Aug. 17, 2018

Both mysteries set in the fictional New Jersey city of Northdale!

The Shadow #97: Crime at Seven Oaks and The Northdale Mystery by Maxwell Grant

I am going to assume that anyone that is likely to read this review knows the Shadow’s back-story. The really great think about the Shadow novels is that the back-story isn’t repeated over and over ad infinitum throughout the series, unlike other pulp heroes.

This may be because the Shadow is a man of mystery. Garbed in flowing black cape and slouch hat, laughing mockingly at crime; the Shadow is recognized with ease. He is the Master of Darkness, able to camouflage himself in the shadows so as to be virtually invisible.

Without the cape and hat, the Shadow might be any number of people. A master of disguise, he often fools people who have known the person he imitates for many years! To fans of the radio show, sorry, but while Lamont Cranston is the Shadow, the Shadow is NOT Lamont Cranston! Cranston is a real person, often in far-flung corners of the globe, so he makes a convenient face for the Shadow—with the real Cranston’s full knowledge and permission!

The true name of the Shadow is not revealed until issue 131 The Shadow Unmasks. And yet at times, even this identity is questionable. Perhaps the Shadow, like the Joker, prefers his life to be multiple choice!

As for these stories:

Crime at Seven Oaks originally published 8/1/1940

Following a running gun battle with gangsters, the action moves inside the estate of Grover Melridge, known as Seven Oaks. Along with Grover Melridge are his wife, Lucretia, twin children Bob and Janice, and Lucretia’s doctor Martin Heverly. Newcomer Carl Thayer seems content to woo Janice.

 Lucretia is suffering from a nervous breakdown, and wails about banshees, whispers, and shadows… Crime stalks the property, a perhaps more than one of the little group are not what they seem…

This story’s star is the Shadow’s canine companion for this adventure, Vulcan the Great Dane. (Hummm… You might think Vulcan a pit-bull from the cover!)

The Northdale Mystery was published 5/1/1942

In a return to the bustling town of Northdale, the Shadow tangles with Burt Skirvel’s gang. Having robbed the bank in Northdale, the gang flees to an unusual spot, the estate of Arthur Mordant. The place is big enough that a fleeing car can double back to avoid pursuit since the owner is known to be private and reclusive. The Shadow is not easily fooled, however; and Burt’s car crashes into a bridge and explodes. No one could have survived the blast.

Entering the picture at this juncture are two men: Rufus Mayberry owns a chain of stores and Norman Chalmody is a financier. Both employ shady characters: Mayberry, a crook named “Sleeper” Groth; and Chalmody, disgraced PI Jeff Bracy. Are Mayberry and Chalmody partners or rivals, and what goal can there be? Was the only witness to the robbery, Terry Trent, involved in the crime? What makes the hermitlike Mr. Mordant willing to hobble about town deeply hidden in oversized coats and broad-brimmed hats…

I like them both, but the story in Crime at Seven Oaks promises more than it delivers. There should have been more development into the character of Lucretia. The Northdale Mystery can lose a reader if one is not careful. But I do give it kudos for starring Margo Lane! I give the book four stars…

Quoth the Raven…