Publishing: Author George E. Rochester dies aged 68.
Notes: The Chateau Gaillac, home to the Vicomtesse de Gaillac, lies close to the village of La Puce. In Marseilles, someone is killing prostitutes, and now La Puce's sole representative of that profession has gone missing. Meanwhile, in London, Sexton Blake is shown beautiful paintings by Auguste, a pseudonym of the Vicomte de Gaillac of La Puce, who drowned a year ago. He is then shown horrendous images painted by a "Glasgow drunk" named Ferguson, who also lives in La Puce, and who is patently insane. Blake is informed that there's every indication that Auguste and Ferguson are actually the same man, and he is commissioned to find out whether this is the case. With Tinker and Paula Dane, he travels to France. He and Tinker break into Ferguson's lodgings where they find a portrait of a girl who has been shackled and half stripped of her skin. Meanwhile, Paula discovers the body of a girl in the sea. At first presumed to be the missing prostitute, it is soon proved otherwise — she is one of the murdered Marseilles girls. Blake recognises the corpse as the subject of Ferguson's painting. Evidence, largely provided by the Vicomtesse, throws suspicion on a fisherman named Dumont. Furious, he sets off for the chateau to confront her. At the same moment, Paula is attacked by Ferguson and left unconscious. Blake finds her and, upon recovering, she describes her assailant. The detective barges into the scotsman's home and they fight. Blake is incapacitated and, when fire breaks out, left to burn. Deciding that it's time to flee La Puce, Ferguson heads to the chateau to demand payment that's due to him. Dumont, still heading in the same direction, rescues Blake. Ferguson tells the Vicomtesse that she owes him for his masquerading as the artist. She poisons him and he dies. When Dumont arrives, she does the same to him. Tinker breaks into the basement of the chateau, finds Dumont and applies first aid, saving him. Blake, in the meantime, enters the building via an upstairs window and is captured by the Vicomte de Gaillac, whose drowning had been faked and who is a raving maniac. He has been torturing the missing prostitute and using her as the subject of his paintings. Now he intends to do the same to Blake. However, Paula and Tinker come to the rescue and the Vicomte is killed by the prostitute. The Vicomtesse sets fire to her home and dies in the flames.
Trivia: It's again stated that Blake lives in a penthouse at the top of the building that he had once rented from Mrs Bardell and which he now owns. Mrs Bardell is still his housekeeper. The downstairs floors have been converted into offices.
Blake states that he knew Pablo Picasso.
My copy is an American edition. The series was numbered differently in the US; this was no.7.
Notes: Myra Dent is seduced in a hotel by a lothario named Frank Miller. Miller has been hired by the girl's stepfather, Robert Langridge, to 'blacken her name'. Should Miller be successful, the resultant scandal will cut Myra out of her real father's will, leaving her mother — Langridge's wife — to inherit a fortune. Mission accomplished, Miller departs unaware that behind him, in the hotel room, Myra has been stabbed death. As a member of a sect devoted to Set, the Eqyptian god of evil, she knows too much and has been murdered to keep her from betraying the organisation. Miller quickly becomes a victim too. Myra's mother asks Sexton Blake to investigate her daughter's death. He and Detective Chief Inspector Coutts are puzzled by the rapid decomposition of the girl's corpse and by a tattoo on her chest: a heiroglyphic representation of the name 'Cleopatra'. Tinker follows Robert Langridge as he meets another female member of the sect — Nari Sayd — and is led to their Temple. There, he is killed. Tinker, driving through thick fog, is involved in a traffic accident that leaves him in a critical condition after his skull is broken. After reading about this in a newspaper the following day — and having learned that Sexton Blake is on the case — the leader of the sect tries to kill Tinker by influencing his condition via a magic ritual. Blake's assistant is saved by intervention from Gideon Ashley, the detective's friend and an expert in esoteric matters (see BRED TO KILL, 4th series, issue 448). Blake breaks into Nari Sayd's flat and finds evidence of her involvement with the cult of Set. Later, he visits while she is there but is knocked unconscious by another of the cultists. He recovers in the temple, where he is to be sacrificed to Set ... present in the form of a huge crocodile. Escaping, Blake confronts the leader of the cult and exposes the villain's identity. While this is happening, Nari Sayd loses her mind and burns the temple to the ground, losing her life and killing many of her fellow cultists in the process. The worshippers of Set are no more, Tinker is on the road to recovery, and Sexton Blake finishes a case during which many supernatural events have been experienced.
Trivia: Sexton Blake's doorbell plays a Bach fugue.
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. 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 reprint of SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 151 THE MYSTERY BOX (1920). The review notes are based on a reading of that issue. The same tale also appeared in THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series issue 432 (1934) under the original title. It was published yet again in THE SEVENTH SEXTON BLAKE OMNIBUS (1969) and again in in SEXTON BLAKE WINS (1986)..
Notes: This is a revision of SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 4th
series issue 451 THE ANGRY NIGHT (1960). See that issue for further details. The review notes are not reproduced here as I've yet to assess how much it was rewritten for this issue. This version was anthologised in THE EIGHTH SEXTON BLAKE OMNIBUS (1970).