Greetings from The Raven!

Aug. 9, 2019

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Improbable Prisoner by Stuart Douglas

Watson has been on call and is walking home to Baker Street when he is approached by a young woman. Stating that her grandmother needs a doctor, she leads him to a room where an elderly lady lies murdered! Watson discovers he is locked in and calls for help from the window. But when the police break in the key is discovered in the lock—on the inside!

The story is terrific, a constant battle, with Holmes trying to prove Watson innocent and bellicose Inspector Potter determined to put him in prison and keep him there! The evidence is expertly planted, the young woman is nowhere to be found, and the dead woman is kin to Major Sir Campbell McLachlan, member of Parliament! The Major is also involved in cleaning up the gangs of London, and a firm supporter of Inspector Potter.

Even with Mycroft Holmes pulling strings, Watson is placed in prison awaiting trial…

I really like this one! I give the book five stars!

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 6, 2019

The Spider Double Novels #22 Overlord of the Damned and Dictator’s Death Merchants by Grant Stockbridge

The Spider is Richard Wentworth, a wealthy criminologist. Backed up by his manservant Ram Singh, his old war pal Jackson, and his fiancé Nita van Slone, Wentworth takes on crime at the street level.

The Spider has no scruples about killing. The criminals who cross the Spider die and their foreheads are marked with a scarlet spider.

The Spider is wanted by the police, and his friend Commissioner Kirkpatrick suspects Wentworth. Hardly surprising, as everyone seems to know the Spider’s secret.

Proving it is another thing entirely…

Overlord of the Damned is the 25th published novel, originally published in October 1935. Another Novell Page masterpiece!

The Boss, unimaginative title there, uses minions with guns that spurt acid and contaminated tobacco that drives people out of their minds in a horrible fashion. The goal is a common one, to rule all of the crime, nationwide.

Kirkpatrick, now governor, is working hand in glove with—The Boss! Wentworth comes close to gunning him down out of justice, as Kirkpatrick is brazen about his involvement.

It is a solid story!

Dictator’s Death Merchants is the 82nd published novel, originally published in July 1940. The author is Emile C. Tepperman, perhaps better known for the thirteen novels of the “Purple War Saga” starring Operator 5.

A criminal comes to New York that the Spider has a history with: El Crocodilo. It has been seven years since their last battle, which sadly was never written. Obviously, the Spider never discovered the identity of this criminal, as the reveal is a surprise to him as well. Perhaps a modern author could do this?

Crocodilo’s target is banks and financial institutions. He seems to know to the minute any plans for increased funds, stored bullion, or routes taken by armored vans. With his knowledge given in advance, he is raking in big cash!

The story ranges from good to fair. Let’s just say you can tell that it isn’t a Page novel.

I give the first story four stars, the second three stars. Overall, three- and one-half stars.

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 6, 2019

The Spider Double Novels #4 Dragon Lord of the Underworld and Satan’s Switchboard by Grant Stockbridge

The Spider is Richard Wentworth, a wealthy criminologist. Backed up by his manservant Ram Singh, his old war pal Jackson, and his fiancé Nita van Slone, Wentworth takes on crime at the street level.

The Spider has no scruples about killing. The criminals who cross the Spider die and their foreheads are marked with a scarlet spider.

The Spider is wanted by the police, and his friend Commissioner Kirkpatrick suspects Wentworth. Hardly surprising, as everyone seems to know the Spider’s secret.

Proving it is another thing altogether…

Dragon Lord of the Underworld is the 22nd published novel, originally published in July 1945. The author is the great Norvell Page.

This novel is one of the “yellow peril” stories common in the pulps. There was a decided prejudice against Orientals, which is why Chinatown exist in the cities. Then also, the United States had recently gone to war with Japan. It hasn’t aged well.

The criminal lord is named Ssu Hsi Tze, roughly “Emperor of Vermin” (or so we are told.) He plans to unite all criminals in an effort to loot cities and fund a coup in his own country. The shadow of Fu Manchu looms over the story, as the Spider deals with underground lairs laced with death traps, various venomous creatures, and the infamous “hatchet men.”

Professor Brownlee is killed in this story trying to find the secrets of a powder the Chinese use to keep themselves safe from their own poisonous critters. Warnings appear in flaming blue letters on the side of the Empire State building! It isn’t a bad story, other than the “yellow peril” business…

Satan’s Switchboard is the 51st published novel originally published in December 1937. The author is Wayne Rodgers

Across the city men and women die with the lower half of their faces destroyed by a powerful acid. The Silencer makes demands accompanied by a crude drawing of someone with a hand over their mouth. People commit suicide, their secrets exposed by the Silencer’s minions. Someone is tapping phones, but where?

Strangely garbed men lurk in the tunnels under the streets, working in pitch darkness. No secret is safe. To the Silencer, life is cheap, and his acid-soaked glove burns the life from his victims.

It is a delightful story, different from Page’s “blood and guts” style.

I give both stories and the book as a whole four stars.

Quote the Raven…

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Aug. 6, 2019

Operator 5 #1 The Masked Invasion by Curtis Steele!

Operator 5 is Secret Service Agent Jimmy Christopher, a young man with a lot of raw skill. He works directly under an agent known only as Z-7. As the story begins, Operator 5 is tracking an oriental agent. Discovering the man’s hiding place, Operator 5 puts on a mask and silently battles his way in using a variety of fighting techniques and his ever-ready saber that he keeps inside his belt.

The weird then is, why mask up? He announces himself by name! Why would a crook not trace him by name, regardless of what he looks like? To further seal this discrepancy, the criminals use his twin sister Nan as a hostage against his cooperation with their demands. At least in the Secret Agent X stories, no one knows who X is, but here? Wow, it isn’t much of a secret who this agent is…

New York is attacked via blackouts every Friday that stop electrical power, automobiles, trains, and even airplanes!  Each period of darkness grows longer, and they all end abruptly at 10:00! As of this story, the darkness has struck 11 times! People are fleeing the country due to these blackouts.

To be honest, I bought this to check on the new format. I had forgotten how dry and boring the Operator 5 stories could get. Outside of the Purple Wars saga, that is. This is likely the reason why there are few reviews on amazon. It’s an uphill battle reading this. And this isn’t due to this format, on the contrary, I find the format easier to read than the original reprints. The story lacks a lot…

I will give it three stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 6, 2019

Hunt the Avenger by Win Scott Eckert     

POSSIBLE SPOILERS

This book consists of five short stories. Three have been previously published and two are new. The new ones are written to tie the whole story together so that the result is one story in five chapters.

It begins with…

The Glass Lady tells of Benson’s first encounter with the enigmatic and sultry Ellen Patrick, aka the Domino Lady. Werner Konrad resurfaces at a masked ball stealing jewels from the attendees. The Domino Lady sends for Justice Inc. (Note: see The Glass Man by Ron Goulart writing as Kenneth Robeson, Warner Paperbacks) Werner is apparently working for someone else. Just who is exposed when The Iron Skull, Baron Blau-Montag shows up, along with his daughter! (Note: see The Iron Skull by Ron Goulart writing as Kenneth Robeson, Warner Paperbacks)

Death and the Countess deals with a deadly new weapon and a femme fatal, known only as The Countess. She is brokering a sale of the weapon to the highest bidder.

Happy Death Men concerns men made almost unstoppable a super-soldier drug. The brain behind it all belongs to Dr. Carl Walden and Lilya Zarof, who is the Countess from the previous story. Walden wants an elixir he hopes Benson can help him discover, a drug to extend life and youth. There is something odd about the Countess…

According to the Plan of a One-Eyed Trickster continues the tale of Walden and the Countess. The real truth behind the Countess is exposed, something too unusual to spoil here. Walden is still after the elixir and makes strange hints about the Avenger’s deadened face and white hair!

The wrap up comes in Toil and Trouble. The Iron Skull and his daughter, Lenni Blau-Montag have captured Benson, replacing him with one of the Iron Skull’s lifelike robots. Also captured is the Domino Lady. Lenni is largely robotic and wants Benson to place her brain in Ellen Patrick’s body…

As usual with Win Scott Eckert, the stories are filled with cameos and locations from other literature, some so subtle that you might miss them! Honestly, Win, I didn’t like the ending. But hey, everything is flexible in fiction and who knows the ending may not be what it seemed!

I give the book four stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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