Thursday, October 29, 2015

Forgotten Book: The Face in the Night by Edgar Wallace (1924)

I had heard of Edgar Wallace even before I started blogging but have been able to read him only this month. Steve @ Stuck in a Book launched the 1924 Club and keen to read a mystery published in that year, I found to my delight that there was a Wallace written in that year. Considering, his output though, this is nothing to be amazed of. He seems to have been a most prolific writer. In fact, in 1924 itself he published more than one book. I picked this up because it was a crime club publication.





The novel opens on a foggy, winter night when a man from South Africa, named Laker, makes his way towards the home of his boss, a certain Mr. Malpas. Laker is in a belligerent mood, he thinks that while agents like him rough it out, Malpas sits in luxury. Desirous of a showdown, he enters House No. 551 and is immediately confounded by the house with doors that open on their own, lights that go off and on, and walls that suddenly turn into doors and vice-versa. His threats result in his being found floating down the river a couple of days later.

Meanwhile, a party is progressing at the American Embassy where the Queen of Finland is present with her fabulous jewels. Colonel Bothwell enters the embassy, only to be accosted by Captain Dick Shannon of the Scotland Yard and told in no uncertain terms that his cover was blown and that he (Bothwell, that is) was none other than Slick Smith, a smooth operator from the US. Shannon decides to see him off. But Smith is not the only person interested in the jewels, there is soon the entry of Dora Elton latched on to the arms of Lacy (Do big-boned men have such names?!) Marshalt, an MP from South Africa and incidentally the neighbour of that old man Malpas whom we met earlier on. Laker had expressed his surprise at Malpas taking a house next to Marshalt since the former was actually robbing the latter. But these are things that minions do not understand.

Anyway,Marshalt's companion that night, Dora Elton and her husband Martin Elton too are interested in the jewels. And it only surprises our hero Shannon that before the night is quite over, the queen's jewels are taken away from her at gun -point.

Meanwhile a girl wraps up her life at a chicken farm in a village and sets out for London, desirous of meeting her sister, Dora. What Audrey Bedford doesn't know is that this decision of hers would not only change her life but the lives of many others as secret from the past tumble out.



So, what did I think of my first Wallace? It was good in parts but there being so many things interwined together both in the past and the present that it needed a more detailed exposition in the end rather than a hurried closure which it unfortunately has. However, one twist had me completely bowled over and for that I am keen to read more of Wallace.

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First Line: The fog, which was later to descend upon London, blotting out every landmark, was as yet a grey, misty threat.

Publication Details: E. Book
First Published: 1924
Pages: n.pag
Source: Project Gutenberg Australia
Other books read of the same author: None

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Entry for FFB @ Pattinase

Selected Reading for the 1924 Club @ Stuck in a Book



10 comments:

  1. His books are usually energetic and fun but he wrote so many (hundreds and hundreds) that it is not a surprise that only a few really stand out.

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    1. Sergio, could you name the few that stand out. I want to read more of him but not a substandard one :)

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  2. Wallace really was prolific, Neeru, wasn't he? And I'm with you on this one: there is an awful lot to keep in mind with this story - a lot of story strands.

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    1. Seriously Margot, where did they get the time to write so many? Glad that you too think that the end was rushed.

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  3. Neer, I'm familiar with a few titles of Edgar Wallace's books though, frankly, I have never read any.

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    1. This was the first read of his for me too, Prashant. But I'll definitely read him once again.

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  4. I don' t think I had ever heard of Edgar Wallace until I read a review at Sergio's blog. I do want to try one of his books.

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    1. I look forward to your impression of him, Tracy.

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  5. I've never read any either. But maybe I'll try this one. I've heard the name so often - Edgar Wallace, I mean.

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    1. Perhaps another one would be a better intro to him, Yvette. Here there were too many strands that were not tied all that neatly but then there were also a few twists, so...:)

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