Notes: This was originally published as a serial in THE BOYS' REALM issues 46 to 57. Sexton Blake only makes a fleeting 'guest appearance' in this story and, for that reason, I haven't included the serial in this bibliography (when I learn which instalment he appears in, I shall add that issue).
Notes: In 1890, Prince Bismarck's private secretary stores a box filled with
his employer's memoirs in the vaults of Goyle's Bank, London. He puts the bank receipt
in a flask which he throws into the Thames. He is never seen again. Thirty years later,
the flask is found by a river worker who takes it to Sexton Blake. A German agent named
Stromburg has a brief tussle with the detective before raiding the bank and stealing
the memoirs. By intercepting a letter from Lord Vavasour to Stromburg's employer, Count
Dorflisch, Blake learns what the box in the bank vault had contained. Vavasour's letter
concerns a forthcoming meeting between him and Dorflisch. When this occurs at Vavasour's
home, Mylton Towers, Dorflisch reveals that the memoirs contain damning facts about Vavasour's
father. His attempted blackmail is cut short though; Vavasour leaves the room for a moment
and when he returns he finds a man dead on the floor and Dorflisch gone. But even worse,
he discovers that important government papers pertaining to Persia have been stolen from
his desk. A disguised Sexton Blake arrives on the scene to investigate and sees that
the dead man is Stromburg. Meanwhile,
Sir Vyrmer Fane, head of the Secret Service, sends
Granite Grant to find out what has become of the Persian documents.
Mademoiselle Julie also appears on the scene. Between them, they identify the
real killer, reclaim Vavasour's lost papers and recover the Bismarck memoirs.
Trivia: This is a reworking of THE UNION JACK story THE CLAYTON MOAT MYSTERY from issue 1,103 (1924), which in turn was based on The SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY novel THE MYSTERY BOX (series 1, issue 151, 1920) from which this review derives. It was later republished as THE CASE OF THE BISMARK MEMOIRS and was anthologised in SEXTON BLAKE WINS (1986).
Notes: My copy is missing its cover.
Notes: Floyd Caslon, Managing-Director of Giant Supply Stores, calls in Detective-Inspector Coutts after a series of robberies. Coutts, in turn, sends for Sexton Blake when the company's secretary, Konstandt, is found dead. Meanwhile, down-and-out Martin Slade is hitch-hiking to Brighton. A lorry driver named Buck Shrap and his mate, Trigger Johns, gives him a lift and, after dropping him off, they drive on to Marlingdene Grange where they unload stolen goods for their eccentric boss, Magnus Rennell. Watching from a hiding place are two hired hitmen. After the lorry has departed they break into the Grange and kill Rennell. The housekeeper Mrs. Brill, witnesses their departure. Later, one of them runs into Martin Slade and tricks him into joining a police identity parade. Mrs. Brill points him out due to his resemblance to the other gunman. Slade is arrested on a charge of murder. Blake has learned enough to suspect that Marlingdene Grange may be the base of operations for the thieves who've been stealing from the Giant Supply Stores. To his astonishment, though, he discovers that the property actually belongs to Floyd Caslon and the millionaire businessman soon moves into it. Blake, heavily disguised, gets a job as a gardener. One night, lorries arrive. Blake spies upon the proceedings as Caslon's secretary, Mr. Creed, organises the removal men. But he is spotted and Caslon, realising that his gardener is Sexton Blake, orders Trigger Johns to kill him. The following day Detective-Inspector Welland informs Caslon that his gardener has been murdered. Trigger Johns, having shot at Blake from a distance, visits the mortuary to check that the detective is, indeed dead. When the 'corpse' sits up and grabs him by the throat, Johns dies of fright. Next day, when Inspector Welland confronts Caslon, he is shot in the knee and held prisoner in the Grange's vaults. Blake and Coutts are invited to dinner at Marlingdene and indulge in verbal jousting with their host. Later, Blake sneaks back to search the house and ends up a prisoner with Welland, who has been tortured by Creed and chained in a cell. The detective escapes, shooting Creed dead, just as Coutts leads a raid on the house. The criminals are rounded up and each pays the ultimate price for their crimes.
Rating: ★★★★☆ An unusually brutal story and one that never lets up.
Notes: Crooked financier Danby Clayton pays vagrant Jim Hawkins to masquerade as him. Hawkins is given no explanation for why it might be necessary but agrees and moves into Malverton Manor. Meanwhile, a woman named Peggy Valentine asks Sexton Blake to locate her unscrupulous brother, Harry, who's been missing for six months. Elsewhere, Captain Dack is hired to ship Clayton and a cargo of packing crates to an as yet undisclosed destination. Suspicious, he decides to investigate. Both he and Tinker, independent of one another, end up watching the last man Harry Valentine was seen with, a crook named Sarsen, who has already identified Hawkins as Valentine and has accepted a bribe to remain silent about it. Dack meets with Sarsen and, sensing that a deep game is being played, proposes a profitable alliance. Sarsen refuses. Tinker, after eavesdropping on them, begins to get a sense of the plot that's unfolding. Danby Clayton is, in the meantime, approached by one of his three business partners, Verner, who's realised that Clayton is about to bail out of their ailing company, taking its securities with him. Clayton kills him, places the body in an airtight packing case, and has it delivered to Dack's vessel, the Mary Ann Trinder. Another of the financiers, Haylan, works out was has happened, seeks evidence by creeping aboard the ship, and is caught with Verner's corpse by Dack. The captain imprisons Haylan in the hold then disposes of Verner's body. The next morning, packing cases are delivered to the wharf and are taken aboard. Clayton then arrives and instructs Dack to set course for the United States. In the mouth of the Thames, however, the Mary Ann Trinder is hijacked by Sarsen and his gang and is redirected toward Scotland. In Paris, Sexton Blake reads a report that Danby Clayton has died in a fire at Malverton Manor. He races back to Baker Street, where there's no sign of Tinker. Next, he interviews Clayton's remaining partners, Farquhar and Gresier, and so unnerves them that Gresier commits suicide. The following day, Farquhar is arrested and the collapse of the company hits the headlines. Dack decides to hide on his own ship to make Sarsen think he's somehow escaped in a lifeboat. When he squeezes into a small space at the prow of the vessel, he finds Tinker there. They team up and discover that Clayton's crates are filled with valuable antiques, which he illegally acquired with his company's funds and intends to sell at a vast profit. They then take control of the bridge and set a course for Sunderland. A gunfight breaks out between his crew and Sarsen's gang. Clayton tries to flee in a lifeboat but Sarsen shoots him and he falls overboard and drowns. The fight is at stalemate when a flying boat arrives, lands, and demonstrates its superior firepower. Sexton Blake emerges from it. Sarsen surrenders. Dack sets Haylan free and later receives a reward for returning the treasure.
Trivia: This is Captain Dack's debut story.
Sexton Blake is mostly offstage working another case. His client is the Treasury and his presence is required in France. He doesn't fully engage with "Crook Cargo" until chapter sixteen, and is then absent again until the final chapter.