THE THREE MUSKETEERS

by Mark Hodder

  • An introduction to these popular old characters for the benefit of new readers.

The Three Musketeers are: Algy Somerton, Archie "Fairy" Pherison and Reggie "Cupid" Fetherston. At face value, they are vacuous idiots. In reality, they are extremely callous criminals. They are often employed by the wizened antiques expert, Mathew Cardolak.

The Three Musketeers

They appear to be nothing more than three young men-about-town, out to enjoy themselves dancing at the most popular clubs, attending race meetings, and enjoying the social glitz and glamour of 1920's London. So often are they seen in each others' company that they have become known as The Three Musketeers.

Algy Somerton has not been blessed with good looks. His forehead recedes so sharply that it would appear grotesque were it not covered by a mop of hair. He has goggling, inane eyes, with a monocle that he can hardly keep in, a nondescript nose, weak mouth, and receding chin. His manner matches it, and the drawl he affects is a clear indication that the supply of brains had run out when he was made.

Archie "Fairy" Pherison fares better in the looks department. He is a tall, handsome young man, with thin blonde hair sliced back close to his round head. But Like Algy, his eyes are somewhat vacant in expression. His nose is short and rather too broad and his upper lip is decorated with a faint wisp of light hair which might, perhaps, be a misplaced eyebrow. Fairy walks with a slight stoop, as though his body were too weary to carry the burden of his head.

The third musketeer, Reggie "Cupid" Fetherston, is plump and pink and guileless. He has brown hair and eyes, chubby cheeks and a merry, if rather dumb, look about him.

Together, these three appear to be the most harmless and brainless trio imaginable.

However, in the privacy of their shared home, the facade falls away. The glazed eyes snap into sharp focus, the lazy voices become incisive and commanding, the bumbling mannerisms vanish, and the seemingly idiotic characters reveal themselves as three of the most cunning, determined and downright brutal criminal personalities that the law enforcement agencies have ever had to face.

These men are without any thought for their victims; they are utterly callous, completely ruthless ... and totally committed to crime.

Chronology:

1. The Wireless Telephone Clue (UNION JACK issue 977, 1922)
The Three Musketeers burgle an aristocrat's house and attempt to offload the proceeds through a fence in Paris. Tinker accidentally intercepts their radio communications which leads to Sexton Blake recovering the stolen property, though he fails to capture the criminal trio.

2. The Bandits of Bruyeres (UNION JACK issue 991, 1922)
In Paris, the Musketeers kidnap rich American tourists and hold them for ransom. Blake tracks them to their base and stages a raid. He is wounded in the arm during a vicious gunfight and cannot prevent the three criminals from escaping in a biplane.

3. The Thousandth Chance (UNION JACK issue 1,000, 1922)
The Musketeers join forces with Doctor Huxton Rymer, Prince Wu Ling, Mary Trent, The Black Duchess, Leon Kestrel, Zenith the Albino, George Marsden Plummer and Professor Kew to rob Sexton Blake of his store of treasures. The plan fails but Wu Ling reimburses them for their efforts.

4. The Diamond Special (UNION JACK issue 1,001, 1922)
The Musketeers pull off a massive diamond heist in Paris. Three months later, Sexton Blake is in Cairo hunting Prince Hamad, a dangerous seditionist. He finds the Musketeers in his quarry's company and narrowly escapes death. Fleeing back to Baker Street, Blake starts planning how to capture the villains...

5. The Palace of Mystery (UNION JACK issue 1,004, 1923)
Sexton Blake returns to Cairo in the guise of a seditious carpet weaver. His outspoken opposition to British rule earns him an invitation from Prince Hamad. When the detective finds himself in the company of the prince and The Three Musketeers, he attempts to capture them. They escape during a ferocious gunfight and flee the city... leaving their haul of jewels behind.

6. The Sceptre of Solomon (UNION JACK issue 1,018, 1923)
A millionaire art collector named Mathew Cardolak commissions the Three Musketeers to steal a valuable jewish sceptre. They succeed but Sexton Blake engages with them in America, recovers the artifact and captures the three criminals. He hands them over to the US police.

7. The Case of the Crippled Monk (UNION JACK issue 1,042, 1923)
Mathew Cardolak breaks the Musketeers out of prison and commissions them to steal the famous Louis Ostensoir from Notre Dame cathedral. They do so but their getaway is witnessed by Tinker. Sexton Blake and the French police intercept them. The Musketeers manage to escape but without the Ostensoir.

8. The Quest of the Jewelled Globe (UNION JACK issue 1,083, 1924)
Mathew Cardolak employs the Musketeers to steal a jewelled globe of immense value. They commit three brutal murders in achieving this aim, which brings their activities to the attention of Sexton Blake. He and the crew of a patrol boat board Cardolak's yacht and recover the globe, capturing Archie Pherison and Reggie Fetherston. Algy Somerton, however, remains at liberty.

9. The Great Canal Plot (THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series issue 19, 1925)
Handed over to the French authorities, Archie Pherison and Reggie Fetherston are released, thanks to a quirk in the French legal system. The Three Musketeers rejoin Mathew Cardolak and they sail to Cairo where they join forces with Madam Goupolis, Prince Menes, George Marsden Plummer, The Black Eagle and Prince Wu Ling in a daring plot to blow up the Suez Canal. Cardolak's reward for this will be exclusive excavation rights in a tomb-rich area of Egypt. However, the great canal plot is foiled by Sexton Blake, who bombs and destroys Cardolak's yacht, The Sultan. The millionaire and his three henchmen are presumed dead.

10. The Mystery of the Seine (THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 366, 1925)

11. The Adventure of the Five Giants (UNION JACK issue 1,147, 1925)
When five giant skeletons are found in central Mexico — and it is rumoured that five huge jewels might be buried near them — Mathew Cardolak commissions the Three Musketeers to recover the treasure. Sexton Blake embarks on an identical expedition. His party treks towards the Sierra Mountains just ahead of the trio but finds itself under repeated attack by bandits. The Musketeers try to bribe Blake's guide into exposing his camp to an overwhelming attack but the guide remains loyal to the detective. After defeating the bandits, Blake disguises himself, travels back to the criminals' camp, presents himself as the guide and accepts payment from them. He then departs, sending back a message to let them know they've been fooled. Further activity is prevented by an earthquake and Blake beats the Musketeers to the skeletons.

12. The Case of the Mummified Hand (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY, 2nd series, issue 35, 1926)
The Black Eagle plays host to the gang of super-crooks who had previously been involved in THE GREAT CANAL PLOT. They are led by Prince Menes, financed by Mathew Cardolak, and include among their number the Three Musketeers. When Menes loses control of the gang and George Marsden Plummer rebels, the Black Eagle is forced to interven to prevent Menes from harming Mademoiselle Yvonne. Sexton Blake leads a police raid on the Eagle's house but by this time the Musketeers and Cardolak, along with the rest of the gang, have flown from the country.

13. The Night-club Mystery (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY, 2nd series, issue 82, 1927)
The Three Musketeers have established an illegal distillery in a system of caves near Leeds. From here, they are flooding the country with 'moonshine' whisky. When Tinker is caught snooping, they lower the youngster into a dark shaft, leaving him to die deep underground. They also throw Pedro in after him. Sexton Blake follows his assistant's trail and is given the same treatment by the three crooks. The detective, Tinker and Pedro find their way to the surface and lead a police raid against the distillery. The Musketeers attempt to flee but Pedro catches up with them and all three men receive a stiff prison sentence.

13. The Silent Thunder Caper (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY, 6th series, issue 1, 2014)
In Africa, Sexton Blake has discovered the fabled Ring of Solomon. However, due to the crisis in Suez, the government decides that the artefact should be kept secret and commissions Blake to transport it to Gibraltar where it will be locked in a vault deep inside the rock. He will also take documents pertaining to a secret weapon named the Thunder Maker. It employs sound — beyond the range of human hearing — to reduce solid matter to dust. Blake and Tinker set off as passengers aboard an experimental airship, the General Gordon. A traitor in the government informs Mathew Cardolak of the ring's existence, and also tells him that a criminal known as "the Gentleman" is aboard the ship and will attempt to steal the ring. This occurs, but Blake has replaced the ring with a fake, which the thief makes off with, parachuting out of the vessel over Spain. Unfortunately, though he failed in his principal aim, the Gentleman has managed to secure the documents, so after instructing Tinker to continue on with the ring to Gibraltar, Blake sets off in pursuit. Cardolak, upon learning that the ring has not been snatched, is furious, but when he receives the documents he sees a way forward. Over the past few months he has manipulated the legal system to secure an early release for the Three Musketeers. Now, he sends them on a mission. First, they approach the inventor of the Thunder Maker and learn its secrets before murdering him. Next, when the General Gordon returns to base, they hijack it, take the Thunder Maker aboard, and begin a voyage back to Gibraltar, little realising that Tinker is still on the ship. Over the Mediterranean, he sabotages the vessel. Cardolak, however, has sent a ship to rendezvous with it. Tinker is captured and he and the weapon are transferred to the sea-going vessel, which then heads south. Blake, meanwhile, has fallen in with Spanish bandits that, with the Gentlemen, have been instructed by Cardolak to attack Gibraltar and reclaim it for Spain. This, in fact, is a diversion. As the conflict erupts, on the other side of the rock, the Musketeers employ the Thunder Maker to drill a tunnel through to the vault. Tinker escapes and hooks up with Blake, who has captured the Gentleman. Together, they blow up a rocky wall that separates the vault from the city's reservoirs. The vault and tunnel are flooded. The Musketeers are swept out to sea and presumed drowned, and the politically dangerous ring is lost.

This marks the end of the Three Musketeers.