PROFESSOR FRANCIS KEW

by Mark Hodder

  • An introduction to this popular old character for the benefit of new readers.

Professor Kew is a master toxicologist and chemist. He is highly intelligent but furtive and cunning, with a twisted sense of gamesmanship. He frequently teams up with Count Ivor Carlac.

Professor Kew

Professor Francis Kew is the head of St. Cyr's Hospital just off Aylesbury Square near London's Edgeware Road. At face value, he is a well-liked and highly competent medical man ... but, unknown to his staff, the professor's talents are being directed not towards the betterment of mankind but, rather, towards personal gain.

With his rounded shoulders, and great head thrust forward, in his loose coat, there is something of the vulture about the man. His head is bald, save for one small tuft of silver-white hair which fringes his high forehead. The clean-shaven face is lined and creased with innumerable wrinkles. From a pair of deep sockets two cold, penetrating eyes shine, and the loose flesh on the outside edges of the eyes, hanging down curtain-wise, gives a markedly sinister aspect to the whole face. The lips beneath the thin, well-shaped nose are small and bloodless, and it is only the sweep of the heavy jaw that saves the features from being almost birdlike. He is thin. His long, slender fingers, small palms, and thin wrists add to his whole attitude, which is wonderfully like that of a bird of prey brooding over some victim.

Chronology:

1. The Aylesbury Square Mystery (UNION JACK issue 511, 1913)
Professor Kew develops a narcotic which he uses as a means to steal an emerald necklace. Sexton Blake discovers his crime and recovers the jewellery but is unable to prosecute the criminal.

2. Foiled by Sexton Blake (UNION JACK issue 514, 1913)
An insane mine owner hires Professor Kew to murder his partner. Kew agrees but uses the opportunity to swindle the man out of £200,000. Sexton Blake foils the scheme but is unable to gather enough evidence to convict the professor.

3. The Case of the Motor Cyclist (UNION JACK issue 520, 1913)

4. Tinker's Terrible Test (UNION JACK issue 525, 1913)
Professor Kew steals jewels from a charity ball and takes Tinker prisoner. Injected with a drug which causes complete paralysis, Tinker is sent to a hospital to have a dangerous brain operation. Sexton Blake tracks Kew down and the criminal bargains his own freedom in return for Tinker's safety.

5. The Blackmailer's Secret (UNION JACK issue 531, 1913)
Kew learns that one of his patients has been blackmailing a man who's stolen another's identity. The victim, Anthony Glave, has been placed in an asylum and is suffering from amnesia. Kew attempts to extort money from the imposter but when Sexton Blake starts to investigate the matter, the professor's plans go awry. After narrowly avoiding death at the hands of the exposed masquerader, Kew is allowed to go free in return for restoring Glave's memory.

6. The Mystery of the Monastery (UNION JACK issue 535, 1914)
An American millionaire employs Kew to help him fake his own death in order to influence the stock market. The criminals take refuge in a monastery but Sexton Blake arrives and foils their plan. He cannot, however, press charges as he has promised not to bring the monastery into disrepute. Kew walks free.

7. The Death Cylinder (UNION JACK issue 544, 1914)
Kew accepts a commission to murder a millionaire and tricks an innocent man into performing the deed. However, the scheme is foiled by Sexton Blake and Kew is, for the first time, publicly exposed as a villain. He is sentenced to six years at Port Vale Gaol. Upon arrival, he recognises Count Ivor Carlac.

8. Ill-Gotten Gains THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 2 (1915)
Kew escapes from prison with Count Ivor Carlac and tries to extort money from a banker who once committed a crime. Their victim flees to an island off Alaska where evidence that proves his innocence is hidden. The criminals get there first but their plot is foiled by Sexton Blake. They manage to get away.

9. The Rajah's Revenge THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 4 (1915)
When Kew and Count Ivor Carlac attempt to steal treasure from a Rajah, they are captured and held prisoner in the palace where, day after day, they are tormented by a half-starved tiger. Sexton Blake comes to their rescue and, after fleeing from the Rajah, they then escape from the detective.

10. Victims of Villainy THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 8 (1916)

11. His Excellency's Secret THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 19 (1916)
Kew and Count Ivor Carlac gain a hypnotic hold over a South American diplomat and use him to discover of the location of a fabled silver mine. Sexton Blake ruins their scheme but Kew trades stolen documents for his and Carlac's freedom.

12. The Secret of the Draker's Folly THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 25 (1917)

13. The Catspaw THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 29 (1917)
Professor Kew and Count Ivor Carlac fool Hon. John Lawless into helping a convict escape from prison. This man, Melvale, had hidden a hoard of stolen jewels before being imprisoned for their theft, and has promised to divide the spoils with the two master crooks in return for their liberating him. The trio make for the Norfolk Broads where the treasure is concealed on an island — but are pursued by Lawless, Sexton Blake and Tinker. After failing to kill Blake, Carlac and Kew are betrayed by Melvale, who is subsequently killed when a mine explodes beneath his boat. The fate of the two crooks remains a mystery to Sexton Blake.

More to come ... ...