Sunday, December 13, 2015

Review: The Brigand by Edgar Wallace

by Mary

Some readers may well claim that this work is not what most would call a mystery. However, others will agree with me its stories do feature mysteries, in that what is concealed until their ends is how protagonist Anthony Newton is going to turn the tables on a collection of largely criminal sorts and thus pull off another coup advantageous to himself. For while Anthony thinks of himself as an "honest adventurer", he's really a con-man -- but with certain ethics.

The problem with this collection is since individual stories are not too long, describing their content without giving away vital plot points is somewhat difficult, but faint heart n'er wrote a fair review, so I shall do my best.

We are introduced to ex-army officer Tony Newton in A Matter of Nerve. It is after the war, he's down on his luck, and being thrown out of his lodgings for non-payment of rent to boot. Those who admire a rogue will take to him right away when they discover how he persuades a perfect stranger to pay for his dinner and then goes on to thwart a man trying to pull a fast one.

Tony plans On Getting An Introduction to elusive millionaire Gerald Mansar and accomplishes it via Mansar's daughter Jane. However, papa has the last laugh...or does he?

In Buried Treasure our protagonist, aided by his friend Bill Farrell, manipulates butter and margarine magnate Montague Flake by appealing to the latter's all too evident greed, aided by a clever bit of literal manipulation on Tony's part.

A Contribution to Charity takes Anthony to Newcastle, which grabbed my attention as it's my home city. However, Theodore Match, known as the Shipping King, lives in a mansion and refuses to give a penny to good works. Match is quite aware of Tony's exploits and more or less challenges him to force him contribute twelve thousand pounds to charity. But Match has met his match.....

Sybil Martin is the titular gal in A Lady In Grey, the widow of Tony's colonel during the war. Sleazy Mr Jepburn, who owns seven gambling hells given respectability by operating under the auspices of well-born hostesses in the West End of London, is also involved. One of the more predictable stories in this collection, perhaps.

Tony next takes up a temporary new career by investing in a betting business run by The Bookmaker. Proprietor Mr Yarrow is not a straight dealer and has the tables turned on him in a satisfying fashion.

The Plum Pudding Girl involves Tony taking up a job writing love letters to a titled lady in order to overcome her attraction to her chauffeur, which naturally has horrified her family. Obviously there's a catch...and a twist ending involving a matter which on consideration the reader will have to agree is fairly clued.

The Guest of the Minnows is Mr Antonio Anquilina, a sought-after fellow in the theatrical world as he not only wants to fund productions but also goes about buying up theatres. He's keen on playing cards, so naturally the Minnows Club is of interest to him.

Next, Tony goes into the newspaper business after buying a small newspaper not long before The Bursted Election. Josias Longwirt, an old school friend who had not only refused to give Tony the price of a meal when he badly needed it but then had also suggested he apply for National Assistance, the cur, is now running as Conservative candidate to represent Burted in Parliament...

The Hon Lammer Green is The Joker, and while some japes were relatively harmless, such as engaging labourers to tear up Piccadilly Circus and holding up traffic for twelve hours, he is not above carrying out unkind pranks. This time he proposes to propose to Mathilda, the rather homely daughter of Oxton Manor's St Joshua Gaggle, late of 'oxton (that's to say Hoxton in London). Anthony is reluctant to go along with Lammer but in the end decides to do so.

Kato is the title of a much darker tale, involving Anthony and his friend Bill stepping out of character to engage in a spot of burglary in order to nab the unsavoury Mr Poltue's emerald. They are aided in their venture by Poltue's equally odious servant Kato, but needless to say there's more to it than appears on the surface.

In The Graft cardsharp Jay Gaddit is sent to Dartmoor and asks Tony to see if he can do something for Mrs Gaddit. Quite capable of getting along without her imprisoned husband, she is the innocent source of vital information that ultimately brings Tony happiness and, it seems safe to assume, abandonment of his old life.

My verdict: An engaging collection about a protagonist who has something of Raffles in his blood even though Newton's path is down a different part of the grey area of the street. Fans of the twist-ending will enjoy these short stories, particularly those with some neatly blatant pieces of misdirection.

Etext: The Brigand by Edgar Wallace

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