We get to meet Collins' two series characters in this book. First, there is Inspector Lawton (who I was convinced was a criminal pretending to be a policeman), a legitimate official from Scotland Yard who works with a veritable army of cops both local and from the Yard. He also recruits the mysterious and eccentric Hugh Carding, one of the many 1930s graduates from the Academy for Aristocratic Twits & Amateur Sleuths. His speech is littered with gerunds with dropped g's, he calls Giffard "Old Thing" or "Old Sportsman," and has the habit of ending many of his statements with "...eh what?" He is the closest I've ever encountered to a Peter Wimsey clone. Wasn't one enough?
About one third from the end Carding confesses he has been in prison and is privy to an encyclopedic knowledge of his numerous fellow prisoners. This insider info helps him to identify the many corpses who all turn out to be released convicts. Based on some exchanges of dialogue between Lawton and Carding I surmise in an earlier book Carding was a criminal who helped Lawton and they've teamed up ever since, sort of like Father Brown and Flambaeu. I have two other Collins books and Carding appears in only one of them, I think. Perhaps I will discover his true origin and whether or not my inferences are correct.
|The dead do not walk in The Dead Walk. |
More's the pity.
Usually I'm all for as much of the macabre as I can get in a mystery novel. But this one had me giving in to my dormant logical side. Why not stab and run? Well, there is a method to the method, my friends. The killer meticulously bandages each victim to make it seem each has escaped from a clinic run by a "Voronoff surgeon." A what? I hear you ask in your oh so familiar puzzled voices. Let's head to the classroom. Take out your notebooks, please.
|"We need your glands! For the betterment of mankind!"|
Once again a middling detective novel led me to a serendipitous discovery. I never expected to acquaint myself with a long forgotten chapter in the history of transplant surgery and the genesis of a popular early 20th century cocktail. Guess it wasn't altogether a waste of time. As for the mystery, it wasn't worth it. I certainly don't recommend you track this one down. Chances are I have the only copy in existence anyway. And for once that's a good thing.
PUBLISHING HISTORY: No photo of the book because my copy is battered and mottled with no DJ. Red cloth boards, boring typography on the front, no frontispiece. The book is so scarce I could find no other copies for sale on-line and no photos of the original DJ in the Gregory Bles edition. No US edition exists.