SEXTON BLAKE'S EARLY CASES · 1976 · Arthur Baker Limited · £3.75|
Edited by Anon. (Unknown)
WITNESS FOR THE DEFENCE
by E. J. Gannon · Illustrator: H. M. Lewis
Notes: After being picked out in an identity parade, one of Tinker's friends is accused of a murder he didn't commit. Blake investigates and discovers that the murdered man, far from being the middle-class Englishman he appeared, was in fact a Mexican who'd escaped to England after being threatened by revolutionaries. The trail leads Blake and Tinker to South America where they gather evidence and help to thwart an uprising. Returning to England (and voicing some heartfelt patriotism at the sight of the White Cliffs of Dover), Blake sets off in pursuit of the man he has now identified as the killer. Unfortunately, just as he's closing in on the villain, the detective is hit by a car and badly injured. Of course, this isn't enough to stop him and, after a train chase, he collars the criminal. Making an impassioned speech in court (we learn that Blake is a qualified barrister), he secures the freedom of Tinker's friend who, in true Victorian/Edwardian style, ends up married to the murdered man's widow.
Trivia: Tinker still calls Blake "Mr. Blake" rather than "guv'nor" at this stage in their partnership; but most interesting of all, a throwaway line reveals that Sexton Blake has a moustache which doesn't seem to be a disguise! This tale originally appeared in UNION JACK issue 416 (1911).
A CLUE FROM THE DEEP
by William Shaw Rae · Illustrator: None
Sexton Blake is on holiday in Cornwall. While walking along a beach, he finds a message in a bottle. It reveals that Lord Dallington came into his title by murdering his cousins aboard a yacht. The detective sets out to bring Dallington to justice. He discovers that a crooked policeman is assisting the criminal. Blake follows the henchman to Antwerp then to Chili, where he finally corners Dallington. Essentially, this tale is little more than a chase by bicycle, train and steam ship involving multiple disguises along the way.
Trivia: Sexton Blake lives in Norfolk Street, the Strand. He hasn't ridden a bicycle for five years; he doesn't look at all the way you'd expect a detective to look; and his ability to hit a small target with a thrown stone is virtually nil. All of these observations run counter to established 'facts' which appear many times elsewhere in stories from this same period. This story originally appeared in UNION JACK 1st series issue 62 (1895). It was also reprinted in PENNY POPULAR issue 100 as THE MESSAGE FROM THE SEA (1914).
THE CLUE OF THE DEAD EYES
by Arnold Grahame · Illustrator: None
Gerald Buckley, an old school friend of Sexton Blake's who went on to Oxford with him, sends a telegraph asking the detective to come and see the body of his uncle, Sir Edward, who has just died from apparent heart failure. The cause of his concern is Sir Edward's eyes, which don't seem to be his own. Upon examining the body, Blake discovers that, in addition to the strange eyes, a scar has vanished. He suspects that a certain Doctor Bulasco is up to no good and, after investigating the man, concludes that an Indian, Abdul Kali, is behind the mystery. After surviving a train wreck caused by Bulasco, Blake travels to India in search of Abdul. He is attacked by natives, nearly thrown into a pool of crocodiles, almost burned at the stake, then locked in a dungeon full of starving rats. Making his escape, he discovers a scroll which solves the case then returns to England — though not before being attacked by a leopard and nearly crushed by a giant snake. The scroll describes a technique whereby two men's faces can be altered so that they look like one another. It seems, then, that Sir Edward isn't dead at all, merely replaced by a lookalike corpse. Blake rescues the real Sir Edward and brings Bulasco to justice.
Trivia: This story originally appeared in UNION JACK 1st series issue 72 (1895). It was also reprinted in PENNY POPULAR issue 74 as THE CHANGED EYES (1914).
Compilation rating: ★★★☆☆☆ Some strange choices here; there are far better early stories than the three in this omnibus. Nevertheless, those century-old tales need to be saved from obscurity, so this volume scores for intention, if not for the final result.
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© Mark Hodder 2014