WHITE MAN. It was then reprinted under the current title in THE BOY'S FRIEND issue 589 (1912).
Notes: None at present.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: 'Vivid Mystery and Stirring Adventure in London and the Nigerian Protectorate.'
Notes: Story features Splash Page. The cover, in my opinion, is one of Arthur Jones's best.
Notes: A petty thief accidentally yanks a small brass idol from around the neck of an elderly oriental who, unknown to him, is in the employ of Dr Satira. He later sells it to a curio dealer named Thomas Riddle. When Satira visits Riddle and demands the idol, the shopkeeper denies all knowledge of it and threatens Satira with the police unless he leaves. Meanwhile, a young American named Des Dean aka The Jackdaw arrives in London for the first time and employs Parker, a pickpocket, as his valet. Dean tells his new employee that he has come with the intention of running rings around Detective-Inspector Coutts. He then goes out to explore London and for the first time in his career sets eyes on Sexton Blake. He also overhears a conversation through which he learns that Riddle has gained possession of a hundred thousand pounds worth of diamonds. That night, he breaks into Riddle's shop, cracks the safe and makes away with the jewels, incidentally taking the idol too. Minutes later, two of Satira's gang enter the shop and torture Riddle for the combination to the safe. He gives it but it no longer works, having been altered by Dean. Riddle's ordeal is ended when his assailants flee upon the arrival of Sexton Blake, Tinker and Coutts, who have received an anonymous tip-off over the telephone. Blake opens the emptied safe but Riddle pretends that nothing valuable has been stolen. The detective suspects that he's lying and later, at Scotland yard, this is supported when Coutts receives a note from 'The Jackdaw' in which the cracksman claims to have hauled in a hundred thousand pounds. Riddle comes clean about the diamonds and also mentions the missing idol. Clues then lead Sexton Blake to the man who had made the anonymous call — an art dealer who'd intended to steal the diamonds but had been forestalled by the arrival of Satira's thugs. Next day, Blake is visited by a Chinese youth, the grandson of a mandarin who had been murdered some years previously and who, it is rumoured, left a fortune behind him, though no trace of it was found subsequent to his demise. The youth reveals that a missing idol is the key to the whereabouts of the hidden treasure, which is rightfully his to claim. Remembering Riddle's mention of just such an artifact, Blake calls him only to find that the curio dealer has been knifed to death. Then Coutts arrives and announces that a man has been caught trying to sell one of the stolen diamonds to a fence. This man, it turns out, is Parker, and from him Blake makes the connection to Des Dean, whom he now realises is The Jackdaw. Upon arriving at Dean's flat, Blake finds Satira knocking at the door. The doctor departs and the detective sends Tinker to follow. In the flat, they discover Dean bound to a chair. Satira has made off with the diamonds and idol. After Dean is taken into custody, Blake and Coutts follow Tinker to Satira's hotel room and arrest him. The diamonds and idol are recovered. Weeks later, after being extradited to America, Dean escapes.
Trivia: This story presents a couple of interesting conundrums. Though written two years after most of the other Satira tales (but one year before the final one), it actually tells of the doctor's first encounter with Sexton Blake, which ends with his arrest. However, in their next encounter (chronologically-speaking, the first story written), there is no recognition by either man that he has met the other before. As for Des Dean, it is blatantly obvious that he is actually Dirk Dolland, arriving in London from America for the first time. However, again, this doesn't tally with the events of the first Dolland story written.
Notes: My copy is missing its cover. Harry 'Headline Hal' Haldane — reporter with the Daily Gazette — lives in a cheap boarding house with various members of the theatre set. When one of these, a man known as Cosmo the Crimson Conjurer, is found in his locked room dead with a knife in his throat, Detective-Inspector Coutts is quickly on the scene, accompanied by Tinker. They call in Sexton Blake but his behaviour is rather more eccentric than usual and he's dismissive of Tinker's theory that a man known as Metaxas, a Mexican knife thrower, is the killer. Tinker, however, learns that Metaxas lives in the boarding house to the rear in a room with a window directly opposite to Cosmo's. After an abrupt comment from Blake, he decides to investigate further on his own. The atmosphere between him and his 'guv'nor' steadily worsens — with the detective summarily dismissing Tinker's suggestions — then erupts into a terrible argument. Tinker storms out and declares that their partnership is over. Teaming up with Hal Haldane, he discovers that Metaxas has got a job at a circus and decides to get employment there himself in order to watch the man. Upon arrival he makes friends with a young girl named Lolita and is hired by the manager, Mr Moxer. He also quickly learns that Lolita's mother is terrified of Metaxas. Soon Tinker is joined by Hal who proceeds to ingratiate himself with Metaxas in order to learn more about him. Another addition to the circus arrives the next day in the form of Bert Nixon, one time member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. The American cowboy and Mexican knife-thrower form an immediate dislike for one another. One afternoon, after the circus has moved to a new town, Tinker is walking in the nearby countryside when he is knocked unconscious by Metaxas, who leaves him tied and bound in an old barn, intending to do away with him after nightfall. However, it is not the Mexican who returns but a masked man who might, thinks Tinker, be Nixon. This man brags that he is the killer of Cosmos before setting fire to the barn, leaving Tinker there to die. The young detective manages to escape and, realising that his theory has been completely wrong, decides to get in touch with Blake ... only to find that the detective is not at home. After a another violent encounter with Metaxas and a confusing confrontation with Nixon, Tinker wakes the next morning in a complete quandry. Who is the killer and why is Mrs Duval so scared of the Mexican? The answers comes in a sequence of shocking revelations. Sexton Blake, it turns out, has been far closer than Tinker suspected ... and the killer is closer still! Detective-Inspector Coutts swoops in the nick of time, catching the criminal, and Blake and Tinker are reunited, putting their quarrel behind them.
Trivia: Detective-Inspector Coutts has 'rather prominent teeth'. Sexton Blake's handwriting is 'microscopic' and neat.
This story was reprinted under the same title in THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series issue 723 (1940).
Notes: Story takes place in South Africa. This is Rex Hardinge's debut Sexton Blake novel. It was reprinted as THE CASE OF THE AFRICAN HOODOO in THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 3rd series issue 283 (1953). It was also adapted as a non-Blake tale (he was replaced by Nelson Lee), retaining the original title, which appeared in THE BOYS' FRIEND LIBRARY second series issue 527 (1936).
Notes: Story features Waldo the Wonder-Man.
Notes: Story features Waldo the Wonder-Man and takes place in the Congo.
Notes: A man calls desperately at Sexton Blake's residence and falls unconscious through the front door. He is Jacob Nathan, son of Sir Ensor Nathan, a rich financier. He turns out to be dead drunk, with slight injuries apparently from a traffic accident. He sleeps it off on Blake's sofa, guarded by Tinker, while the detective responds to a call from a local police station. A woman named Lola de Guise, who refers to him "Tony" as if very familiar with him, wants him to bail her out. She's been wrongfully charged with drunk driving. Intrigued by the coincidence, Blake plays along with her, gives bail, and takes her back to his place where it turns out that Nathan is her fiancé. The dissolute young man had been on his way to see Blake about a letter sent to Sir Ensor in which five thousand pounds is demanded on threat of three times that amount being stolen from him if he fails to pay. Blake realises from information in this missive that it was sent by a party that is also responsible for a number of large-scale financial crimes that have so far fleeced Sir Ensor of half a million pounds. Nathan declares that a man named Glebe Maxwell is behind the extortion and — apparently against Miss de Guise's wishes — invites Blake to join this man and others at a shooting party on his father's estate, Manor Green. In the guise of Captain Black, the detective goes along only to be baffled by a mix up with his room, which leads to him mistakenly entering one occupied by Miss de Guise. The girl accuses him of gross impropriety and demands that he departs first thing in the morning. He readily agrees, being thoroughly fed up with this horrible family. However, as he retires for the night, another commotion erupts. Lady Nathan's priceless necklace has been stolen. It is worth fifteen thousand pounds — the threat in the letter has been carried out! Jacob Nathan demands that Blake investigate, and again accuses Maxwell, but the detective refuses to have anything more to do with the matter. He signals to Tinker, who has been waiting in the grounds, and lowers a rope so his assistant can climb up into his room. Blake informs the youngster that he has recognised Miss de Guise as Olga Nasmyth, the daughter of an industrialist who, after quarrelling with Sir Ensor, had been framed and blamed for a financial disaster, leading to a prison sentence. It appears that Miss Nasmyth is running a vendetta against the man who betrayed her father. She had tried to get rid of Blake by switching room numbers so he'd make a mistake and end up in a compromising position. When a car, running quietly and without lights, enters the grounds, Blake sends Tinker to watch it. The detective then witnesses an argument between Olga and Jacob, which the girl has manufactured as an excuse to storm out and leave Manor Green. She jumps into the waiting car and departs unaware that Tinker is holding onto the back of the vehicle. Days later, after shadowing her hither and thither, the youngster reports that Nasmyth has settled in a Mayfair hotel. Blake gains entry to her room and is there to confront her when she returns from a shopping spree. When he tells her to hand over the necklace, she tosses her glove to his feet as a challenge. She then throws a small gas capsule that disables him long enough for her to make an escape.
Trivia: "Only relatives and a few intimates of the old 'Varsity and hospital days knew him as Tony. It was a half-forgotten sobriquet which had its beginnings in his childhood."
Free with this issue — a genuine Sheffield RAZOR-BLADE! (I wonder how many surviving copies of this issue are bloodstained?).
Notes: Free with this issue — a genuine Sheffield RAZOR-BLADE (just in case you still have fingers remaining after last week's issue)!
Notes: The cover illustration for this issue is one of my all-time favourites, showing Sexton Blake at his most heroic and determined.
Notes: Leonard Knightsbridge sells shares in the Supradium Syndicate, a company formed to mine a valuable new resource — supradium — in the Antartic. He hires Captain Christmas to sail the company ship — The Wanderer — to the source of this newly discovered mineral but, en route, Christmas discovers that the whole enterprise is a swindle. Knightsbridge and his cohorts intend to scupper the ship and lay low on tropical islands before eventually heading to South America to spend the money the public has invested in the company. Christmas tries to take over the ship, intending to force the criminals to mine the ore as they had promised, but he is drugged and captured. However, when a tornado strikes, the villains return captaincy of the ship to him, as he is the only man skilled enough to save it from the storm. Continuing south, they encounter a homeward-bound whaler. Christmas takes this opportunity to send a letter to Sexton Blake. A crewmember named Hockley also sends something — a package to his wife containing the crooks' loot which, after being confiscated by Christmas, Hockley had found. Blake receives the letter and, by accident, the package, which he X-rays. He and Tinker then sail south, catching up with Christmas in the Antartic. The Captain has forced the villains to mine a great deal of supradium but, just as the detective arrives, Knightsbridge and his men escape and sail away in The Wanderer. Christmas, Blake and Tinker give chase in a motor boat and manage to re-take the ship but the supradium in the hold undergoes a chemical reaction which causes it to burn through the hull. The ship sinks, taking the criminals with it. Blake, Tinker and Captain Christmas manage to escape in a lifeboat and are rescued. Back in London, the detective returns the stolen money to those who invested, including his own housekeeper, Mrs Bardell.
Trivia: This was reprinted in DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 331 as THE GREAT GLACIER BAY PLOT (1927).
Notes: Lloyd's underwriter Hubert Faversham has paid out thousands in insurance on a ship — the Kaffir King — that hit wreckage off West Africa. Captain Harmston and his crew — excepting the mate — had abandoned her and had been picked up by a passing vessel. Faversham has since learned that the Kaffir King survived: she has been seen ashore along a muddy creek in Africa. He hires Captain Christmas to recover her. Christmas is given command of the Harvester but the Kaffir King's old skipper, Harmston, objects, insisting that he should be in charge of the expedition. Faversham refuses to change his mind and, the next morning, is found murdered. Christmas visits Sexton Blake and arrives at the same time as Faversham's daughter. They both urge the detective to investigate. He agrees to do so. Miss Faversham also asks Christmas to continue with the salvage expedition and the next morning she comes aboard the Harvester announcing that she'll make the voyage. The vessel sets sail but in the Atlantic, as it passes the mouth of the Mediterranean, it is boarded and attacked by men from Harmston's ship, the Greek King. Christmas and his crew repel the invaders and the two ships separate and continue down the coast of Africa. Some days later, the Harvester reaches the creek and hits a sandbank while nosing into it. While waiting for the tide to rise, Captain Christmas goes ahead with a dozen men in a rowboat and discovers the Kaffir King. On the way back to his ship, he sees that the Greek King has arrived and his men raid the enemy vessel, holding its crew at bay while Christmas follows Harmston to the wreck. He overhears the villainous captain talking to a man who has lived on the Kaffir King for a year: Stockport — the lost mate! The survivor accuses Harmston of trying to murder him. When the captain denies this, Stockport shows him a skeleton with a knife in its ribs. This is the actual mate — and beneath the disguise the 'living Stockport' is actually Sexton Blake! The detective and Tinker had arrived some days previously by seaplane. Blake accuses Harmston of the murders of Faversham and Stockport. Harmston escapes by diving from the ship and makes his way inland through the jungle. That night, he leads an African tribe in an attack but Tinker scares them off with the seaplane and Harmston falls in battle, killed by a spear dropped by Miss Faversham.
Notes: Professor Ian Craig is left hideously disfigured when a laboratory experiment explodes in his face. During his convalescence, his fiancee, Pamela Wynne, takes up with a rich playboy, the Hon. Hugo Fortesque ... and when she sees the ruins of Craig's face, she breaks off their engagement. Three months pass and Craig has adopted a solitary existence, living alone in a flat under the name of Mr. Mist. He only emerges from it on foggy nights and this arouses the interest of the occupants of the flat below, sophisticated con man Larry Lunn and his sister Sally. One night, Lunn's curiosity leads him to search Mist's room while the occupant is out. He is caught red-handed by Mist and falls under his power. Mist, who is permanently masked, has developed a technique whereby he can become invisible ("It is all a question of optics and wavelengths"). Days later, Derek 'Splash' Page visits Sexton Blake and tells him that a young society girl, Pamela Wynne, is being haunted — repeatedly hearing the voice of Ian Craig saying, "Pamela, remember!" After the story is published, a seance is organised in the Albert Hall to prove the existence of ghosts. If it succeeds in doing so, it will win a huge cash prize offered by a research body. The event will be hosted by up-and-coming spiritualists Senor Juan Miraflores and Madame la Rue who are, in fact Larry and Sally Lunn. After learning their true identities, Blake attends the meeting and, along with the audience, is astonished to witness what appears to be real ghostly phenomenon (though, of course, it's actually Mr. Mist). Blake, realsing the truth, arrests Sally but her brother is rescued by Mist, whom Blake now recognises as Ian Craig.
Trivia: Blake lives on Baker Street West. He has an African Agent named Frank Schulyer.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ As the first of a sequence of stories concerning Mr Mist, this inevitably feels like an unfinished tale. Nevertheless, it's entertaining and the villain is excellent, being both a threatening and tragic figure.
Notes: This is a sequel to the aforegoing story. Sally Lunn is charged and sent to Hollowville Gaol while her brother Larry disguises himself and goes on the run. He falls in with a dishonest American, Denver Dan, who is soon recruited by Mr. Mist. The latter, using the 'Invicta Ray' device he has invented to achieve invisibility, enters Hollowville and facilitates Sally's escape. She is eager to revenge herself on Detective-Inspector Coutts after he had recommended that bail be disallowed. So Mist leaves a letter in the chief of Scotland Yard's office. It advises that Coutts has been seen frequenting a seedy nightclub. A detective is sent to keep tabs on Coutts and, sure enough, he is seen in a drunken state attempting to bribe the nightclub owner. Sexton Blake, following clues, has also ended up in the club and watches the same disgraceful scenes. However, instead of racing back to the Yard to report, as the detective does, he follows Coutts — only to discover that the drunken officer is, in fact, a heavily disguised Denver Dan. This villain goes to a house where he meets up with the Lunns. Blake reports the address to the real Inspector Coutts who organises a raid, catches the criminals, and thus clears his name. Meanwhile, to prove that he's unbeaten, the invisible Mr Mist walks right into Scotland Yard and steals a valuable cigar box from beneath the Chief's nose.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ A slower, slighter, and less enjoyable tale than its predecessor.
Notes: The newspapers are making much of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Spenlow Chetwynd, who is preparing the budget, and his young wife, Patricia, who has earned some acclaim for the work she does for the poor. Unfortunately, though, Patricia is being blackmailed by an ex-lover, Rudolph Kent, who has possession of embarrassing letters she once wrote to him. A cocaine addict, Kent wants to know details of the budget in advance so he can make a killing on the stock market. Unknown to him, his victim was recently helped out of an awkward situation by Mr. Mist and she has communicated with the invisible criminal to ask for his help. Her anonymous plea, in the newspaper personals, is spotted by Tinker who follows it up and discovers her identity. Before he can report this to Blake, he is knocked unconscious by a villain named Skeleton Sims who had once been put in prison by Blake and who is out for revenge. Meanwhile, Patricia is contacted by Mr. Mist who promises to recover the letters. Sims is working for Kent and, at his command, injects Tinker with a drug to kill him. A police raid arrives too late and Sexton Blake is shocked to receive a telephone call informing him that Tinker is dead. This proves false: although in a deep coma, Tinker is still alive. After a long vigil at his bedside, the detective is rewarded — Tinker comes back from the brink but enters a delirium. His babbling is peppered with information about Patricia, the letters and Mr. Mist, giving Blake the clues he needs. As the lad slips into a healing sleep, Blake prepares to go into action.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ This is a bit disappointing as it takes time to set up the situation but doesn't deliver much excitement.
Notes: Mr Mist visits Rudolph Kent to recover the letters with which Kent has been blackmailing Patricia Chetwynd. He learns that Kent has given them to Skeleton Sims for safekeeping. Neither of them are aware that Sims has already been arrested and the letters, as yet unread, are in the hands of the police. Kent is busy organising investments based on the false information about the forthcoming budget given to him by Patricia. Mist must get his hands on the letters before the budget is presented to the country because when that happens, Kent will realise that he has been duped and will damage Patricia's reputation in revenge. When time runs out, Mist, cloaked by his invisibility rays, enters parliament and disrupts the House of Commons by stealing the mace. This delays the budget speech but it proves a bad move because, as he tries to escape, he falls into the hands of Sexton Blake. A fight ensues but Mist escapes with a daring leap into the Thames. Blake visits Patricia and hands her the letters, which he has recovered from the police. Wisely, she burns them. When Rudolph Kent realises that the game is up, he attempts to flee in a stolen ambulance but is intercepted by Mr Mist who delivers him to the police. Finally, Mist informs Blake of the mace's whereabouts, abandons his villainous identity, and heads to Africa as plain Ian Craig, a scientist committed to doing good.
Rating: ★★★★☆ An excellent end to the Mr Mist mini-saga, giving the tragic criminal-hero a touching send-off.
Notes: Story features The Spider.
Notes: Story features Splash Page.
Trivia: This issue contains a large photograph of Mr. Langhorne Burton, an actor who played the role of Sexton Blake in a number of short movies. In the picture, he is posed holding the Sexton Blake bust, previously given away in the UNION JACK.
Notes: Brotherhood Hall in Pentonville is the meeting place for a large band of crooks led by the hunchback Krock Kelk. Kelk, a very accomplished gang leader in America, is now replicating his success in England. At the meeting, Kelk learns that many of the crooks in his charge have had their various schemes defeated by a man they've nicknamed 'The Joker' — aka Sexton Blake. Kelk decides that it's time Blake was dealt with. The next morning, the Baker Street detective receives three treatening letters from petty crooks he has encountered in the past. However, analysis suggests that these were all written by the same hand. He also receives a fourth letter, this from the wife of a forger named Sol Slesser, asking him to visit the crook as soon as possible. Before he can respond, Inspector Carew calls on him with an American detective named John Lakin. The two are working together to track down the origin of forged notes that are circulating on both sides of the Atlantic. Blake agrees to help. After they leave, he tells Tinker that the counterfeits have the stamp of Slesser about them. Later, Slesser is visited by his one-time partner, a huge brute named, Joe Brade, who'd been presumed dead. When Kelk also arrives, he instructs Brade to kidnap Lakin and bring him to Brotherhood Hall. First, though, Kelk takes Brade to the hall to meet the gang of criminals. Brade purposely picks a fight with one, an ex-boxer named Sankey, and beats him. The defeated man is then ordered by Kelk to assist Brade. They go to look for Lakin but cannot find him so decide to hunt for Blake in Baker Street instead. When they force their way into the house, Mrs Bardell screams for the police and Sankey runs for it. Brade remains in the house and reveals that, beneath the disguise, he is Sexton Blake! Knowing that Kelk has set a trap for him, Blake purposely walks into it then fights his way out. Lakin arrives and leads the detective into another trap — and this time Blake finds himself strapped into an electric chair! Tinker comes to the rescue and the gang is rounded up — except for Kelk, who in his guise as Lakin, remains unsuspected.
Trivia: Mrs Bardell's sister, Mary Ann Cluppins receives a mention.
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ A messily written and badly structured tale.
Notes: Paul Cynos — Convict No. 1843 — correctly predicts that the new Home Secretary will release him from Parkmoor Prison on 23rd March, some nine months before the end of his sentence. Insisting that the sixteen years he has served were for a murder he didn't commit, Cynos vows revenge against all those who were involved in his conviction, particularly his former business partner, Jabez Knowland. Upon gaining his liberty, he is driven by his chauffeur to London and, on the way, gives a lift to Sexton Blake and Tinker, who are stranded after the Grey Panther broke down. Subsequently, Blake becomes interested in Cynos, especially as he himself had testified against him at the trial sixteen years ago. When Knowland calls Blake and asks him for protection, the detective learns that Cynos has been sending a postcard to his one-time partner on the 23rd of March every year, demanding payment for each year of lost freedom. The final card arrives while Blake is there, and it demands 'Payment in full!'. However, the detective takes a dislike to his prospective client, suspecting that he may have framed Cynos, and refuses to work for him. As he departs, he passes Knowland's secretary, Moya Grayle, who is reading something that shocks her so much that she faints into Blake's arms. She is taken off his hands by Knowland's son, Jack, a fine fellow who is secretly engaged to the young woman. Back at Baker Street, the detective discovers the paper Miss Grayles had been reading crumpled in his jacket. On it is a coat of arms — a wolf's head with the phrase, in latin, Man Preys On Man. This turns out to be the coat of arms of the Cynos family. Next morning, Detective-Inspector Coutts calls and reports that Knowland has gone missing. Jack also has news: Miss Grayle has vanished too, leaving a letter in which she breaks off their engagement. Thinking to search the house next door, the police discover that it is inhabited by the Home Secretary, John Selby Waite — the very man who released Cynos! Sexton Blake, upon learning that Cynos has seven sons and one daughter, realises that Moya Grayle is the latter. When she telephones him and asks him to warn Jack to be on his guard against some unspecified danger, Blake traces the call and sends Tinker to shadow the girl. His assistant sees her enter a car that is then driven to Cynos's estate. As Tinker is about to return to report to his guv'nor, the girl reappears and asks to be taken to Baker Street. There she reveals that she has discovered that she is Cynos's daughter and was forced by her father to break her engagement. Now she is rebelling against him. Events take a strange turn when Blake, Tinker and Coutts receive an invitation from Cynos. They go to his house and there find Jack, who has also been invited. The room in which they await their host suddenly sinks — it's a giant lift! Its door slides open to reveal a court room in which Jabez Knowland is on trial. Accused of the murder for which Cynos paid the penalty, he finally folds under the pressure and makes a full confession. Cynos then drives his guests to the Home Secretary's office where he presents the evidence of his innocence and Knowland's guilt. He is granted a full pardon. As they leave, Blake remains behind and reveals that he knows that the Home Secretary is the eldest son of the House of Cynos. He promises to keep quiet about the whole affair in the interests of justice. The next morning, John Selby Waite commits suicide to avoid any scandal. Knowland hangs himself in his prison cell. Jack and Miss Grayle marry. Cynos warns Blake not to interfere again.
Trivia: This was reprinted in DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 310 as SEXTON BLAKE VERSUS THE HOUSE OF CYNOS (1939).
Notes: In his guise as New York private detective, John Lakin, Krock Kelk is given a tour of the Bank of England's security. A few days later, he returns to the bank, this time in the guise of a crippled American senator, Selkirk, and is accompanied by Solomon Slesser, Slesser's wife Jessica, who poses as his daughter, and Sankey, the one-time boxer. Jessica is dying of diabetes, is obsessed with the kindness shown to her by Sexton Blake during the affair of The Hunchback of Brotherhood Hall (THE UNION JACK issue 1,288), and is determined to wreak revenge on her husband for his ill treatment of her. These circumstances come to a head when, without forewarning, Slesser throws a smoke bomb at her. Under cover of the panic, Kelk robs the bank of a quarter of a million pounds in gold. Jessica slips the bank's governor, Monroe Ferguson, her handkerchief and tells him to see Sexton Blake. He, still unaware of the robbery, accepts the senator's explanation that bolshevik enemies have tried to harm him by killing his daughter. Selkirk departs and Ferguson immediately summons Sexton Blake. By the time the criminologist arrives at the bank, the theft has become apparent. The governor gives the detective the handkerchief. Jessica, it is quickly discovered, is in a hospital in Whitechapel. Blake and Ferguson visit it and she tells them everything she knows and suggests that the best way for Blake to get at Kelk is through Sankey. The detective dresses in a disguise often used by the "King Crook" and learns from Sankey that the loot has been stashed in an isolated house in the Forest of Dean. While Kelk is in Cardiff arranging for a boat to take the haul abroad, Blake, continuing his masquerade, gathers a team of crooks and has them driven to the forest by Tinker, who is also disguised. Meanwhile, he scouts around the house and encounters Sessler, who is fooled and shows him the gold. Blake departs to meet with Tinker. They commandeer a post office van with which to move the loot. Unfortunately, this is witnessed by Kelk, who has returned earlier than expected. When the detectives try to fool Kelk's gang, their ruse fails. Sessler is wounded, providing sufficient distraction that Kelk is able to load the gold into the post van and drive off. Blake and Tinker give chase in the Grey Panther and force the vehicle off the road. When they approach it, John Lakin emerges from it and claims to have retrieved the gold, though, he says, Kelk has got away. The loot is returned to the bank. Lakin disappears before he can be questioned. Blake's suspicions are aroused.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ As with the first in the Krock Kelk series, this is a messy and illogical yarn.
Notes: A "stool-pigeon" named Jordan Ames informs Sexton Blake that a great number of crooks are gathering in London for something big. Detective-Inspector Coutts ruminates that there's no current criminal big enough to lead a confederation of crooks the way Mr Reece and Dr Satira had done in the past. A taxi arrives at Baker Street: in it, Ames is dying from poisoning. With his last words, he cries "A wolf's head!" and claims that they are after a million. Tinker recognises the wolf's head as being the coat of arms of Paul Cynos. That evening, Sexton Blake receives a letter requesting him to call upon Sir Harley James, the Governor of the National British Bank. At Sir Harley's house, the banker shows him a letter he has received from Cynos in which one million is demanded in payment for the part Sir Harley played — as a key witness — in Cynos's trial. The banker reveals to Blake that a million in bullion is due to be transferred between two London banks, and he gives the detective complete responsibility for this task. When a wolf's head is seen floating outside the window, Blake realises that Cynos's agents have eavesdropped on the conversation. He updates Coutts with the latest information while being driven to inspect the banks. Cynos, though, strikes fast, and when the chauffuer collapses having been given a doped cigarette, Blake narrowly avoids a serious crash. At the bank due to receive the bullion, Blake meets Edgar Reid, the manager, and the chief clerk, Clayton. He quickly suspects the latter of being one of the sons of Cynos. The fortune is to be moved in a motor-pantechnicon. Blake hires six of the vehicles. Five are used as decoys, while the sixth is filled with the bullion by Scotland Yard men. Sexton Blake himself drives it to the bank and parks it in the covered yard. It is here that Cynos's gang strikes. Blake, Coutts and the Yard men are gassed into unconsciousness and the pantechnicon is driven away. Upon regaining consciousness, Blake reveals that the crooks have made off with dummy strongboxes; the real bullion is concealed in the lorry's false bottom. He has another trick up his sleeve too; one of the dummy strongboxes contains a smoke bomb, which is set off by a timer. When smoke pours from a certain person's house, Blake swoops and arrests him — exposing another of Cynos's sons. Of Cynos himself, however, there is no sign; he has fooled them by having his brother, Maximus, impersonate him, ensuring that the police follow the wrong man!
Trivia: Detective-Inspector Coutts's brother-in-law, William Higgins, owns a removal firm. He refers to Coutts as 'Erb, which implies that Coutts's name is Herbert. Of course, this flies against the usual 'George'.
This story was reprinted in DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 311 as PAUL CYNOS DEMANDS £1,000,000 RANSOM (1939).
Notes: Sexton Blake and Tinker are on the track of a set of diamonds that were stolen in Japan while en route to Britain. They take passage aboard a ship, knowing that one of the passengers is the thief — but which one? Top of their list of suspects is a man named Casper Nigan, whom they see paying court to another passenger, a young woman named June Severance, who is travelling with her mother. When the ship reaches the Hawaiian Islands, this group goes ashore, along with a missionary that Blake is convinced is actually an international jewel thief named Monte Bristow. They take a yacht to Hawaii itself, where Nigan has a sugar plantation. Blake and Tinker follow in another yacht and, on the island, witness Nigan trying to seduce Miss Severance. Blake puts a stop to this and Nigan flees with the stolen diamonds. The detective pursues him up the side of the island's volcano and succeeds in snatching the gems, though Nigan gets away. Some hours later, the villain communicates with Blake to demand the return of the stones in exchange for Miss Severance. The Baker Street man has no choice but to agree to this. The next day, Blake and Tinker disguise themselves as Chinamen and try to infiltrate the Nigan estate to regain the jewels but are caught by the crook and sentenced to death by hula-bani — a garland of flowers that are placed around the neck and kill through their poisoned scent. However, the hula girl who brings in the blossoms proves to be a disguised June Severance and she cuts them free. In the ensuing fight, Nigan is shot dead and Monte Bristow is captured. Blake entrusts the girl with the delivery of the jewels back to England.
Notes: June Severance and her mother have returned to their family property, High House, in Devon. When a letter arrives from Sexton Blake, who is en route from San Francisco, June learns that Monte Bristow is still on the loose and may have sailed for England in pursuit of the diamond-studded ikons that the detective had entrusted to her (see Poisoned Blossoms, UNION JACK issue 1,305). Shortly after she has read it, a visitor arrives in the young and lovely form of Baroness Sophie von Ketzen, who offers ten thousand pounds in return for the jewels. June refuses and has the woman ejected from the house. The next morning, Blake and Tinker arrive home and learn that June has gone missing. They drive to High House in the Grey Panther and are there told of von Ketzen's visit. When the gardener discovers the corpse of the boy who assists him, the detective sends Tinker to fetch a specialist named Grayson, for he suspects that the boy, though showing no signs of life, might not be dead. Grayson arrives and agrees with Blake that a rare toxin has been injected. He administers an antidote and the youngster recovers and tells them that he was attacked by two men who were carrying Miss Severance away. Blake takes delivery of a letter from Paris confirming that the young lady is now a hostage and advising him to drop his interest in the ikons. Blake and Tinker cross to France and, in its capital, encounter Captain Scott-Morgan, who they know from their previous adventure with Severance. He reveals to them that he's seen Bristow in the city. Blake receives another letter from von Ketzen. He tells the captain what has happened to June — with whom Scott-Morgan is in love — before then writing a reply for the crooked baroness in which he instructs Miss Severance to disclose the whereabouts of the ikons. He knows she won't ... it's just a play for time. When Bristow arrives to receive Blake's response, the detective is able to trick out of him the fact that he and von Ketzen are working for a villainous woman known as the Orchid. The detective admits defeat and gives Bristow the letter. However, he's already arranged for the crook to be followed, and when the villains' hideaway is identified, he, Tinker and Scott-Morgan mount a rescue mission. Miss Severance is rescued and the ikons are secured. The crooks, however, make a clean getaway.
Trivia: June Severance estimates that Sexton Blake is about forty years old. The Grey Panther is housed in a garage that is in the mews just behind the Baker Street house.
Rating: ★★★★☆ A considerable improvement over the first in the June Severance series.
Notes: The Metropolitan Police Force has erected billboards upon which £5,000 is offered for any information leading to the arrest of Paul Cynos, who has has gained leadership over a powerful gang of crooks. Sexton Blake receives a note from the villain in which he is advised to tell Mr Malcolm Burton that the demand has increased to fifty thousand pounds and will continue to increase until the requirements are met. Blake correctly guesses that the man referred to is in his waiting room. Burton, it turns out, was foreman of the jury at Cynos's trial sixteen years ago. Now he is head of a large insurance company. He has consulted Blake because a homing pigeon was delivered to him with a demand for forty thousand pounds in full settlement for Cynos's wrongful conviction. He is to agree to the terms via the bird. Blake shows him the message that increases the amount and observes that Burton was undoubtedly followed to Baker Street. The criminologist offers his client a drink but when Burton takes it the glass suddenly shatters and, a few seconds later, the windows of Blake's consulting room disintegrate. This is followed by the delivery of an invitation for Blake, Tinker and Detective-Inspector Coutts to dine with Cynos at the Hotel Magnificent on Regent Street. They attend, but before their host arrives, every item of glass in the vast restaurant shatters and it is plunged into darkness ... through which Cynos comes to press a gun against Blake’s neck. While the detective is thus immobilised, valuables are stolen from the hotel’s clients. Cynos slips away in the darkness and confusion. Blake then learns that glass has shattered along the whole length of the street and all its jewellery shops have been plundered. The next day, while Blake is considering the case, windows all over London start to break, until it becomes plainly apparent that the city will soon be made a looter's paradise. The devastation will ruin Malcolm Burton's insurance agency, so he gives in to Cynos's demands. Blake, meanwhile, realises that a black van is frequently spotted at the scenes of destruction. He postulates that the vehicle contains a machine that emits high frequency sound waves ... and recalls that such a device was demonstrated three years ago by a scientist named Septimus Coss. Cynos sends instructions to Burton: the money must be placed in a bag and left at midnight in Melcombury Ring, a geological feature on the Sussex Downs. This is done and Blake, Coutts and a small force of police constables lay in wait. The area fills with smoke, under cover of which a man takes the bag. Blake, however, apprehends him, and reveals him to be Septimus Coss ... who also happens to be Cynos's eldest son! A second son is then identified ... and it turns out to be Burton, the whole scheme having been an elaborate swindle. With two more of his sons captured, Cynos gets away, albeit empty-handed.
Trivia: Blake’s house is set a little way back from Baker Street. Different authors give conflicting descriptions but the consensus is that there’s a fence and gate beyond which steps lead down to a basement door and up to the front door.
Blake has a photo of Dirk Dolland hanging on the wall opposite the window on his Consulting room.
This was reprinted in DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 313 THE BIG SMASH (1939).
Rating: ★★★☆☆ There are two big illogical plot points in this story. If Malcolm Burton is one of Cynos's sons, how did he get to be foreman of the jury at Cynos's trial and why did he find his own father guilty? Perhaps the author forgot to state that Burton's claim to have been the foreman was a false one? However, even this is problematical, since with everyone involved in the trial being targeted by Cynos, it seems incredible that Blake would not by now know who they were. Secondly, Septimus Coss invented his machine well into his father's jail sentence, and was already by then hiding his familial connection with the prisoner, so why did he give a public demonstration of a machine that was surely invented with revenge in mind?
Notes: Lord Robin Huntingley forms The League of Robin Hood to punish those who profiteer from the hardships faced by ex-servicemen. He intends to extort money from these ne'er-do-wells in order to pay for Christmas dinners for down-and-outs. The mission begins in the parish of Shinwell where, in due course, an array of crooked landlords, magistrates and politicians are abducted and confined in the cellar of Huntingley Manor where they are forced to chop wood to earn their meals. Detective-Inspector Coutts reports the kidnappings to Sexton Blake but the Baker Street sleuth isn't much interested ... he doesn't want to spend this Christmas fighting crime. Meanwhile, in Shinwell, Splash Page stumbles upon a fight between a friar and a huge thug. The friar wins the battle, drags his opponent into a waiting car, and is promptly driven away. However, beneath the coat of the driver, Splash had spotted a Robin Hood costume, so he now gives chase. He is led to the Manor where he introduces himself to Lord Huntingley and is invited to join the League. He gladly does so, intrigued to witness the villainous prisoners paying good money to be excused their chores. Unfortunately, matters turn ugly when one of the prisoners, Jabez Bruff, is found stabbed to death. Page calls Sexton Blake who drives out to the manor in the Grey Panther. The detective immediately notices that Huntingley's knife is missing from his belt, though the lord pleads his innocence. Sexton Blake interrogates each of Huntingley's prisoners — and finds them all keen to avoid involvement in any kind of scandal; so much so that they offer generous payment if he will agree to extricate them. The police arrive and Blake reveals how Bruff died ... and a most unexpected explanation it is too! The League is disbanded, the poor receive a large donation, and Blake, Tinker, Page, Coutts and Huntingley and Co. enjoy a very merry Christmas.
Trivia: Sexton Blake reveals that he can throw knives at a distance of thirty yards with deadly accuracy.
This was anthologised in CRIME AT CHRISTMAS (1974).