Publishing: UNION JACK makes its final appearance on the newsstands, DETECTIVE WEEKLY makes its first ... and so begins the long and painful decline of Sexton Blake.
John G. Brandon makes his debut as a Blake author. Born in Australia in 1879, he introduced the character The Honourable Ronald Sturges Vereker Purvale, better known as R. S. V. P. to Blake readers. Brandon died in 1941.
Blake: Much information is given about Sexton Blake's family and past this year. A second wayward brother turns up to cause trouble. Nigel Blake is younger than Sexton and was obviously born after Henry Blake had left home, since the eldest of the three brothers never knew the youngest existed (see SEXTON BLAKE'S HONOUR 1907). Nigel eventually dies after the encounter but this is later contradicted in the SBL4 novel THE ANGRY NIGHT.
Generations of Blake's family dedicated themselves to the medical profession, including his father who wanted 'his two sons, Sexton and Nigel to qualify to follow him after the manner of the family'. Sexton graduated from Cambridge 'loaded with honours' and carved out a career as a criminologist. Nigel failed his exams, became a waster and brought 'the grey hairs of his old father in sorrow to the grave'.
DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 1 gives an extensive introduction to Sexton Blake. It informs us that a list of eleven of his monographs — published in Appendix B of the German crime classic DER VERBRECHERKRIEG by Ludwig Schroeder — includes "SOME NOTES ON THE USE OF METHYLENE BLUE AS AN ANTI-TOXIN"; "SINGLE-PRINT CLASSIFICATION"; "FINGERPRINT FORGERY BY THE CHROMICIZED GELATINE METHOD"; and "SPECULATIONS ON BALLISTIC STIGMATA IN FIREARMS".
The first of the super-crooks, George Marsden Plummer dies this year (though he is later resurrected for one of the New Order Sexton Blake Library issues).
Notes: For the past three years, 15-year-old Sexton Blake has been living in Martello Tower in the Millhove district, near the south east coast, with his guardian and tutor, Dr. Lanchester. One night, Blake comes home and finds that Lanchester has been murdered. Following instructions left in a letter, the boy puts himself in the care of two of the doctor's friends. They arrange for him to be sent to school and, in due course, Blake finds himself enrolled in St. Anne's College. He quickly gets on the wrong side of the resident bully, Wightman, but makes friends with Richard 'Spots' Losely, for whom he fags. His first night is disturbed by an intruder, a scar-faced man who tries to get through the window. Blake sees him off but is left wondering whether the man had been one of his guardian's killers. A few days later, a rumour spreads through the school that the resident ghost has been seen. Blake and Losely investigate and find a secret passage running from the school to an underground chamber then on to a cave on the seafront. This is being used by a pair of criminals — Francois and Jean — who appear to be blackmailing the Headmaster. The two boys try to intercept the villains after seeing them take money from the school safe but they are captured and taken out to sea. They escape overboard and are picked up by French fishermen and landed at Dunkirk. Knowing that this is where the villains have their base, they decide to track them down. Blake snatches back the money from them and the lads make their way home. Their next confrontation with the villains ends in quicksand, with one of the men sinking under and Blake escaping by the skin of his teeth. The schoolboy eventually discovers that his headmaster had once been friends with Francois and that the latter was the man who murdered his — Blake's — parents. Dr. Lanchester had gathered infallible evidence of this crime and was, in consequence, killed. The headmaster was targeted thanks to his association with Blake. The criminal is finally cornered and makes a run for it across the Channel where he sinks and is presumed drowned.
Trivia: Sexton Blake's father, Berkeley Blake had been a top Harley Street surgeon. He became the victim of a gang of criminals after they discovered that he had formulated an invaluable medicine. He escaped from them by moving to France with his wife and son but the gang caught up with him and murdered him and his wife. Sexton Blake was taken away by a servant who gave him into the keeping of Dr. Lanchester. These details were all added for this reprint and did not appear in the original serial. For further details, see the SEXTON BLAKE TIMELINE.
This is a reprint of a BOYS' HERALD serial which ran between issues 238 and 262 in 1908. It was reprinted again in BOYS' FRIEND LIBRARY issue 102 (1909). John Andrews was a stock name used by Amalgamated Press for reprinted stories when the original author's name had appeared, in the editor's judgement, too frequently.
Rating: ★★★★★ An excellent and very exciting adventure that fills in a lot of the blank spaces in the detective's past ... though these are contradicted elsewhere!
Notes: After the new gym teacher at St. Anne's attempts to kill Sexton Blake, the young schoolboy realises that his arch-foe, Francois, is still alive. When he witnesses the new innkeeper in the local village signalling to a ship one night, Blake begins to suspect that the man, the gym teacher and Francois are all one and the same. The innkeeper, it turns out, is also under observation by a young girl who, to Blake's surprise, turns out to be a slightly built man in disguise, an agent who calls himself Smithers. Francois captures Smithers and takes him aboard the ship but when a storm strikes and the vessel sinks, Blake rescues his new ally. A schoolboy named Ogle then disappears. Blake and Richard 'Spots' Losely trace him to an old house that belongs to his father but instead of finding him there they are confronted by a strange ape-like apparition. They make their escape and return a couple of nights later, accompanied by a local doctor named Livesey. They discover a network of smugglers' tunnels under the building and in them a stash of counterfeit money. Following the tunnels towards the sea, they become trapped in a blowhole. Blake is caught by the rushing water shot out to sea but he survives and manages to rescue his friends. The next night they return to the house once again and capture the ape creature, which turns out to be Ogle's father, masked and driven insane by a head injury. The following evening, Smithers seeks Blake's assistance. He needs to get to London but is being pursued by Francois' men. Blake tries to help him but they both fall into the enemy's hands and are ordered to be killed. However, unknown to Francois, one of his henchmen helps the two boys to escape. Overhearing that young Ogle is captive at Francois' Dunkirk house, Blake, Smithers and Livesey race across the Channel and rescue him. It turns out that Francois is Ogle's half-uncle and has been plotting to gain inheritance of the Ogle estate. Foiled by Blake, the villain dies in a blazing inferno.
Trivia: This is a reprint of BOYS' FRIEND LIBRARY issue 105 (1909). The review is based on a reading of that issue.
Notes: So it's goodbye to the glorious UNION JACK and hello to the considerably less impressive DETECTIVE WEEKLY. The new paper plunges straight in with the now age-old claim that Sexton Blake is a living person rather than 'merely a name or a puppet figure of fiction'. With one of the all-time greatest Blake covers (a re-working of the cover of PENNY PICTORIAL issue 429 from 1907) and an intense story, it's an impressive debut for a paper which, unfortunately, wouldn't live up to its promise, rapidly bringing Blake's Golden Age to an end.
In the Spring of 1914, Sexton Blake travels to the Cameroons to visit his younger brother Nigel Blake. He finds him in a pitiful state; a half-insane alcoholic who practices as a doctor illegally. The meeting is not a happy one. Nigel has abandoned his wife, Clare and baby son, Garry, and refuses to support them. Blake returns to England and later receives a telegram that falsely claims that Nigel has died. Nearly twenty years later, Garry, who has been raised not knowing who his real father is, has joined the police force and is investigating his first case: a sudden plethora of forged cheques. Blake also looks into the crimes and discovers evidence that Nigel is behind them. This is supported by Clare who, in a state of deep shock, reports that she caught sight of Nigel on Oxford Street. With Garry closing in on the criminal, Blake confronts his brother and gives him refuge in Baker Street after first sending Tinker and Mrs. Bardell on spurious missions to get them out of the way. He finds out that Nigel is suffering from a mental disorder akin to schizophrenia. When Garry and Inspector Martin arrive, Blake hides his brother in the bedroom. Martin reveals that Blake was seen with the suspect and insists on searching the house. He finds nothing, and leaves with Garry, still filled with suspicion. The detective enters the bedroom to discover that Nigel has gone, having escaped through the window after first removing valuables from Blakes private safe.
Trivia: Sexton Blake is grey eyed and six feet tall, with a spare, athletic figure. His family nickname was 'Tony'. He originally intended to be a doctor but trained only so far as to pass his degrees. He then transferred from medicine to other branches of science. His home is at the north end of Baker Street (previously it's been described as 'Baker Street, West').
Mrs Bardell's first name is Martha (in early UNION JACKs it was 'Maria'). Tinker was rescued 'from the surroundings of slumdom and the rough life of a London newsboy'. The author makes it clear that Blake's father died a good few years before the First World War ... a fact that is conveniently overlooked in a couple of the New Order novels. We are also told that Blake paid for his brother to move abroad 'a year or so before the outbreak of the Great War' (and, incidentally, the author then wipes out years of established history by stating that the detective's career took off after Nigel left). A page later, he has Sexton Blake searching for Nigel in the Spring of 1914. The detective is already world famous and he tells someone that he hasn't seen Nigel for 'some years'. A few paragraphs after that, the suggestion seems to be that 'some years' is actually two. To make sense of all this, see SEXTON BLAKE TIMELINE.
This was anthologised in SEXTON BLAKE: STAR OF UNION JACK AND DETECTIVE WEEKLY(1972).
Rating: ★★★☆☆ Though this is a tense and gritty tale, it is less substantial than it at first seems ... being more of an introduction for the two sequels than a story in itself. Sexton Blake's stress is described nicely but compared to SEXTON BLAKE'S HONOUR (BOY'S FRIEND LIBRARY issue 10 1907), from which the plot is derived, the story pales significantly. There's a sense of sensation for sensation's sake here; a re-treading of old ground that, along the way, re-writes too much history for comfort.
Notes: Sexton Blake's brother, Nigel Blake has had an eloctromagnetic pick-lock built from blueprints he stole from the detective. Now he's at Crabbe's Yard with Sam Blackford, the blacksmith who constructed it. They are planning to Rob a jewellery shop named Barrymore's but they are overheard by petty thief Tich Bryson. Blackford hits Tich with a crowbar, almost killing him, and in the ensuing confusion, Nigel slips away. The farrier, believing Tich to be dead, takes the body away from his workshop and leaves it with evidence which incriminates the victim's brother, Bung Bryson. Sexton Blake and Tinker learn of the attempted murder on their way to visit Blackford. Knowing he's the only man who could make the instrument, Blake wants him put away. At Crabbe's Yard, the detective finds a bloodstained hankerchief and accuses Blackford of the murder. The farrier denies it and blames Nigel, revealing to Blake the plot to use the magnetic picklock to rob Barrymore's. Blake traces Nigel's whereabouts and confronts him but his unrepentant brother escapes. So, a few days later, the detective breaks into the jewellery shop and awaits Nigel's arrival. Nigel, however, doesn't show up. In fact, he's already been there and departed leaving the safe empty, as a caretaker discovers while Blake hides in the shadows. Switching on the lights, the caretaker sees Blake and holds him at gunpoint while the police are called. The detective is arrested. Meanwhile, Tinker is disturbed during the night by an intruder. Nigel is leaving loot from the robbery in Blake's flat, evidence to frame his sibling. Tinker tackles him but the villain gets away. Left alone and confused by recent events, Tinker reads his master's diary and discovers the truth. He goes to Crabbe's Yard and persuades Blackford to falsely confess to the robbery, thus getting Blake off the hook. Blackford himself also thus avoids a longer sentence than he'd have suffered were his true crime of attempted murder to be revealed. Blake is released and he and Tinker vow to stand shoulder to shoulder against Nigel.
Trivia: Sexton Blake has written a book examining the methods and motives of criminals. In the wrong hands, he says, it could be considered a guidebook to the perfect crime.
Rating: ★★★★☆ The battle with Nigel hots up in this story and there are many touching moments as Tinker feels left out in the cold by Blake yet still manages to come through and rescue him.
Notes: Detective-Inspector Thomas is called to murder at The Silent Woman, a pub run by an untrustworthy individual named Charlie Quin. While he is examining the crime scene, Sexton Blake arrives in the Grey Panther. He is acting on an anonymous tip-off from a woman whose statement that the dead man — a crooked solicitor named Felix Slater — is in possession of a stolen necklace proves to be true. Back at Baker Street, Blake sends Tinker to keep watch on The Silent Woman. As his assistant leaves, a young woman falls through the front doorway in a dead faint. Blake revives her but, while his back is turned, she flees leaving behind a packet in which he finds more stolen jewels. When Tinker is beaten unconscious by a tramp who he spotted exiting the pub via the back entrance, Blake disguises himself as a vagrant and also has an encounter with the mysterious scavanger. Later, the detective is asked for help by a friend, Major Langley, who is being blackmailed. At the Major's hotel, the detective is introduced to Baron von Kravitch and his daughter, Elsa, who turns out to be Blake's informant. The detective also realises that Kravitch and the tramp are one and the same man. That night, at the Kravitch residence, the Baron turns on Elsa, realising that she has betrayed him to Blake. He is about to throttle her when Blake crashes in through the window and subdues the criminal. Elsa explains that her father had been double-crossed by Slater when he employed the crooked solicitor as a fence. Her motive in giving clues to Blake was to try to keep her father out of trouble after discovering that he was a thief and also the man responsible for blackmailing Langley. For Elsa's sake, Blake allows Von Kravitch to escape, warning him that he will be hunted down if he continues his villainous ways. Finally, Charlie Quin is arrested for the murder of Slater.
Trivia: This is the first in a short sequence of tales featuring Baron and Elsa von Kravitch.
Notes: Captain John Arkwright, a retired seaman, has taken on as housekeeper his cousin, Clare Peterson, and has fallen in love with her. One night, Clare's husband, Nigel Blake, who she believes to be dead and who Arkwright has never seen, breaks into the house. He manages to read a letter from Sexton Blake before being chased off by the sailor. A few days later, Arkwright makes it clear to Clare's son, Garry, that he intends to propose. When Blake learns of this, he despairs, knowing that the girl is still married. There's more bad news: Leon Kestrel's assistants Lessing and Fifette are in town. Garry receives a visit from Nigel, who is experiencing a temprorary bout of sanity. He admits to Garry that's he's his real father and tells him that his madness is leading him to commit crimes. The young police officer is shocked but determined to do his duty. He picks up the telephone to call Scotland Yard but, before he can dial the number, Nigel injects him with a drug that renders him insensible. Blake, meanwhile, travels to see Clare to tell her that her husband is still alive ... but she already knows. Nigel has beaten Blake to it and has arranged to talk with Clare later. However, with the police closing in, it becomes imperative that Blake gets to Nigel before they do. He intercepts his brother who, in trying to escape, sustains a concussion. The detective hands the wounded man over to Dr. Sarola who runs a private sanitarium and who will care for Nigel henceforth. Blake then tricks the police into carting off the wrong man. Finally, he traces Garry's whereabouts and discovers Nigel's hoarde of stolen goods ... but these then go missing, removed by Lessing and Fifette.
Trivia: This is the third Sexton Blake story to bear this title, the others being in UNION JACK first series, issue 15 (3/8/1894), written by 'Hal Meredith' (Harry Blyth) and UNION JACK new series, issue 51 (1/10/1904), written by A. G. Pearson.
Rating: ★★★★☆ A fine end to an interesting sequence of stories ... and with a good cliffhanger at the end that promises the return of Leon Kestrel.
Notes: An eccentric individual who claims to be the Earl of Fambridge visits Sexton Blake to ask for protection. A ghostly falcon — the legendary curse of the Fambridges — has been attacking him. Blake and Tinker travel to Fambridge Castle only to discover that it's in a ruinous state. The Earl and his family live in a bungalow nearby with their servant, who turns out to be Zenith the Albino's old sidekick, Frau Gratz. Also resident in the locality is a mad monk named Simon Grot. He is distantly related to the Earl and challenges his right to the title. Within hours of the detective's arrival, the falcon attacks. Blake believes that the strange events are connected with Fambridge's interest in chemistry and deduces that there must be a secret laboratory somewhere in the vicinity. That night, a Frenchman and a German vie for Fambridge's attention. Blake realises that the Earl has made a discovery, which he's attempting to auction off to the highest bidder. He's right; the Earl has invented a substance he calls D77 that causes anything it touches to instantly decay ... and he uses it on Grot, who turns out to be the owner of the falcon. Frau Krantz, who's working for the German contingent, offers the Earl a great deal of money, which he accepts, not caring that the D77 will go to England's enemy. Sexton Blake discovers the secret laboratory and confronts the inventor who tries to kill him. During the struggle, the Earl falls into a vat of the chemical and is instantly dissolved. Blake destroys all traces of the formula and makes sure that the existing batch of D77 is very well buried. However, before this happens it takes one final victim: the falcon of Fambridge.
Trivia: This was reprinted in an abridged form in the second SEXTON BLAKE ANNUAL (1940).
Notes: Elderly French millionaire Monsieur Perrier — the 'Chocolate King' — and his wife go missing while driving on their estate. Detective-Inspector Emile Thibaud can see only one spot along the carefully guarded route where their car could not be observed and from this they must have vanished within the space of just three minutes. Thibaud promises to keep the Perriers' disappearance a secret in order to avoid a fall in their company shares but the next morning, to his dismay, a detailed report is published in a newspaper. Meanwhile, Sexton Blake is in Paris in response to an anonymous tip-off that has put him on the trail of a crook known as Slick Jim Prentice. Seeing his quarry dive into a car, the detective takes its number, which he later realises matches that of the Perriers' vehicle, as reported in the paper. He and Thibaud join forces to investigate. Blake receives another anonymous letter, informing him that only he can solve the mystery. When a car resembling the one that is missing is found, he forms a theory that is subsequently supported by the discovery of the remains of the Perriers' missing driver and footman. Blake begins to suspect that Baron von Kravitch might be the mastermind behind the events ... and this is confirmed when he catches the anonymous letter-writer, who proves to be Elsa von Kravitch. She warns him that he must act more quickly if he is to save the Perriers. Blake then allows her to depart. While investigating a bookstall that seems to have connections with the case, the detective spots Slick Jim and manages to capture him. The Baker Street detective then leads Thibaud and a squadron of police in a raid on Kravitch's property some miles north of Paris. The force is met by a hail of bullets as gunmen open fire from the house. Under cover of the battle, the Baron and his daughter escape in a monoplane. Blake and his men overpower the shooters and the Perriers are liberated from a locked room.
Notes: Joe Dane, a young tramp, accompanies a crook, Sam Napper, across a common en route to a dilapidated mansion, Moordyke House. When Sam breaks his ankle, Joe goes on ahead, calls at the mansion, and is immediately knocked unconscious. Back on the common, Pedro is tracking Tinker's scent and leads Sexton Blake to a tree from which Sam is hanging, stabbed through the heart, battered beyond recognition, and attired in a dress suit. At Moordyke, Joe recovers consciousness to find himself imprisoned in one of the manor's turrets. He escapes, explores the house, and discovers that it is inhabited by a dying man, John Fabian, his secretary, Walter Beach, and his niece, Stella, who has known her uncle for only twelve months. Undetected, Joe returns to the turret room. Stella is frightened by a hulking intruder who makes off when Blake and Pedro arrive. The detective tells Stella that his assistant is operating under the name Joe Dane to track Napper, who is a wanted criminal. When Beach vanishes, Uncle Fabian is stabbed in the heart, and Tinker is found with a life-threatening head injury, Blake calls in Detective-Inspector Coutts. Tinker is carted off in an ambulance. The next day, an inquest is held at Moordyke. It is attended by the manager of the neighbouring estate, Captain Woods, whose immense physique does not go unnoticed by Blake, who recognises him as Beef Woodman, a notorious Australian crook. Stella is abducted and imprisoned with Beach. Tinker recovers sufficiently to tell Blake how the massive intruder attacked him in the turret room. Blake discovers a network of secret passages in Moordyke, along with a couple of hidden rooms that show signs of recent habitation. In them, clues lead the detective to a crook known as Gladrags due to his propensity for dress suits. Blake realises that Gladrags and Walter Beach are one and the same. Beach, pretending to be imprisoned with Stella, escapes with her and suggests that they run away to Wales to get married. Blake finds evidence that the murdered Fabian was an impostor. He and Coutts travel to Wales and meet with Captain Woods. The criminal, given a sporting chance by Blake, has followed the mystery intruder — now revealed as Max Olsen, partner to Gladrags — to an isolated farmhouse. Gladrags and Stella arrive, as does the parish priest who is to marry them. Blake crashes the wedding before the vows are made and Gladrags, after accidentally killing his confederate, is arrested for Olsen's murder, along with that of Sam Napper, who knew his game and was out to blackmail him; the real John Fabian, who was an unknowing claimant to a fortune; the false Fabian; and for the abduction of Stella, who is an heiress to millions.
Trivia: Tinker's head injury counts as one of the most severe he's ever received.
John Fabian is initially introduced as "Mark Fabian."
Rating: ★★★★★ A wonderfully twisty-turny plot with many unexpected revelations.
Notes: Story features Zenith the Albino.
Trivia: This was anthologised in SEXTON BLAKE WINS (1986).
Notes: To his dismay, Sexton Blake discovers that Tinker has fallen in love with a girl named Estelle Morrow, an associate of Julian and Miriam Haynes — a husband and wife team who specialise in blackmail and dope dealing. At a dance, Estelle is approached by her former employer, a disreputable doctor named Floyd who accuses her of being a thief. Tinker knocks him down. Back at Baker Street, Blake tries to warn his assistant about the girl but Tinker won't listen and storms out. Later, Floyd is found murdered and Tinker's cigarette case is discovered at the scene. Despite Blake's efforts to thwart him, Detective-Inspector Martin initiates a manhunt for Tinker. When Blake and Martin subsequently return to the scene of the crime, they find that the safe has been broken into and emptied. Meanwhile, a disguised Tinker meets with Estelle who admits that it was she who murdered the doctor — though by accident — while trying to force him to open the safe. Sexton Blake deduces that Floyd was a blackmailer and that the contents of the safe — the evidence he used against his victims — has been stolen by Julian and Miriam Haynes. When he spies on them, he is caught and placed in a boat under a secluded jetty with a noose around his neck. When the tide goes out, he will hang. Tinker comes to the rescue and, together, they go to spy on the Haynes' residence, where they witness events that prove Tinker — and Estelle — innocent.
Trivia: Blake's brother, Nigel Blake, receives a passing mention in this story.
Notes: Story features Waldo the Wonder-Man.
Notes: Sexton Blake is visited by Flash Jim Brady, an ex-jewel thief who, after being caught by Blake and having served a prison sentence, is now going straight and running a small jewellery shop in a Yorkshire village. Brady confesses to the detective that, in fact, he is an aristocrat — and is surprised to learn that Blake already knows this. He then tells how he had recently become friendly with a girl who was visiting the village with her father. Just before departing, she had uttered the words "green ink" to him. The day preceeding his visit to Blake, Brady had received a parcel addressed in green ink. In it was a case containing many pearls and a note instructing him to guard them. When he then received a phone call from the girl pleading with him to get rid of the case as soon as possible, Brady panicked and fled the village. He now shows Blake the pearls. When he produces a snapshot of the girl, the detective immediately recognises Elsa von Kravitch. Shocking news arrives with the morning papers: there has been a massive jewel heist in Hatton Gardens and Brady, the man accused, is now being hunted by the police. Believing in his innocence, Sexton Blake offers to shelter him in his Baker Street home while he investigates the case. Detective-Inspector Thomas arrives and, unaware that Brady is hiding in a nearby room, informs Blake that the police were acting on an anonymous tip-off. This further convinces Blake that Brady is being framed. Research reveals that the man whose Hatton Garden business was burgled — Max Vramstein — might be trying to swindle his insurers and so, in the guise of an insurance agent, Blake visits the diamond merchant and gives him a scare. Vramstein reacts by racing to the hideout of Baron von Kravitch, unaware that Tinker is on his tail. Von Kravitch is furious with Vramstein for allowing himself to be rattled by his visitor and, pulling a gun, shoots him dead. He then drives from the house, followed by Tinker on a motorcycle. The crook spots his shadow and drives the lad off the road, sending him and the bike spinning off a bridge and into the Thames. Meanwhile, Flash Brady is alone in the Baker Street house when Elsa von Kravitch visits. Surprised to see him, she flees into the street with him hot on her heels. The police spot him, swoop, and arrest him. Blake is later informed of this and told that Brady has been charged with murder after the discovery of Vramstein's body. Tinker, who has been rescued from the river, informs Blake that he knows where Baron von Kravitch is holed up. The detective leads a police raid on the house but the Baron escapes. Tinker finds Elsa and takes her to Baker Street to be with a now vindicated Brady. A few hours later, though, she vanishes, presumably to be with her father.
Notes: Ever since his criminal career came to an end, Nigel Blake has been in a private sanitorium run by Dr. Sarola. But now he turns up on Sexton Blake's doorstep, shot through the chest. He is rushed to hospital, leaving the detective with a mystery on his hands: Sarola is out of the country, yet was seen in the vicinity of a recent murder. Blake begins investigating and rapidly comes to the conclusion that Leon Kestrel has come out of retirement. The "Prince of Pretence" has already got his hands on the jewels which Nigel had stolen, plus the magnetic picklock invented by Sexton Blake — now he is after the detective's 'Crime Manual'. The detective begins to hunt Kestrel and, along the way, discovers that the villain is planning to obtain plans for a new type of submarine, which he will then sell to the Japanese. The trail leads to Paris where the detective encounters Baudelaire, who gives him valuable information regarding Kestrel's whereabouts. In the catacombs beneath the city, Blake manages to regain possession of the stolen jewels. He then foils the scheme to sell the blueprints. Unfortunately, though, Kestrel gets away with the picklock still in his possession. The tale ends with the death of a repentant Nigel.
Trivia: Nigel's death is contradicted by THE ANGRY NIGHT (SBL series 4 issue 451, 1960). So what actually happened? See SEXTON BLAKE TIMELINE for my theory!
Notes: Story features Zenith the Albino.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: Story features Waldo the Wonder-Man.
Notes: This was reprinted in an abridged form in the second SEXTON BLAKE ANNUAL (1940). It was anthologised in SEXTON BLAKE WINS (1986).
Notes: Story features Zenith the Albino.
Notes: As Jews flee Germany in droves, Baron Von Kravitch joins the exodus, using it as a means to sneak back into his native Poland, from which he was long ago banished. He knows that a rich banker named Louis Rothstein is among the refugees and that he's carrying a fortune in jewels with which to establish a new bank. At the border, when the outcasts set up camp for the night, Von Kravitch sneaks into Rothstein's tent, strangles him, and steals the jewels. His daughter, Elsa — who believes they have entered Poland to recover family treasures that were long ago hidden, and also to pray at the grave of her mother — trusts her father when he tells her the camp is about to be raided, and so leaves with him, unaware of the crime he has committed. Two weeks later, Rothstein's sons, Julius and Jacob, learn of his death and of the theft of the jewels. With this credit lost, liabilities that are maturing in London cannot be paid by their bank. Julius persuades Jacob to use the assets of a recently dead customer to cover the costs, however, this discussion is overheard by Hans Muller, Rothstein's chief accountant, and when the brothers open the strong-box in which the bonds are stored, they are astounded to find it empty. Julius takes the matter to Sexton Blake. While he is at Baker Street, his brother telephones to inform him that Muller has threatened to expose the Rothstein Bank's weakness if an investigation proceeds. Taking up the case, Blake and Tinker track Muller to Stettin in Germany and witness him meeting with Von Kravitch and a woman they later identify as Madame Borgia, one of Von Kravich's old allies and a gold-digger who preys on rich, vulnerable men. They follow the trio to a house and, when Von Kravitch and Borgia depart, they enter it and discover Muller dead. Jacob Rothstein arrives having been summoned by an anonymous telephone call. Blake realises that it's a set up and manages to get Rothstein away just as the German police arrive. He tells the banker to go and withdraw all the money he requires and to then drop out of sight, as he is now a hunted man, thought to have exacted vengeance on Muller for that man's theft of the bonds. While Tinker accompanies Rothstein to the bank, Blake disguises himself and haunts the town's Jewish quarter. Von Kravitch returns to it — to his temporary quarters there — bringing with him Madame Borgia, who is received coldly by his daughter. Elsa demands that the adventuress leaves. Her father objects, they fight, and he banishes Elsa from the house. Blake encounters her and she confirms that she and her father had crossed into Poland before then returning, and that Von Kravitch brought with him a banker's box that he appears to value highly. She agrees to help Blake retrieve it. Tinker returns and reports that Rothstein has been captured by the police. Blake, Tinker and Elsa crash into the Baron's home, hold him and Borgia at gunpoint, and retrieve the stolen jewels. For Elsa's sake, the detective gives the crook a short time to flee the country. He then hands evidence to the police and Rothstein is set free.
Trivia: At the start of this tale it is stated that previous to the events recounted, Von Kravitch had been involved in a criminal enterprise with George Marsden Plummer. Sexton Blake had foiled their scheme and the two crooks had gone their separate ways. Either this is an unrecorded story or it's SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 384, ROGUES OF RANSOM, which I don't own, or THE CROOK'S DECOY, issue 391, which definitely features Plummer ... though, after flicking through it, I saw no mention of Kravitch.
As far as I'm aware, this is Blake's final encounter with Von Kravitch.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: Story features George Marsden Plummer and Vali Mata Vali.
Notes: Story features Zenith the Albino.
Notes: Story features Waldo the Wonder-Man.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: George Marsden Plummer dies in this issue.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: Story features Hon. Eustace Cavendish.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: Count Otto von Steinwitz of Serbovia has traced the son of the late King Karl to England. Given up for adoption, “Charlie Hunter,” a navvy, has no idea of his true identity. Two months later, however, he is pronounced King Karl the Second and ascends to the throne. By the time a further six months have passed, he’s adopted the nickname The Ace and reformed the Double Four. The gang is now comprised of Lou Lamont, a female impersonator; Tiny Tony, a midget and child impersonator; Cesare Ravetti, a disguise artist and illusionist; Professor Wolfgang Nacht; a psychotic surgeon who can see in the dark; Peter Tregenna, an expert cracksman; Cyrus Cray, an American gangster; and Olaf Olsen, a strongman. At a reception in London’s Serbovian embassy, Baron von Myerstein—a financier who, aware that Serbovia is suffering a financial crisis, is intent on purchasing its oilfields—introduces “Mrs. Courtland” to Sexton Blake and Splash Page. A little later, a chandelier falls from the ceiling, narrowly missing the detective. It is the first assassination attempt by the Double Four. Three days pass, and King Karl orders Count Steinwitz to meet with Myerstein and sign a purchase order for the oilfields on the condition that payment is made in cash. Halfway through the deal, Courtland and her son, in reality Lou Lamont and Tiny, interrupt the meeting. The Count is escorted to an adjoining room by Myerstein, who is then rendered unconscious by the crooks. They make off with the money. Detective-Inspector Coutts is put on the case. He visits Sexton Blake and is shocked when Blake reveals that the Double Four has been revived. Amid much ceremony and public enthusiasm, King Karl II takes his leave from London, and among those seeing him off is Sexton Blake, who makes it quite clear to the monarch that he knows who and what he is. Karl departs and so does not witness the trickery through which his cohorts, Lou Lamont and Tiny, are caught and arrested. Unfortunately, an incompetent policeman allows them to escape.
Trivia: When Blake reviews his encounters with the Double Four, mention is made of The Case of the Ivory Beam (see: The Mystery of the Ivory Beam THE UNION JACK issue 1,238, 1927), The Riddle of the Vanishing Shop (see: The Mystery of the Vanishing Shop UNION JACK issue 1,339, 1927), and The Affair of the Green Mist. This latter case is not recorded in any issue that I’ve been able to identify.
Lou Lamont and Tiny exactly resemble Lou Tarrant and Tiny of the original Double Four. Tarrant was sent to prison but, since Blake is convinced the old gang are all deceased, must have died there. The original Tiny was killed during the Serbian revolution.
Blake often uses the back entrance at Baker Street when he comes and goes in disguise.
Ruff Hanson receives a mention.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: Story features Mlle. Roxane.
Notes: King Karl II is on holiday in the Swiss Alps with the executive council of the Double Four—Count Cesare Ravetti, Lou Lamont, and Dickie Tregenna—when a high-altitude balloon comes down nearby. They rescue a delirious Professor Ramsen from it and take him captive. The crooks make their way to London where, with the other members of the gang, they set up base in the Blue House, which is ostensibly a nursing home. Blake, Tinker and Splash Page attend a demonstration by Ramsen of his new “Vivavox” machine, which, he claims, can pick up and transmit sounds—including conversations—from the past, all of which are permanently recorded in the “Ramsen Layer” of the stratosphere. Among the examples he offers, there is a conversation between Blake and Page that occurred two days ago. A little afterwards, the detective is visited by a financier who claims he is being bribed by Ramsen, who has used his machine to listen in on a conversation the man had with his secretary a fortnight earlier—one which he certainly doesn't want his wife to hear. The detective takes the case but, after he client has departed, becomes suspicious that an eavesdropping device has been planted in his consulting room. Meanwhile, the Double Four convenes and Wolfgang Nacht is elected to kill Blake. He manages to slip into the detective’s bedroom via the window and hypnotises Blake into drinking cyanide. At four in the morning, Tinker summons Page and Detective-Inspector Coutts to Baker Street, where Blake lies dead. The next day, his demise is announced in the press. Sir Henry Fairfax attends a cabinet meeting where the security risk posed by the Vivavox is discussed. Ramsen is prepared to sell the machine to the government for fifteen million pounds. This gigantic swindle is, however, averted when it is revealed that Blake has pulled a fast one. He and the police raid the Blue House. Nacht and Killer Cray are shot dead, Tregenna and Olaf Olsen are captured, but the rest get away, though their scheme is shattered. The Vivavox is exposed as a fraud; Ramsen was Ravetti all along. The real professor is released from captivity.
Trivia: It is stated that Mrs. Bardell’s late husband was a water rate collector. However, elsewhere it has more than once been asserted that he was a police constable.
The back yard at Baker Street is covered in asphalt. Blake's bedroom is a floor below Tinker's.
Blake pulled the same faux death stunt during his battle with the original Double Four (see: The Gallows Mystery, UNION JACK issue 1,235, 1927).
Notes: None at present.
Notes: Story features Splash Page. This was the last issue of the DETECTIVE WEEKLY to be published under the editorial guidance of H. W. Twyman.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: In New York, Sexton Blake and Bryant Kennedy are hunting a crook named Max Finkel. They discover that he has embarked on a new scheme to secure a US government loan meant for the South American country of Costa Blanca. After successfully making off with one million dollars, he gathers his gang on a Caribbean island from which he intends to overthrow and plunder the small country. Blake picks up his trail in Havana and summons Tinker from London. In a thieves’ den known as the Galleon, while disguised as a gangster, he attempts to join the gang but when he sees that George Marsden Plummer and Vali Mata-Vali are among the crooks, he changes his plan. Plummer realises that the detective is on the case, so he and his partner decide to double-cross Finkel and get away as quickly as possible. However, Blake and the newly arrived Tinker have flown ahead to Costa Blanca and are with its president, protecting him from a coup intended by the country’s minister of war and the leader of the opposition, both of whom are associated with Finkel’s scheme. The two men are declared traitors and Blake is commissioned as the new Minister of War. News reaches the crooks that their scheme is going wrong. Plummer takes control and instigates the bombing of Costa Blanca’s capitol. Blake and Tinker use one of the country’s ancient biplanes to fight off the attacker but this is just the first assault. The next day, the telephone network is blown up and an army of hired thugs invades. Blake, though, has booby-trapped the rail lines, and the initial influx of enemy troops is immediately frustrated. Then, a huge catastrophe occurs: the country’s two volcanoes erupt, causing an earthquake and a massive amount of damage. For three days, Blake and Tinker work to relieve the consequent suffering, and during that time, Plummer and Vali Mata-Vali quietly depart. Weeks later, the surviving crooks reunite in New York to divide what little loot they have gained. Blake, Tinker and Kennedy intrude and force Plummer to hand over the loot. He is allowed to get away.
Trivia: At this point in his career, Plummer is sporting a pointed black beard and carefully clipped moustache.
This tale was undoubtedly inspired by the 1932 eruption of Cerro Azul, one of the largest explosive eruptions of the 20th century.
The title of this tale bears no relation to the story!
My copy is missing its cover.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ A good, action-packed yarn but Plummer feels like a very different character in comparison to his earlier tales, not at all the disgraced detective of old. And why was he allowed to go free at the end?
Notes: The last 'new' author to appear in UNION JACK ... but according to Lofts and Adley, H. W. Twyman thought this might be a rewritten old story by Arthur J. Patterson.
Illustrator: Fred Bennett
Notes: Blake and Co. begin to make their way back through the tunnels. However, their route is blocked by Brank and Stiletti who fire their guns at them and threaten to kill Mademoiselle Roxane. Under cover of darkness, Blake plunges into the water and allows it to sweep him alongside Brank's position. He then leaps upon the criminal and beats him almost senseless. Branks falls into the water and is carried away by the current. Blake and Tinker pursue Stiletti. Maenwhile, Dirk Dolland carries the exhausted Gilson up to the dummy house and out onto the street where he is dismayed to find himself facing Detective-Inspector Thomas.
Notes: An ex-jailbird named Carne writes to Sexton Blake to tell him that he
has information concerning the whereabouts of
Mr Reece. However, when Blake,Tinker and Pedro go to meet him at his tobacco
shop, they get lost in a dense London fog. Attracted by a woman's scream, they enter
a store and become separated. Blake finds evidence that the scream came from
Mademoiselle Yvonne (though this turns out to be a ruse) but before he can investigate
he is attacked and rendered unconscious by
The Shadow. Tinker is confronted by Reece, who pulls a lever which opens the
floor, sending Tinker and Pedro hurtling into a sewer which washes them into the Thames.
The youngster is dragged ashore by the bloodhound and is found by
Sergeant Mace, with whom he goes to Carne's shop, only to find the old crook
dead, murdered by The Shadow. Meanwhile,
Sir Philip Champion visits
Detective-Inspector Coutts at Scotland Yard and informs him that he wants revenge
on Reece for the murder of
John Smith and will take the Yard man to where the villain is hiding. Coutts
accompanies Champion to the premises where Blake was overpowered but it has been booby-trapped
and he and Champion find themselves trapped in a blazing inferno. Tinker and Mace come
to the rescue, having used Pedro to follow The Shadow's trail from Carne's shop. The
bloodhound then follows Blake's scent. The detective has recovered consciousness and
been introduced to The Shadow — a boy-like killer who happens to be Reece's son.
The crooks leave Blake in the keeping of four thugs, who have orders to hang him at dawn.
Pedro leads Tinker and Coutts to the detective's rescue and, led by Champion, and in
Richard Test's speedboat, they all pursue the criminals who are fleeing aboard
a ship. Reece, though, has planned ahead — he and his son transfer to a seaplane
Trivia: This is a reprint of UNION JACK issue 887 THE DOG DETECTIVE (1920). The review is based on a reading of that issue. It was anthologised in SEXTON BLAKE: STAR OF UNION JACK AND DETECTIVE WEEKLY(1972).
Notes: With Gilson unconscious from exhaustion, Dirk Dolland finds that he must face Detective-Inspector Thomas alone. To his suprise, the police official finally drops his obstinacy and sees events from Dolland's point of view. In fact, he insists in going into the underground waterway system to find and help Sexton Blake. However, when he opens the door of the dummy cottage a fist knocks him senseless. Brank is inside! The gangster points a gun at Dolland. Brank had been rescued from the flowing waters by Stiletti but, during that rescue, Mademoiselle Roxane had escaped and fled into the tunnels. Among the dark passages, she finds the one that leads to the wall safe. Using the combination she memorised from Anastasia, she opens the door. At that moment, Brank and Stiletti arrive, leading Dolland at gunpoint. Mademoiselle steps back from them, inadvertently entering the safe. The door swings shut, sealing her within. Blake, Tinker and Splash Page arrive. Brank informs them that Roxane will soon run out of air.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: Held at gunpoint by Brank, Sexton Blake tries but fails to open the safe. Dirk Dolland also fails. However, he states that if he had his safecracking tools, he would be able to do the job. Brank won't allow him to fetch them, so Dolland gives the gangster the details of where to find them and Brank departs, leaving Blake, Tinker and Splash Page in Stiletti's custody. Page takes the opportunity to talk Stiletti into believing that Brank will kill him rather than share the millions in the safe. The gangster has already killed the Stutz and La Rocque, so Stiletti is quick to realise the truth of Page's statement. When Brank returns, Stiletti tries to shoot him but the gangster gets off a shot first and Stiletti takes a bullet between the eyes. Blake jumps Brank and, in the ensuing struggle, the crook's machine gun fires into the wall and roof of the tunnel and causes it to collapse. Tinker, Dolland and Page are half buried on one side of the landslide, Brank and Blake on the other. When the floor collapses under the struggling pair, they plunge down into a deep pool.
Notes: Story features Waldo the Wonder-Man. This was anthologised in SEXTON BLAKE: STAR OF UNION JACK AND DETECTIVE WEEKLY(1972).
Notes: Tinker, Dirk Dolland and Splash Page dig themselves out of the rubble. While Dolland starts drilling air-holes in the safe in an attempt to save Mademoiselle Roxane, Tinker and Page dig through the earth and bricks to get to Blake. Eventually, they find the detective and Brank — both dead! Desperate attempts to resuscitate Blake fail. Tinker then has an idea. Taking a small jar of nitroglycerine from Dolland's safe-cracking kit, he cuts one of Blake's veins and rubs a few drops in, causing it to enter the detective's bloodstream. This kick-starts his heart, and Blake recovers consciousness. Meanwhile, Dolland hears Roxane's voice from within the safe.
Trivia: The resuscitation of Sexton Blake is possibly one of the most thrilling Blake moments ever!
Notes: Having escaped from Sexton Blake in England,
Mr Reece and his son,
The Shadow, drive to Paris and set up headquarters in a secret room of the Hotel
des Vielle Temps. Here they meet Number 444,444, the head of the
Criminals' Confederation's New York branch. Reece gives him a four-part mission:
to set up a new HQ in London, to kill Sexton Blake, to recover the half million in cash
that had been stolen by
Villiers, and to undertake a scheme which will net the Confederation billions
of pounds. Some days later, in the restaurant of London's Argent Hotel,
Dirk Dolland bumps into an old friend; a thief named Ned Hatton. This man challenges
him to prove that he has not lost his skill — he wagers that Dolland cannot remove
a revolver from an American's room without getting caught. Dolland makes the attempt
but is discovered by the American, whose name is Colonel Quartz, and is forced to sign
a document agreeing that he will do the colonel one service when called upon to do so.
The call comes very soon: Dolland is dining with Sexton Blake, Tinker,
Mademoiselle Yvonne and
Detective-Inspector Coutts when Quartz asks to be introduced. He ingratiates
himself with the diners and informs them that he has purchased a stable and that he has
a horse, Silverheels, which is sure to win a double even though most people regard it
as a dud. A bookmaker, overhearing this, allows Quartz to place a bet which, if the horse
wins, will net him millions. Coutts, meanwhile, has news: Villiers has told him where
the Confederation money is hidden — it's in the flat below Dolland's! Accompanied
by Quartz, Blake and Co. go there and find the strongbox. Suddenly, the lights go out
and the box is snatched from Coutts's hands. Dolland thinks he catches a glimpse of Ned
Hatton but they are unable to catch him. Over the next few days, Quartz lays bigger and
bigger bets on his horse. When it wins the first of the two races, the bookmakers start
to panic. Blake and his friends are invited to Quartz's estate for the second race. During
the night, Blake overhears, via the chimney, the colonel conversing with Hatton and The
Shadow. He realises that Quartz is the Confederation's agent and that Silverheels is
being doped. At the second race, the police close in and Quartz and The Shadow are arrested.
Hatton escapes with the Confederation loot.
Trivia: This is a rewrite of UNION JACK issue 893 A BID FOR BILLIONS (1920). The review is based on a reading of that issue. It was anthologised in SEXTON BLAKE: STAR OF UNION JACK AND DETECTIVE WEEKLY(1972).
Notes: From inside the safe, Mademoiselle Roxane tells Dirk Dolland the combination. The strongbox is opened and she is liberated from its confines. The stolen money is found within along with detailed records of when, where and from whom it was stolen. Furthermore, proofs of Gilson's innocence are found, bringing the adventure to a satisfactory conclusion.
Notes: Story features Waldo the Wonder-Man.
Notes: Story features Sir Richard Losely and Lobangu. This is the final issue of the UNION JACK. It was anthologised in SEXTON BLAKE: STAR OF UNION JACK AND DETECTIVE WEEKLY(1972).