I read this vintage novel of mystery and suspense on my kindle – so was unable to enjoy the wonderful vintage cover art pictured. Edgar Wallace is a name I have always been aware of, associating him with mystery and murder stories, but I really can’t remember if I have read him before. I seem to remember my parents having a tatty old paperback by Edgar Wallace knocking around the house when I was a child; I think it might have had a fairly lurid cover itself.
This novel really does have it all for lovers of vintage mystery – a truly evil villain of extreme wealth, a locked room murder, a thoroughly decent, sensible young Scotland Yard investigator, a Dartmoor prison break, and a feisty brave young woman.
John Lexman is a successful writer of detective fiction, newly married to the beautiful Grace, they live in a small cottage out in the country. Unknown to Grace John’s slight money worries have led him to borrow money from a money lender, a man introduced to Lexman by new friend Remington Kara, an enormously wealthy Greek Albanian. Grace Lexman has reason to fear Kara, she knows he is an evil man, and is concerned about the influence he is having on her husband. She is right to be fearful; Lexman is soon locked up in Dartmoor for the murder of the money lender. Grace knows Kara is behind the peculiar events of that strange evening. This however is just the beginning of the story.
“Cut a man’s flesh and it heals.” He said “Whip a man and the memory of it passes, frighten him, fill him with a sense of foreboding and apprehension and let him believe that something dreadful is going to happen either to himself or to someone he loves – better the latter – and you will hurt him beyond forgetfulness. Fear is a tyrant and a despot, more terrible than the rack, more potent than the stake. Fear is many-eyed and sees horrors where normal vision only sees the ridiculous”
Lexman’s friend Scotland Yard investigator T. X Meredith is determined to prove that Kara is responsible for Lexman’s incarceration – just as things look like they are beginning to turn Laxman’s way – he is broken out of Dartmoor prison, and he and his wife disappear from the face of the earth.
Two years later, T.X has never given up on Lexman – and is still keeping a close eye on the mysterious Remington Kara, who lives in a fortress like house in London, with a safe like, impenetrable room, bricked up cellars and a telephone that connects directly to Scotland Yard. It is in this secure room of his London home that Remington Kara is found murdered. Lying near to the body are two small twisted candles.
This novel is more of a howdunit than a whodunit – we know Kara is a villain and Lexman a victim. When Kara himself becomes the victim – not only is it fairly satisfactory – but the reader already has a fairly shrewd idea of who the murderer may be – but how it was accomplished is the real mystery. We also need to wait until the end of the novel to find out what really happened to John and Grace Lexman after John was broken out of Dartmoor by monoplane.
This was a great little mystery from the early twentieth centuary. I suppose it is very much of its time, the villain is a foreigner, the women beautiful and good. Still the suspense is spot on, the plot intricate enough to satisfy without being too confusing. I have discovered many Wallace mysteries are available free as ebooks so I am sure I will be reading more of them in the future.