Sunday, September 20, 2015

Review: Jack O' Judgement by Edgar Wallace

by Mary

The novel opens on a snowy night with the murder of drug addict "Snow" Gregory, found with a jack of clubs in his pocket. Some whisper he could tell a lot about the wealthy and exceedingly shady businessman Colonel Dan Boundary, a classic example of an honourable title assumed by a dishonourable man. Now of course Gregory is silent forever.

The colonel subsequently receives several jacks of clubs from an anonymous source, and not being one to hesitate when his life is in danger, goes to see Stafford King of the CID. You might say he knows King by way of business in that the investigator has spent the past three years trying to smash Boundary's gang of associates, an unsavoury bunch but as yet unprosecuted. For while Boundary's business acquisitions are on the surface above board, the method by which they were obtained is not, but the problem is proving it. The irony of this visit is not lost on King.

Next we meet the odious Pinto Silva, a stage door johny enamoured of theatrical artiste Maisie White, who dislikes him intensely. Silva belongs to Boundary's bunch, and other members include Maisie's father Solomon White. Solly now wants to break away from them. Will he literally turn King's evidence and blow the whistle on the criminal syndicate?

Another gang member, er, associate is Lollie Marsh, a femme fatale whom Boundary has set to follow King. She discovers King is spending a lot of time with Maisie. Meantime, Boundary tries to blackmail the girl into agreeing to tie the knot with Pinto -- he's already married but says he will get a divorce, the cur -- by threatening if she refuses her father will be framed for forgery.

But then Boundary is arrested and brought to trial for blackmail and conspiracy.

Meantime, the mysterious Jack o' Judgment whose calling card is the jack of clubs keeps popping up, a strange, almost supernatural, shrill-voiced figure disguised in a long black silk coat, slouch hat, and a face concealed by a white silk hanky. Jack makes it his business to stick spokes in Boundary and company's various wheels and does it extraordinarily well. Indeed his machinations are so troubling Boundary offers a hundred thousand pounds to anyone who can rid him of that pestilent Jack.

The mystery here is two-fold. Who is Jack and will he succeed in bringing to justice all the members of Boundary's gang? And just as importantly what is his motive?

My verdict: The answers to these conundrums certainly caught me by surprise. Boundary and company are particularly nasty villains, not above kidnapping and murder, and readers will likely cheer Jack on despite his illegal activities as they are carried along at the gallop to a satisfying conclusion.

Etext: Jack O' Judgement by Edgar Wallace

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