Publishing: Author George Heber Hamilton Teed "officially" joins the ranks of Blake writers (he's actually been ghost writing stories for the late Michael Storm for some time. I suspect that many of the PENNY PICTORIAL tales attributed to Storm for 1911 were actually by Teed). Teed was born in Canada in 1886. He travelled twice around the world during his teens, eventually settling in Australia to run a sheep farm. After a drought ended his business, he was left virtually penniless and booked passage to England. During the voyage, he met the widow of Ernest Sempill (aka Michael Storm, the creator of George Marsden Plummer) who persuaded him to try his hand at writing and introduced him to the editors at Amalgamated Press. Teed quickly became an enormously popular Sexton Blake author. During the war, he served in France before then being stationed in Dublin. He was invalided out of the army after suffering pneumonia and, giving up writing, he moved to South India to work as a manager in an export firm. After this ended, the now married Teed returned to England and resumed writing Blake tales. He died suddenly in 1939. Among Teed's creations are Prince Wu Ling, Doctor Huxton Rymer, Mlle Yvonne, Nirvana, Mlle Roxane and Marie Galante.
John W. Bobin (aka Mark Osborne) also makes his first contribution to the Blake saga. He was born in 1889. THE CASE OF THE ANONYMOUS LETTERS was his first ever story and he wrote it on scraps of paper while working as a laundry-man in Southend. He introduced Aubrey Dexter to the list of Blake's criminal opponents. Bobin died aged just 46 in 1935.
Continuing the theme of significant debuts, the incredibly prolific and endlessly inventive Edwy Searles Brooks arrives on the Blake scene. Brooks was born in 1889 and had his first story published while still a schoolboy. Most famous for his fabulous tales of Nelson Lee, Nipper and the Boys of St. Franks, Brooks also occasionally wrote for THE MAGNET and GEM and later went on to pen a number of novels under the pseudonyms of Berkeley Grey and Victor Gunn. To the Blake saga, he brought Rupert Waldo — the Wonder Man (who, as Berkeley Grey, he would later evolve into Norman Conquest). Brooks stopped writing Sexton Blake stories in the early 1940s. He died in 1965.
Blake: Sexton Blake and Tinker survive the sinking of the Titanic — the tale is told in THE LAW OF THE SEA (in which the liner is thinly disguised as the Paleta). According to SEXTON BLAKE'S SECRET in DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 1 (1933), this year Blake pays his troublesome younger brother Nigel to move abroad. Another significant event this year: Count Ivor Carlac begins his career as a super-criminal.
THE BOYS' FRIEND · Issue 576 · 23/6/1912 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Illustrator: T. W. Holmes
Other content: Cricketers Three by Andrew Murray; Your Editor's Den (ed.); Kaiser or King? by John Tregellis; The Poachers of Mallow Woods by Anon.; White Slave Island by Henry St. John; In the Redman's Grip by Anon.; The Boy Who Ran Away From Home by Malcolm Dayle.
Notes: It's "the season" in High Society and, at and around Dangerston, a burglar is at work. Jewels have been stolen from locked rooms, and American millionaire Vansittart considers it a problem too complex for the local police. He calls in Sexton Blake. The detective discovers evidence that a French-style araiguee — "spider" — is responsible for the clever break ins. He sets a trap by having the newspapers report the presence at Dangerston of Lady Malancourt, who has brought with her the famous Malancourt diamonds. When a courting couple — Molly Tremaine and Captain Lascelles — have a slight disagreement. Molly flirts with Blake to make Lascelles jealous. Mrs Vansittart gives the detective a stern lecture concerning his unwitting role in these proceedings. That night, Blake asks Lascelles and Mr Vansittart to join him in his room, which is opposite that of Lady Malancourt, and to watch and wait with him in the dark. The "spider" strikes ... and so does Blake. Captured, the masked burglar is exposed as Molly Tremaine! The girl, not as well off as she appeared, had been using skills learned from a dishonest French tutor to increase her wealth, fearing that, if Lascelles had learned of her financial straits, he would have refused to marry her. The stolen jewels are returned and Lascelles states that he will wed Molly and take her to Canada to start a new life. Blake and Vansittart agree not to press charges.
Trivia: This is reprinted from THE PENNY PICTORIAL issue 463 (1908) in which it was entitled A WHITE MAN. It appears again, under the present title, in THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series, issue 141, (1928).
Notes: Blake is visited by Miss Hare, who is engaged to an ex-convict known as Captain Jim. At heart a good man, Jim has been running straight for the past six months but has now been accused of burglary, his fingerprints having been found at the scene. Jim swears that he didn't commit the crime but his alibi cannot be verified. Blake examines the evidence and is particularly intrigued to see a burn-mark on one of Jim's thumb-prints. He recalls this appearing, along with the man's other prints, in a book on criminology that had been published four years previously. This leads the detective to the realisation that the prints must have been planted, since the thumb-mark is now long healed. He works out how this was done and is then able to identify — and trap — the real crook. He recovers the stolen property. All charges against Captain Jim are dropped.
Trivia: This is reprinted from THE PENNY PICTORIAL issue 465 (1908).
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol.2 issue 27 · 30/11/1912 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Other content: Hobbies (article); Scorned by the School by Robert W. Comrade; The Fun o' the Fair by Claude Heathcote; The War in the Clouds by Anon.; The Lost Liner by Anon.; Lightning & Co. by Allan Blair; Harrogate's Waist-Coat by Lewis Carlton; Two of the Best by Anon.; Dreadnought League (ed.); The Lion-Tamer's Rival by Anon.; The Old Leonians by Anon.
Notes: George Marsden Plummer, a detective at Scotland Yard, is the rightful heir to the title of Earl of Sevenoaks and the fortune that goes with it ... or, at least, he would be had an accident of birth not placed two others in line before him. Covering his movements with a series of masterful disguises, Plummer visits the first of the men, who having no idea that he is in line to a fortune, works as a coastguard. Plummer informs him that he belongs to an aristocratic family before, under the cover of a thick fog, pushing him over the edge of a cliff. However, unknown to the villain, his victim drops into the sea not far from a boat occupied by Sexton Blake, Tinker and Pedro. They rescue the stricken man and nurse him to health. Meanwhile, Plummer has visited the current Earl of Sevenoaks and murdered him. The police are called and put one of their best officers on the case ... Detective-Sergeant Plummer! With Blake now involved, Plummer is forced to pretend an alliance with him while actually attempting to throw him off the scent at every opportunity. Soon, though, the Baker Street detective realises the truth and a battle of wits and disguises commences. Blake gets battered over the head and shut in a burning house, while Tinker is drugged and nearly drowned, but, ultimately, Sexton Blake wins the day and Plummer is thrown into prison, vowing to escape at the first opportunity.
Trivia: This is a serialised reprint of UNION JACK issue 222 (1908). The story would appear again in PENNY POPULAR issue 50 as HUNTER AND HUNTED TOO (1913). The review is based on a reading of that issue. The original version was anthologised in THE CASEBOOK OF SEXTON BLAKE (2009).
THE DREADNOUGHT · Vol.2 issue 28 · 7/12/1912 · Amalgamated Press · 1d
Other content: Hobbies (article); Scorned by the School by Robert W. Comrade; Within the Ropes by Clause Heathcote; The War in the Clouds by Anon.; Monarch of the Air by Anon.; The Misfortunes of Marmaduke by Anon.; The Actor Schoolboy by Lewis Carlton; Lightning & Co. by Allan Blair; Dreadnought League (ed.); The Old Leonians by Anon.
Notes: In Devon, Sexton Blake and Bathurst come upon a car crash. The driver, Clifford Gavin, is dead. Blake finds evidence that someone had jumped out of the car shortly before Gavin lost control of it. He also notices that Gavin has a wound to the head that can't be explained by the accident. He becomes convinced that the affair is a carefully planned murder and, piece by piece, unravels the methodology, motive, and perpetrator of the crime. When the killer attempts to escape from the detective by car, he crashes into a furniture van and is killed.
Trivia: Sexton Blake has been 'banished from London' by his doctor to take a two-week rest cure.
Notes: This is adapted from the story that introduced Pedro the Bloodhound. Blake is visiting Inspector Widgeon when a scream rings out from a house nearby, which belongs to a Mr. Pringle. They rush to it and capture a young man as he tries to flee. They also catch sight of a young woman but she eludes them and disappears into the night. Inside the house they find a man who has been throttled to death. Their prisoner, Arthur Musgrave, denies all knowledge of the murder. Blake believes him but notes that he's hiding something. Musgrave struggles free and runs away. Further investigations are interrupted when a large bloodhound bursts into the house and whines in grief over the dead man. A small brass plate on its collar reveals that the dog's name is Pedro. Blake and Widgeon use the bloodhound to track the unknown killer but the man escapes them. After they have left, Rafael Calderon arrives at the house, telling the constable on guard that he had expected to meet a friend. He reveals that the victim is named Nugent and vows to help Blake. The next day, he sends Blake a note which explains that the murderers are named Carnforth and Jervis, both Americans. Tinker finds the house where the missing Mr. Pringle is hiding but by the time Blake and his assistant get there, the bird has flown. They track him with Pedro only to find that Pringle has climbed a tree and mysteriously vanished. Later, at the inquest into the murder, Blake accosts Jorking, a sailor, who tells the detective how four months ago his ship had picked up two marooned men and a bloodhound. One of the men was Nugent, the other was Rafael Calderon, the ex-President of a South American country who was deposed after a revolution. Nugent had fought at the ex-President's side, as had Jervis and Carnforth. Afterwards, the four men had used an ancient Spanish map to track down buried treasure in the Pacific. However, Jervis and Carnforth had taken the loot and left their two companions castaway on an island. Blake realises that Carnforth and Pringle are one and the same man. He also learns that Carnforth/Pringle had escaped from the tree by means of a drifting hot air balloon that had broken from its moorings. Tracing this leads to the fugitive who is caught with his friend Jervis and arrested. As a gesture of thanks, Rafael Calderon gives Sexton Blake Pedro as a gift.
Trivia: This is an abridged reprint of UNION JACK issue 100 THE DOG DETECTIVE (1905). The review is based on a reading of that issue.
Notes: This is the first Blake story by Edwy Searles Brooks.
Notes: My copy is missing its cover. A young woman's cousin proposes to her but the wedding is called off after he is exposed as a scoundrel by Sexton Blake. Some time later, her affections are transferred to a young man who works for her father's publishing company and they become engaged. The cousin also works there and, when the girl's father is murdered, takes over the firm. Her beau is accused of the crime and held in custody. The wicked cousin proposes once more but she turns him down. In revenge, he vows to run the company into the ground so that she'll receive no income from it. Blake and Tinker disguise themselves and arrange to replace the publishing firm's Reader and Office Boy. Blake discovers that the murder was committed by a well-known criminal called The Weasel (due to his ability to squeeze through the tightest of openings) and puts Pedro on the scent. As they close in, more and more police and onlookers follow until there's virtually a mob at the Weasel's heels. He takes refuge in some abandoned buildings but falls to his death. With his last breath, he makes a confession and admits that he was hired by the cousin, leading to the release of the girl's fiancé and the arrest of the bad guy.
Rating: ★★★★☆ William Murray Graydon has some fun at the expense of that variety of publisher, writer and artist who felt that art should be spelled with a capital 'A'. Perhaps someone had told him that writing Sexton Blake stories wasn't a respectable undertaking? There are some hilarious scenes padding out this tale: Tinker discovers that Mrs. Bardell has ambitions to be an author and has written a novel. He mischievously persuades her to present it to Blake in his guise of Reader. Not knowing that the company representative is her tenant in disguise, she makes a huge effort to convince him that her malapropism-ridden opus is going to be the next best seller. The really nice thing about all this is that we get to witness Tinker playing a joke on the great detective. It adds immeasurably to their characters, making their friendship seem very believable. Next, Blake is visited by a young Illustrator who reckons himself something of a prodigy. This is where the author vents his low opinion of high art, having Blake recommend that the young man seek financial reward rather than critical acclaim by producing art 'for the people'. He then hands the newly enlightened gentleman a five pound note and sends him on his way. The whole story is rather ludicrous but it's such good fun that you don't really notice. Above all, it's character-driven stuff with Blake, Tinker, Mrs Bardell and even Pedro all getting a good outing.
Notes: A couple of conmen are fooling gamblers with a football scam. They are so successful that it becomes necessary to take on extra staff. Honest but clueless Arthur Merton is employed as a clerk and sent to Switzerland to set up a new office. He's delighted, even though it means a temporary separation from his fiancée and frail mother. But while he's away the company comes under investigation. No sooner is Merton back in London than he's charged with obtaining money by deceit and sent to prison. Blake's investigations turn up some evidence but before he can hand it to the police he's attacked by hired thugs, knocked unconscious, tied up, and left for dead in a baker's oven. Tinker, noticing the Guv'nor's absence, uses Pedro to track him to the abandoned bakery and frees him. Blake now takes illegal action; he switches identities with Merton, going to prison while the young man visits his ailing mother. The prison regime is brutal but Blake eventually has his revenge on the evil guards and the prison warden, before then going on to prove Merton innocent. The swindlers are forced to pay their dues.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ It's the "Sexton Blake in prison" sequence that makes this one stand out. There are moments when the experience appears to cause the detective doubt himself and there's a real sense of claustrophobia and impending doom about his ordeal. There's even a suspicion of fear, as if the detective is feeling the walls closing in and imagining never being able to leave. His insecurity is never stated, never described or eluded to, but nevertheless it lurks between the lines and adds surprising depth to the tale. This is especially true when, towards the end, events appear to be running out of his control and he's sentenced to be flogged with a cat o' nine tails.
Notes: A long travelogue that sees Sexton Blake and Tinker chasing a criminal across the frozen wastes of Lapland toward the dreaded Leper Island, off the Russian coast. The villain, Bortsh, a nasty piece of work from a secret Mafia-style society, has kidnapped an Englishman and intends to leave him stranded on the diseased island. His motivation has something or other to do with an inheritance but it's not particularly well explained and it doesn't really matter much ... the focus is on the chase, not on the reasons behind it.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ Despite the fairly straightforward plot, the desolate atmosphere of this yarn makes a huge impact. Blake's journey feels utterly authentic. Many aspects of the landscape are described in great detail; the way different kinds of snow can affect the speed of sledges; the overpowering grimness of the low, dull and heavy skies; the biting, deadly cold. It has a huge impact on the detective's mood; rarely has Blake been so bitterly angry, impatient and desperate. He's full of self-reproach right from the start of this adventure after a lack of good judgement leads to the kidnap. These intense emotions reach their peak when Blake and Tinker get to the island. Disgust, fear and bad temper threaten to overpower them both; in fact, at one point Tinker's fear is so great that he finds himself running away from a fight. The biggest surprise of all, though, comes halfway through. Bortsh has drawn ahead of his pursuers and their chances of catching up don't look good. Stopping off at a small settlement, they meet a strange old blind man, a shaman. Responding to an act of kindness from the detective, the holy man pulls out a small carved drum and, accompanied by a rhythm that seems to come from everywhere at once, he goes into a deep trance. Soon Blake and Tinker are under his spell and they have a vision of a great storm blowing up and felling trees in Bortsh's path. It later turns out that this is exactly what has happened. Blake is incredulous; this is something his logical mind can find no explanation for. It's a haunting scene and very unusual for a Blake story.
Notes: The Hatherleigh family, once landed gentry but now made destitute by their mismanaged estate, have put their property up for auction. The father is long dead, leaving behind his wife and two sons. The eldest, Gerald — the 'ruined squire' of the title — has carried the burden of blame for the family's troubles but, in fact, his father's former servant and estate manager, Markham, is really responsible. He's already purchased a neighbouring farm and now intends to buy the whole estate at a low price, motivated by a tale of buried treasure. Unfortunately for Markham, Sexton Blake happens to be at the auction. He notices the family's despair and also recognises Markham's associate, a petty villain and card sharp called Sam Barnes, who's bidding on Markham's behalf. On impulse, Blake bids against him and buys the estate for £40,000. The tale follows Blake as he feuds with Markham, eventually discovering the treasure, uniting star-crossed lovers, serving the villain his just-deserts and, of course, returning the family to their estate.
Trivia: Sexton Blake is obviously wealthy by this stage of his career.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Despite its predictability, the story never fails to entertain and delight. In particular, it's interesting to read this while considering the observation often made about Blake: that he possessed few distinguishing qualities and was just a cipher through which tales of bizarre and wonderful villains could be told. This disproves that assertion. The detective is full of charm and determination here; a memorable and extremely interesting character in his own right.
Notes: A strike has been called in northern England's cotton mills and angry men and women, in their traditional wooden clogs and flat cloth caps, are rampaging through the town. A mill owner, a young woman who inherited the business from her father, travels north to investigate. Miss Bargreaves is headstrong and innocent ... and has fallen straight into a villainous trap. A bad guy, who arranged the strike before inviting her to come to witness the trouble, intends to frame her for the theft of £25,000 in unpaid wages; money which he, of course, will be happily spending on the continent while she languishes in prison. Of course, he hasn't reckoned on the presence of Sexton Blake.
Trivia: Twice in this tale Blake recognises villainous tendencies simply by looking at a person's face. It's like those early silent films where the heavies always had thick curly mustachios and dark make-up around their eyes. Equally, when he meets a girl who has been accused of a crime, it only takes a glance at her face to establish that she's completely innocent.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ The action occurs in Allington, which possesses all the trappings you'd associate with a northern English industrial town, including a railway line that provides two excellent showpiece scenes. In the first, Tinker is knocked unconscious, bound and gagged, and thrown into the back of a passing goods train. He wakes the next day, 50 miles away, still in the back of the wagon which is parked in a train shed. Heart-warming moments follow as he's assisted by an 'honest working man' type. The real set-piece, though, comes with a car chase. The villains are fleeing in a sizeable motor car. Blake and Tinker are right behind in a much sportier vehicle. Their quarry veers off the road onto the railway line and races along it, the tyres comfortably negotiating the fairly smooth gravel that's wedged up against the inside of the rails along the length of the line. By contrast, the much smaller car ends up with two tyres on a rail while the other two bump along on the sleepers. It's all Blake and Tinker can do to keep their teeth in their heads as they shake, rattle and roll along the line!
Notes: The author, better known as Mark Osborne, was a laundry-man with a horse and cart at the time he wrote this, his first story. It was penned on scraps of paper!
Notes: This issue contains a theatre ad for HUSH, MONEY — OR THE DISAPPEARANCE OF SEXTON BLAKE at the Grand theatre, Walsall.
Notes: This issue contains an ad for the play SEXTON BLAKE, DETECTIVE at the Pier Theatre, Eastbourne.
Notes: My copy is missing the cover.
Notes: My copy is missing the cover. John Skelton commits a number of swindles in order to save his company. Fully intending to pay back everything he has stolen, he allows himself to be arrested and gaoled, though under the false identity of John Fell. Meanwhile, Sexton Blake has been receiving death threats from George Marsden Plummer. When the criminal promises to escape from Bleakmoor Prison, the detective, with Will Spearing, Tinker and Pedro, drives there to head him off. Plummer gets loose, betraying John Marsh by leaving him behind, and nearly kills the detective. Blake, however, is rescued by Marsh who has followed Plummer out of the prison. The two criminals make off and separate on bad terms. Weeks later, Plummer is living in poverty in the East End. When a petty crook puts him up to a burglary, Plummer finds himself in the house of John Skelton and, upon seeing a photograph, recognises John Fell, whom he knew in Bleakmoor. Fell is due for release, so Plummer takes the opportunity to kidnap him, hold him prisoner, and impersonate him. In this guise, he begins to take possession of the company finances, which have increased during Fell aka Skelton's spell in gaol. He also plans revenge on Blake, setting a trap which the detective falls into. Blake is held captive for two days until Tinker and Spearing come to the rescue. They race to capture Plummer before he leaves the country with the cash and receive help from an unexpected quarter — a disguised John Marsh, who is out for revenge on Plummer. On the verge of success, Plummer is caught and sent back to Bleakmoor. Blake, in gratitude for having his life saved, allows Marsh to go free on the condition that he starts a new and straight life abroad with his wife.
Trivia: Sexton Blake has written a treatise about the brain-cells that represent vice and virtue. He owns a small premises on Bedford Street off the Strand which he uses for quick-change disguise purposes. This issue has some of the most unsuitable illustrations I've ever seen; unsigned, the pictures look nothing like the characters they're meant to depict. There are also faults in the text — at one point John Marsh is called Henry Marsh.
Rating: ★★★★★ Plummer is particularly well-portrayed in this story — his ferocious hatred of Blake is tremendous. And, at last, he's independent again — this marks the end of his relationship with John Marsh.
Notes: A fire breaks out at Bleakmoor Prison and George Marsden Plummer, who has been incarcerated for the past three months, takes the opportunity to escape. He is reported to have perished in the blaze but, in truth, he hangs around Baker Street in the guise of a tramp, watching his hated nemesis, Sexton Blake. When the detective and his assistant leave for a two-week golfing holiday in France, Plummer impersonates him and takes up residence in the house, totally fooling Mrs Bardell. He breaks into Blake's safe and steals all his papers, which he can use to blackmail people in high places. Soon after his arrival, Will Spearing brings a newspaper tycoon, Theopold Mayne, to the consulting room. Mayne's paper, the Morning Bugle, has collected a relief fund of £100,000 to help the victims of a mining disaster but the money has been stolen by the fund secretary, Peter Larkin. Realising that if he finds the money he will not only be rich but will also have the chance to blacken Blake's name, Plummer agrees to investigate. He follows Spearing's lead and they quickly capture Larkin when the thief tries to recover the money from its hiding place. At this point, Plummer turns on Spearing, who suddenly realises that his partner isn't Sexton Blake, knocks him out and makes off with the loot. When Spearing — near death — is discovered, Mr Mayne is sent for. He concludes that Sexton Blake has turned criminal. He sends a wire, via Mrs Bardell, to Tinker who arrives home with the real Blake. After the initial confusion is cleared up and it's realised that Plummer is on the loose, the detective begins to investigate. He realises that Lord Meltry is likely to be Plummer's first blackmail victim and, right on cue, that man turns up pleading for help. He suggests that Blake impersonate him and wait at Meltry Hall for Plummer to make his move while Meltry himself lays low at Baker Street. The detective agrees to this and departs. Hours later he realises that he's been fooled — Lord Meltry was actually Plummer in disguise. Meanwhile, back in his consulting room, the blackmailed men start arriving to plea for Sexton Blake's help, little realising that the man they are talking to is Plummer, who is again impersonating the detective. However, there's a surprise in store for the villain: one of his victims, an actor named Barry Soames, suddenly snaps handcuffs onto him, pulls off a wig, and proves to be the real Sexton Blake. Plummer is defeated! Blake agrees to place him on a ship to America in return for all the papers. The story ends with the criminal en route ... and vowing to return.
Trivia: This story is something of a tour de force for Mrs Bardell, finding her at her most malapropian. It's also very silly ... with everyone donning — and being fooled by — disguises.
Notes: My copy is missing the cover. A disguised George Marsden Plummer returns from America, rents the house opposite Sexton Blake's (his landlady is named Mrs MacShee), and sets up in business as a rival detective under the name Ezra Q. Turley. When Lord Velmer throws a part for the Maharajah of Banyah, Sexton Blake is there and Plummer is watching. The criminal spots a thief of his acquaintance, Jack Maitland, posing as a waiter and, when the Maharajah's emerald is stolen, Plummer is certain that Maitland is responsible. Meanwhile, the Maharajah reveals to Blake that the stolen emerald is not the genuine one ... which he has sold. If this is found out, he will be ruined. As Turley, Plummer investigates, exposes the thief and hands him over to Detective-Inspector Lurgan of Scotland Yard. In doing so, he recognises that the gem is a fake and uses this knowledge to blackmail the Maharajah out of £25,000. The case throws Turley into the public eye and he soon has a plethora of clients. The 'small-fry' he rejects and, with great pleasure, refers them to Sexton Blake. The next case he takes up is that of a missing nobleman named George de Fayl who, after marrying far beneath himself, left his wife and travelled to the gold fields of America. Turley discovers that de Fayl is now a millionaire and that he is currently on a visit to England. He tracks him to a hotel where he commences his next blackmail operation. When de Fayl attempts to escape from his clutches, Turley takes him back to his Baker Street residence and ties him up. Sexton Blake, in the meantime, has growing suspicions and starts looking into the de Fayl case. His deductions lead him to the truth and, disguised as Mrs Bardell (!), he infiltrates Plummer's house and arrests him. After liberating de Fayne he persuades the millionaire to return to his abandoned wife.
Trivia: The metal plate in Plummer's head receives a mention. Mrs Bardell reveals that she has a son named Bill and a daughter.
Notes: While waiting to be moved to Bleakmoor Prison, George Marsden Plummer escapes by exchanging places with a prisoner whose case comes up in the appeal court. When the man thought to be Plummer then dies of consumption, Sexton Blake realises that his arch foe is on the loose again. Plummer witnesses a murder, captures the perpetrator, and discovers that his prisoner — Antonio Cesta — is head of a blackmailing gang known as The Brotherhood of Twelve. Plummer disguises himself as Cesta and infiltrates the group, ordering them to get a final payment from their victims. He intends to make off with the proceeds while also claiming a reward for turning the gang in. Rita, Cesta's daughter, loves Jack Lanson, a young man who once became involved with the group and who is now one of its victims. When he receives a demand for money, Lanson goes to see Sexton Blake. The detective recognises the signature on the demand as that of Plummer. He now knows where the master-criminal is and what he is doing, but what he doesn't yet realise is that his opponent has kidnapped Tinker. After convincing Rita that her that her father is an impostor, the detective spies on a meeting of the Brotherhood during which the girl exposes Plummer. The villain is shot in the shoulder and taken prisoner by the group. When they leave him, Blake approaches and makes a bargain with Plummer — in return for telling Blake the whereabouts of Tinker and Antonio Cesta, the criminal will be allowed to flee abroad. Blake finds and liberates his assistant and Rita's father before — with help from Will Spearing — he rounds up the Brotherhood and banishes them to South Africa. That night, in attempting to revenge himself on Plummer, Cesta and the master-crook plunge over a cliff and are lost at sea. Sir Henry Fairfax later informs the detective that only the body of Cesta was found.
Trivia: We receive an insight into Sexton Blake's love life:
"I have been a fool in my time, Mr. Blake; but there has only been one woman I have loved—the sweetest little girl in the world, with the face of an angel, and the soul—"
"Ay, I know, my friend!" the detective interrupted, with a slight smile. "Three times in my life I have met girls I have thought like that; but two were married, and the other was going to be. Perhaps it was as well."
We also learn that before she became Mrs. Will Spearing, Spearing's wife was named Lucy Renard.
Notes: This story is riddled with more factual errors than any other in the whole Blake saga. A topical tale inspired by Lords Test Match between England and South Africa, the author makes it very apparent that he knew little about the sport. Enthusiasts of the time, who read this tale, must have been astonished at the nonsensical claims made about their favourite game!
Notes: After surviving his fall into the sea (at the end of THE BROTHERHOOD OF TWELVE, Union Jack issue 459), George Marsden Plummer is rescued by some henchmen and transported to France. There he falls ill and is taken to a hospital in Calais. After Sexton Blake pays him the thousand pounds he had promised at the climax of the previous tale, a somewhat recovered Plummer returns to England and attends a charity function where he observes Sir George Tanland and his wife Evelyn cheating money out of the attendees. Confronting them under the name of Comte de Gallois, he promises to keep their secret providing they help him organise another charity drive — one from which he intends to pocket all the proceeds. Suspicious of this plan, Evelyn visits Sexton Blake, explains her and her husband's indiscretion, and asks the detective to serve on the new charity's committee. When Plummer hears of this, he steals government papers from a King's Messenger, knowing that the case will be referred to Blake, thus keeping him too occupied to interfere with the charity swindle. Sure enough, Sir Henry Fairfax and the government call on Blake and they inform him that the stolen documents are vital to the security of the nation. During his subsequent investigation, the detective is knocked unconscious and taken to hospital where he remains insensible while Tinker, unaware of Sexton Blake's condition, helps with the charity auction. He soon realises that the Comte is in fact Plummer and decides to inform Scotland Yard and there meets up with his recovering master. Together, they put Pedro on Plummer's trail and track the criminal to his lair. They find the charity money and the stolen documents but Blake is too weakened from his injury to prevent Plummer from escaping.
Trivia: Will Spearing receives a passing mention. Blake's head injury is treated more seriously than the usual knocks he receives and he is weakened and ill for many days.
Notes: The adventure begins aboard a ship named the Paleta but the descriptions and illustrations make it plain that it's the Titanic in all but name. You can't mistake those four famous funnels. Blake and Tinker are travelling to America to give evidence in a trial. Also aboard are a young naval officer named Richard Champney and, unknown to him and in disguise, his disreputable cousin, Hildred Nairne. These two have been rivals for the love of the beautiful Dulcie Romanis but it was Champney who won her hand. When the Paleta strikes an iceberg and begins to list in the water, very few of its passengers or crew believe that the problem is serious. However, soon it's a case of "Abandon ship!" As the women and children crowd into the lifeboats, Blake catches Hildred Nairne stealing a pearl necklace from a cabin. They engage in a fierce fight but Nairne makes his escape. Later, he sneaks up behind Richard Champney and pitches him overboard and into a lifeboat. After the sinking, the story heads off into what often feels like an Arthur Conan Doyle yarn (the writing style is surprisingly similar). Richard Champney, seen 'jumping' into the lifeboat, is accused of cowardice. His father disowns him and Dulcie Romanis sends him a white feather and calls off their wedding. Humiliated and unable to shake off the stigma, he disappears. Blake discovers that the young man has joined the army under an assumed name and is serving in India. The detective, Tinker and Pedro set off in pursuit and are soon fighting alongside Richard against rebels led by his cousin. Of course, the villain is eventually defeated and the lovers reunited.
Trivia: The cover of this issue is an outstanding illustration of the sinking vessel.
This was anthologised in THE CASEBOOK OF SEXTON BLAKE (2009).
Rating: ★★★★★ Just four months after the sinking of the Titanic, THE UNION JACK responded to the huge public interest with this well-plotted and beautifully written Sexton Blake story. For the 21st century reader, it is a genuine slice of history; a masterly portrayal of the shock, horror and sheer disbelief that greeted the sinking of the huge liner. There are some wonderfully evocative scenes: hundreds of the passengers and crew go down with the ship, leaving just a few clinging to flotsam. Desperately, Blake searches for Tinker. He finds him but, when the piece of wreckage the lad is holding onto fails to support the additional weight, Blake swims away. It’s a heart-rending moment. Undoubtedly, this is one of the highlights of the whole Sexton Blake canon.
Notes: Businessmen Felix Gane and John Leval require a ruthless associate to help them take advantage of slave labour in the Congo rubber industry. George Marsden Plummer, who overhears their plans while burgling Gane's house, introduces himself and is duly judged to be the man for the job. He arrives in the Congo accompanied by three roughnecks — Sam Mitt, Pete Carron and Nick Jute — and immediately wrests control of the rubber plantation from its kind-hearted manager, Will Mann. Realising that he's at the mercy of criminals, Mann escapes into the jungle but is recaptured, wounded and imprisoned. Managing to pass a letter to his faithful servant, Jim, he sends the man away to travel to England for help. Weeks later, Jim's journey ends at Baker Street and Sexton Blake takes up the case. He voyages to Africa with Tinker, Pedro, William Spearing and Jim. When they arrive at the camp, Plummer is unrecognisable — ravaged by fever and in disguise. He, however, recognises his old enemy and plots to leave him abandoned in the jungle. Blake searches alone for Mann and finds him but falls victim to Plummer's scheme and becomes lost. Fortunately, Tinker and Spearing have Pedro's nose at their disposal and are able to rescue the detective. While they do so, Plummer's fever grows worse and his three cohorts take advantage of this to make off with his supply of rubber. When Blake and his friends return, they find Plummer (who they now recognise) deep in the throes of his illness and abandoned by his henchmen. They take him prisoner and board a ship back to England. When they eventually sail into a fog-bound Thames, a somewhat revived Plummer leaps overboard and escapes. Blake is able to arrest Felix Gane and John Leval for their crimes, but his greatest enemy has evaded him once again.
Notes: This story introduces Count Ivor Carlac. Disguised as a crippled tramp, he witnesses Derek Valters purchasing a £4,000 diamond necklace for his new wife, Blanche. That night, he breaks into their house and steals it. A gypsy caravan has been parked by Carlac's confederates nearby. Here, unknown to them, he conceals the loot before leaving, once more disguised as a tramp. The next day Valters appeals to Sexton Blake. The detective arrives on the scene and, after preliminary investigations, heads back to Regent Street to question the jeweller. Meanwhile, Pedro leads Tinker and Valters to the caravan where a fight breaks out. The villains make a getaway, not realising that Tinker has stowed away aboard their vehicle. They drive to Dodd's Camp — a gypsy encampment on waste ground in London — and Carlac comes to them from a nearby house. Unseen by anyone but Tinker, he collects the necklace from its hiding place. But he also discovers the lad and overpowers him. Tinker is bound and dumped into the rat-infested cellar of the house. Sexton Blake's enquiries have also led him to Dodd's Camp. He and Valter, disguised as gypsies, enter it. Tinker manages to escape from his prison via a delivery lift. From inside the shaft, he watches as Carlac entrusts the necklace to one of his men, Swagger Harry, while he goes to locate a fence through whom to dispose of it. Blake and Valter inspect the house and peek through the window to the room in which Swagger Harry is waiting just in time to observe Tinker emerging from the lift shaft behind him. The lad overpowers the villain and takes possession of the jewellery. Blake takes Harry's place while Tinker and Valter leave the camp to fetch help and, upon Carlac's return, the first of their many confrontations occurs. It does not go well for the detective. Carlac escapes through the lift shaft and leaves Dodd's Camp in his beggar disguise.
Rating: ★★★★☆ The first chapter provides a real shock when Carlac brutally punches Blanche Valter in the face, knocking her unconscious ... not the sort of action you'd expect in a 1912 story! But Carlac really is the darkest of Blake's foes at this stage in his career. Powerful, evil and merciless, he is quite a different beast from the stylish Zenith, schizophrenic Plummer or the misunderstood drug addict, Dr. Huxton Rymer. This is an excellent introduction to one of Sexton Blake's nastiest opponents.
Notes: When Sir Richard Glinthorp loses two of his three sons at sea, his niece, Jessica, vows to find the third, Ralph, who has not been heard from since he went to America after falling out with his father seven years ago. The advertisement she places in the paper catches the eye of George Marsden Plummer, who, down on his luck, is working as waiter in a high class restaurant. With the intention of stealing Sir Richard's collection of antiques, the villain disguises himself as Ralph and turns up at the Glinthorp estate ... only to find himself arriving at the same time as another imposter ... who proves to be his old partner John Marsh. Forming an uneasy alliance, they scheme together, promising to split the loot on completion of their nefarious mission. Plummer is elected to continue in the guise of Ralph and duly presents himself at the house where he is accepted as the long lost son. However, Jessica has reservations and asks Sexton Blake to investigate. Blake teams Tinker up with William Spearing to look into Ralph's background while he himself — in the guise of a medical practitioner — becomes a guest in the Glinthorpe house. After Plummer tries to help himself to five thousand pounds of Sir Richard's money, Blake reveals to his host that he is the famous detective. Unfortunately, this meeting is spied upon by Plummer. During the night that follows, Plummer and Marsh kidnap Sir Richard and conceal him in an old disused part of the house. Marsh then disguises himself as the old man and, the next day, when Sexton Blake presents evidence of Plummer's crime, the imposter angrily dismisses it and banishes the detective from the house. At the local in, Blake finds Marsh's bag with disguise materials inside. Before he can piece together these new clues, he is accused of being a thief and is thrown into a police cell. The story now flashes back to a few weeks previously when, in America, John Marsh sought out the real Ralph Glinthorp, who was working for a shifty rancher named Seth Grogan. Grogan and Marsh overpower Ralph and leave him tied up in a remote hut. Grogan keeps the prisoner fed while Marsh journeys to Britain to impersonate the heir to the Glinthorp estate. However, Ralph eventually escapes and sets off in pursuit. Returning to the present, Tinker helps Blake to break out of the police cell and they race to the Glinthorp estate just as Ralph arrives and is attacked by Plummer and Marsh. The criminals flee and Blake gives chase but is halted when a storm fells a tree in front of his car.
Trivia: William Spearing, though mentioned, doesn't actually take the stage in this story.
Notes: Cyrus Papke and Japhet Harlan are rival art collectors from New York. Both covet the 'Borgia Bronze', a small but valuable statuette which is up for auction in London. Papke knows that Harlan would win the bidding, so he allows his rival to purchase the statuette and employs Count Ivor Carlac to steal it. At his hotel, Harlan and his niece, Sadie, lock the bronze into the safe in their room and leave for a walk. One of Carlac's henchmen, de Beer, reports this to his master. The couple don't go far before Harlan decides to return to admire his purchase. He re-enters the hotel via a side entrance, unseen by de Beer. Sadie keeps walking and is stunned to see Papke, whom she believed to be in New York. She follows him into a park where he turns and savagely attacks her. She is saved by Sexton Blake, who happens to be passing nearby. Papke gets away. Carlac, meanwhile, breaks into the hotel room and clubs her uncle over the head. Thinking that Harlan is dead, the criminal arranges the body to look like the old man fell and knocked himself out. He then leaves a forgery of the bronze and makes off with the real item. Blake escorts Sadie back to the hotel and they find her stricken uncle. The detective realises that a crime has been committed but can't understand the apparent lack of a theft. Elsewhere, Carlac meets de Beer, who he thinks betrayed him by not revealing that Harlan had returned to the hotel. He flies into a psychotic rage and tries to murder de Beer but the latter manages to escape and vows revenge. He writes a letter to Sexton Blake informing him that Papke is connected with the crime. Blake, who now discovers that the bronze is a forgery, sends Tinker to shadow the art collector. Papke, thinking Carlac has murdered Harlan, decides to abandon the villain and the bronze. He travels to his yacht in Folkstone harbour, intending to flee the country but Tinker blows up the vessel's fuel supplies, leaving the collector stranded. Sexton Blake traces the creator of the forged bronze and from him learns that Carlac commissioned it. He also discovers that Carlac has hired a car and driver to take him to Folkstone where he will confront Papke and demand payment for stealing the real statuette. Blake replaces the driver and manages to switch the two bronzes. He then follows Carlac out onto the yacht and attempts to capture him but the criminal evades him and the chase moves back to London. Blake manages to strip Carlac of the beggar disguise he has resorted to so often but, despite his efforts, the arch-criminal escapes capture and lives to be fiendish another day.
Trivia: Carlac reveals that he is a Polish Jew. Oddly, Blake is described as not very tall.
Rating: ★★★★★ In his second adventure, Count Ivor Carlac is even more of a psycho than he was in the first. His rages are truly awesome; and in violence and intensity, this story seems way ahead of its time. This is a truly marvellous tale!
Notes: In New York, George Marsden Plummer witnesses a crooked police officer, Inspector Jefson, extort money from Han Sin, the owner of a Chinese opium and gambling den. This case of 'graft' gives the master criminal ideas. Realising that Han Sin is, in fact, a disguised and crooked millionaire named Luke Zitman, Plummer persuades him to take prisoner a young opium user. This man, Hughie Masters, is the dissolute son of the wealthy philanthropist, John Masters. Some weeks later, an ex-New York policeman, Harry Elder, calls on Sexton Blake. Elder had left the New York police force after witnessing Inspector Jefson's crooked dealings. When John Masters asks Blake to find his son, the detective agrees and asks Elder to assist him. Zitman gets wind of this and, when Blake arrives at the opium den, he sets fire to it to destroy evidence. Hughie Masters is believed to have been killed in the blaze after his ring and watch are found on a charred corpse — however, Blake realises that these items have been planted in the hope that John Masters, in mourning, will fail to buy wheat stocks, thus allowing Luke Zitman to drive up the prices and make a huge profit. He locates and rescues Hughie and finds evidence of Jefson and Zitman's villainy. They are arrested and sent for trial. However, halfway through the court proceedings, Plummer causes the judge to retire for a few minutes and, in those moments, overpowers him and dons his clothes. Disguised as the judge, he leads the jury to acquit the two criminals. Amid the subsequent uproar, he, Jefson and Zitman escape. Sexton Blake is defeated!
Notes: A clergyman named Cyril Baylaine approaches Sexton Blake and asks for assistance in defeating a gang of opium smugglers. He tells the detective about an attempt on his life by a Chinese man named Chan. Blake gives Tinker the task of tracing this villain and the lad meets with quick success: Chan is lodging at a hotel with Captain McVietch, whose ship will be used to transport opium from London to Hong Kong. Tinker applies for a position with the crew and is accepted. Meanwhile, unknown to Blake, the leader of the drug smuggling gang is none other than Count Ivor Carlac, who now makes a bold move by kidnapping Baylaine, leaving a forged letter to convince the detective that the clergyman has simply gone abroad for a few weeks. This plot comes to light when Baylaine's mother visits Blake, claiming that her son has vanished. The Baker Street detective follows clues to McVietch's vessel. He boards it using the letter of acceptance that Tinker had been given by McVietch. In the hold, he finds the missing man. Instructing the prisoner to hold fast, Blake escapes just as Carlac comes aboard. While this is happening, Tinker follows Chan as the opium is moved to a barge which sets sail along the Thames to rendezvous with McVietch's ship. Reunited, the detective and his assistant, together with the Thames Police, take possession of the barge and then of the ship. All the criminals are captured apart from Carlac, who makes a daring escape. Baylaine is freed and the smuggling ring is broken.
Trivia: This was reprinted in an abridged form as Rats of London's River in DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 352 (1939).
Notes: George Marsden Plummer follows an elderly man named Jesse Kells home from a race meeting after noticing that he's been passing counterfeit notes. He forces Kells to admit that he's printed a hundred thousand pounds worth. Plummer beats him unconscious and steals the money. Some days later, Sexton Blake finds himself in receipt of forged notes. He learns from Detective-Inspector Lurgan that a number of banks have found that they've inadvertently distributed counterfeits. Blake begins to investigate and quickly establishes that Plummer is active in England again and has exchanged some of the notes he stole from Kells with the real thing by impersonating a bank employee named Melton, who has since been charged with passing out the forgeries. Believing that Plummer will check to see whether Kells is still alive, Blake sends Tinker to keep watch at the hospital. The lad spots the criminal and trails him, reporting back to his guv'nor that his quarry met with another bank employee, a man named Charles Teen. Plummer visits Teen at his house, overpowers him, leaves him tied up in the attic and uses his talent at disguise to take on his identity. All this is witnessed by Blake who sets a trap at the bank the following morning. However, when Teen escapes and races to the bank he accidentally ruins the detective's plan. Plummer flees but is followed by Tinker. Realising that he's being tailed, he turns and attacks, choking Blake's assistant before throwing him into the Thames. Believing that he has committed his first murder, he flees. Led by Pedro's nose, Sexton Blake arrives at the river bank and, thinking Tinker dead, sets the bloodhound onto Plummer's scent. The master-crook, overwhelmed by fear of the hangman's noose, gets drunk and, when the detective catches up with him, they engage in a terrific fist fight. Blake is knocked out and Plummer escapes. Blake learns, upon regaining consciousness, that Tinker is alive and well.
Trivia: This story reaffirms some long-neglected facts about Plummer: that he has a metal plate in his head, white hair, and a habit of biting his fingernails. He also at least matches Blake in physical strength — after their fight at the end of this tale, it takes the detective a full month to recover.
Trivia: This was anthologised in THE CASEBOOK OF SEXTON BLAKE (2009).
Notes: Wilfred Dalgliesh is a young officer who commands Jalmuna Fort in India. While on leave in London, he is tempted into a gambling den by a female card-sharp known as Lady Garbay — an associate of Count Ivor Carlac. Soon, he is heavily in debt and thus falls under the power of Carlac who bribes him to allow a caravan of gun-runners to pass the fort unhindered. Meanwhile, Sexton Blake is instructed by the War Office to keep a watch on Kaid Mustafa, the chieftain of a hostile hill tribe on the Indian frontier who is currently staying in Richmond. The detective sends Tinker on a reconnaissance mission and, through a maid named Nooya, the lad learns that Kaid is buying armaments. Blake discovers that he is negotiating with Carlac. Tinker, meanwhile, meets Wilfred Dalgliesh's mother and sister shortly before they are kidnapped by Carlac's gang. Blake, who watches as the two ladies are taken hostage, is captured. He is left tied in a glass tank which is slowly filling with water while the criminals make their getaway, leaving the country. Tinker comes to the rescue, aided by Nooya. Blake learns that Lady Garbay is still in London, guarding the two women. He traces and confronts her, freeing Dalgliesh's mother and sister. He and Tinker then travel to India where they, with Wilfred Dalgliesh, attack and capture the gun-running caravan led by Carlac. The master crook, however, manages to escape.
Notes: A Brazilian minister commissions Sexton Blake to help restore the former president of Santa Lucia to power. Fillipi Malia was deposed by Lopez de Garcia who is now denying Brazil the privileges it had previously enjoyed. With a loan of £500,000 in bullion, the former president is ready to depart Britain for the small South American republic ... but then assassins attempt to kill him. They are prevented from doing so by George Marsden Plummer, who happens upon the murder attempt. However, the master crook then throws in his lot with the assassins, convincing them that if they help him to usurp Garcia, he will share the wealth of the country's silver mines with them. Disguising himself as a sailor, Plummer bribes his way into the position of second mate aboard the ship that will carry Malia across the Atlantic. It will also carry the ex-president's daughter, Rosina, whom Plummer has fallen in love with. To the crook's dismay, Sexton Blake also joins the passengers. Days later, as the vessel nears its destination, Plummer's men strike and the ship is captured. Plummer is shocked to discover that the man he had thought to be Blake is, in fact, a cleverly made up actor named Will Alton. With the detective's whereabouts unknown, Plummer continues with his plan. He makes himself up to impersonate Malia and informs Rosina that she must act as his daughter to protect her imprisoned father's life. He then leads the revolution and overthrows Lopez de Garcia. The chief of the silver mines proves to be a Britisher named Jack Leyland and Plummer is quick to spot that this man is a rival suitor for Rosina. When the loaned bullion turns out to be nothing but lead, Leyland and his men realise that they won't be paid and so refuse to work. Plummer takes Leyland captive but in doing so he reveals his identity to a watcher: Sexton Blake. The detective, with the real bullion, has travelled to the republic on a yacht and is now observing the master criminal. The two confront each other but Blake is overpowered and is sentenced to death by firing squad. Tinker radios to the yacht for help and rescuers arrive just in time to save the detective. Plummer is captured and Malia restored to power. Due to the progress made in the country under Plummer's dictatorship, he is allowed to go free. Leyland and Rosina marry.
Trivia: This story was reprinted in DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 353 as PRESIDENT PLUMMER (1939).
Notes: While in disguise, George Marsden Plummer is arrested for a petty crime. He is helped to escape by Gustave and other confederates, who have been hired by a dishonest bookmaker named Abe Gulwood. Gulwood commissions Plummer to help him conduct a racing scam, their target being a wealthy race horse owner named Arthur Waynfleet. After their first success, Sexton Blake realises that Plummer is once again in action and warns Waynfleet. He then, in disguise, keeps watch on Gulwood's house. Plummer, also disguised, goes to examine the watcher only to have his true identity exposed by Blake. Fortunately for Plummer, his cohorts are on hand and the detective is knocked unconscious and thrown into a lake to drown. He escapes death and secretly returns to Baker Street, leading the newspapers to believe that he has mysteriously disappeared. The subsequent reports convince his opponent that he is dead. Blake and Tinker, in disguise, take on jobs as hands at Waynfleet's stable. They want to keep a special eye on Silverheels, the young millionaire's prize racer. Sure enough, Plummer — once again disguised — makes an attempt to nobble the horse but is tricked by the detective and fails. Teaming up with a couple of disgruntled stablehands, he then spies on a midnight trial in which Silverheels is tested against another horse. In order to predict the outcome of the next race meeting, Plummer needs to know how the horses were weighted during the trial. To this end, he steals the trainer's log book. However, while doing so he is confronted by Blake, whom he initially believes is a ghost. A chase ensues, Plummer shoots the detective in the wrist and Blake tumbles into an old quarry. Not having suffered any further injury, he emerges and fetches a couple of policemen. They race after Plummer, who escapes on a racehorse. A couple of days later, after another unsuccessful sabotage attempt by the villain, Silverheels is taken to the race meeting. The event commences but is interrupted by a fire set by Plummer and his cohorts. The subsequent cancellation means that Abe Gulwood has saved a huge amount of money. However, Sexton Blake tracks the criminals to their lair and, though Plummer escapes, Gulwood is captured. He later commits suicide in prison.
Notes: Nearly sixteen years ago, wealthy mill owner Charles Alliston quarrelled with his only son, John. Soon after, John’s wife died during childbirth, and he fled the country. Alliston, regretting the argument, took his new grandson, Jack, under his wing. Now, he tells the boy that, should his father ever come home, he will inherit the family fortune. This conversation is overheard by Harris, the recently hired butler, who is a henchman of a crook named William Saunders, as is also the coachman, James. Upon learning that John Alliston was missing the little finger of his left hand, Saunders has his own removed in order to pose as the long lost heir. A few weeks later, the three villains murder Charles Alliston. News of the death reaches Sexton Blake and he goes to the scene to make a preliminary investigation. Inspector Thomas arrives along with young Jack Alliston, who has come from his boarding school. Harris describes to them how the murdered man had been discovered in the grounds by James and how the killer stole a car to make his getaway. Blake is suspicious, so puts Tinker and Pedro on the trail of the missing vehicle. His assistant traces the driver to Liverpool, where he apparently boarded a ship bound for New York. Blake tells Tinker to book passage on a liner that’ll cross the Atlantic faster and to watch the other ship’s passengers as they disembark. He should follow anyone with a missing little finger. Tinker in this way gets onto Saunders’ trail but is spotted and falls into a trap. When his messages to Blake cease, the detective and Pedro voyage to New York to search for him. The young ‘un, meanwhile, finds himself shanghaied and forced to serve on a tramp steamer headed to Vancouver. Saunders returns to England and presents himself as the long lost John Alliston. He is accepted by all but, while he’s settling in, the real man turns up. They have history together. In America, Saunders had caused John Alliston to be falsely accused and imprisoned for murder. Now, they fight and John is overpowered. From New York, Blake traces Tinker and is able to rescue him. The duo then return to England and arrive just as Saunders pays a sailor to have John Alliston taken to sea and thrown overboard. They prevent the murder, arrest Harris, and confront Saunders. When he realises the game is up, the villain swallows a capsule of poison and dies. John Alliston is reunited with his son and claims the inheritance.
Notes: This is the first of G. H. Teed's manuscripts to have been submitted under his own name. All his stories prior to this were handed to the editor by the widow of Michael Storm as the last remaining tales penned by her late husband.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ This has none of the exotic qualities that mark Teed as perhaps the best of the Blake writers. In fact, it more resembles the work of William Murray Graydon (though less melodramatic), especially with its “cheated heir” theme.
Notes: Double Christmas issue. The editorial includes an account of when Blake first met Tinker, as told at greater length in SEXTON BLAKE AT OXFORD in THE BOYS' HERALD 1908-1909. American millionaire Sheldrake Emerson hires Count Ivor Carlac to abduct his grandson, Geoffrey. The toddler is cared for by his mother, Miriam, who Emerson hates and who is living in near-poverty after her husband, Sheldrake Junior, went missing while abroad. Carlac, aided by his henchman, Jem Stokes, sets fire to Miriam's house and, under cover of the subsequent confusion, kidnaps the child, leaving the woman for dead. He delivers Geoffrey to Emerson's well-defended castle in Cornwall and receives his payment. After recovering from the disaster, Miriam visits Sexton Blake and asks for his assistance. He investigates the burned house and discovers that the fire was set purposely. Leaving Tinker to follow up the clues, the detective travels to Cornwall to pursue Miriam's suspicions that Emerson is behind the crime. His confrontation with the millionaire convinces him that she is right. That evening, with the help of a poacher named Peter, he breaks into the castle and discovers Sheldrake Junior living secretly in the grounds. The millionaire's son had faked his own death so that the insurance would provide for his wife. Not realising the plan had failed, he had been leading the life of a vagrant ever since. Blake leaves him to keep watch on the castle and returns to Baker Street but Sheldrake is spotted and shot in the thigh. He manages to make an escape and is given shelter by Peter. Tinker, meanwhile, has struck Carlac's trail and witnessed him piloting a monoplane to an unknown destination. It turns out to be Emerson's castle; the master-criminal secretly lands on its roof during the night, kidnaps Geoffrey, and flies away. He ditches the plane and escapes in a gypsy caravan. Worried by the lack of communication from Sheldrake, Blake travels back to the castle where he is imprisoned by Emerson who thinks the detective is responsible for the child's abduction. Tinker comes to the rescue and Blake, after convincing the millionaire of his innocence in the matter, discovers evidence of Carlac's landing. After reuniting the repentent Emerson with his son and daughter-in-law, the detective sets off on the trail of the kidnapped boy. A police-inspector tries to help by tackling Carlac himself. He rescues Geoffrey but cannot hold the master-criminal. Blake and the policeman have another try at capturing Carlac but fail; he escapes to fight another day. Geoffrey is reunited with his family just in time for Christmas Day.
Trivia: Blake's landlady, who is not mentioned by name, is described as 'a shrewish, bad-tempered old dame.' That doesn't sound like Mrs Bardell! Ivor Carlac reveals that he was a pilot before turning to crime — he was one of the first men to fly in the whole of Europe.
Notes: The story is inspired by real events in the Balkans (you can feel the First World War looming). In the editorial, a reader's letter complains that Plummer and Carlac are winning their ongoing battle with Sexton Blake. However, another letter asks for a story in which Plummer wins a clean victory.
Notes: Having been defeated by Sexton Blake once again, George Marsden Plummer is fleeing from London. Lacking funds, he is virtually a tramp and has not eaten for some time. When he passes an insane asylum, he witnesses the recapture of an escaped patient who tells him that he is Leslie Weyland — and that he isn't mad. The doctor in charge of the asylum — Strang — tells him that all inmates make this claim. He invites Plummer in, feeds him, and gives him shelter for the night. Plummer repays him by robbing his safe of money and incriminating letters which show that Dr. Strang is in league with "M. K." Plummer returns to London in disguise and searches old newspapers until he discovers an article about a man named Mayne Weyland, who in the absence of his cousin Leslie (presumed drowned abroad) has claimed one of the biggest estates in Europe; the Kildock Estate. He is now Maynard Kildock. Plummer summons Kildock and Strang and tells them that he knows they are keeping the rightful heir in the asylum. He demands money from them. Meanwhile, a poor woman asks Sexton Blake to find her missing husband, who she suspects is actually an aristocrat who's married below his station. She shows the detective a photo of the man standing on a clifftop. Blake is then called to the estate of Lord Treeland, who happens to be Kildock's neighbour, to investigate the near fatal car crash of one of his guests. Unknown to the detective, the victim had been loaned the car by Plummer, who'd realised that Strang and Kildock would attempt to kill him. Blake recognises the landscape as that shown in the woman's photograph, and begins to pry into Kildock's affairs. He soon spots Plummer on the estate, and realises that the master crook has some sort of hold over Strang and Kildock. Tinker is captured by the asylum owner and locked in a padded cell. Blake masquerades as an inspector and finds Leslie Weyland. He arrests Kildock — who commits suicide — Strang and Plummer, but the latter escapes from police custody. Tinker is liberated, while Weyland is reunited with his wife.