Tuesday, October 31, 2017

#9 - The House of Terror by Edward Woodward (1930)



The House of Terror by Edward Woodward (1930)


About this edition: This is one of five titles released simultaneously in a Christmas boxed set. These are the only five titles appearing in the green cloth binding.

About the author: Not much is known about Edward Woodward. The frontispiece of this book lists three of his other novels: The Pigeon Wins, The Gamblers, and Black Sheep. Note that both Goodreads and Google confuse him with the English actor by the same name (born 1930, obviously not this author) and attribute various other works (incorrectly) to him. 

Major Characters:

  • Dr. Cuthbery Merrivale, the local doctor
  • Hester Merrivale, his sister
  • George Fenchurch, the man with the limp - an artist intent on painting scenes at Cleeson Manor
  • Jacob Martuke, local inn owner
  • Deborah Martuke, his wife, who becomes housekeeper at Cleeson Manor
  • Rupert Dykeminsterowner of Cleeson Manor
  • John Pedmore, Dykeminster's servant, a hunchback
  • Alicia Dykeminster, sole heir of Rupert
  • Veronica Starling, Alicia's roommate
  • Charles Nicholson, attorney for the Dykeminsters
  • Carlos Tenodo, Spanish newspaper man, friend of Rupert
  • Andrew Fleeson, houseman at Cleeson Manor
  • Sir Ronald Deepwood, a neighbor
  • Detective-Inspector Lattimer

Locale: Cleeson, Yorkshire; on the moors of England; and the mountains of Spain

Synopsis: Dr. Cuthbery Merrivale picks up wandering George Fenchurch one night on the moors, and treats him for an ankle injury. Fenchurch is an artist who has come to paint scenes of old Cleeson Manor. However, it turns out the owner, Rupert Dykeminster, has gated off public access to the Manor grounds and set vicious dogs loose inside the gates. Fenchuch is determined to access the grounds. About the same time, Rupert is found dead from a poisonous blow dart, and the dogs found dead also. Fenchurch, being on the scene, is the obvious suspect but willingly provides evidence it was not he.

Alicia Dykeminster is the sole heir to the estate (along with a list of strange conditions), and moves in to Cleeson Manor with her friend Veronica Starling despite various warnings. The manor holds a secret that many people want. A campaign to scare them away fails, but winds up with Veronica being kidnapped and carried off to the mountains of Spain.

Review: Most of the story occurs around Cleeson Manor, with the last third or so taking place in the mountains of Spain. The Cleeson Manor section is great fun with all the usual country house tropes tossed in: we have a menacing hunchback, poison darts being shot about (one used to hold a warning note), underground tunnels, watchers in hollow trees, sliding panels in the woodwork, and plenty of secret passages. 

The Spanish section has more adventure, and is reminiscent of a Manning Coles. Lots of chases, skulking about, car crashes, and narrow escapes. An especially fun episode is when Fenchurch is hiding in a room above a bar, peeking through a hole to watch the rogues below just as they discover an enemy (Fleeson) is in their midst in disguise - and all hell breaks loose.

Throughout the book a secondary mystery is the identity of Fenchurch and Fleeson - the reader will first believe they are good guys, then bad guys, and so forth. Their true identities are tightly held until the final chapter, a surprise on both counts. Two dashing mysterious heroes and two lovely young ladies in the mix - you can see where this is going, and it is great going.

Friday, October 13, 2017

#8 - The Monster of Grammont by George Goodchild (1930)


About this edition: This is one of five titles released simultaneously in a Christmas boxed set. These are the only five titles appearing in the green cloth binding.


About the author: Here is a Wikipedia article and a Goodreads article about George Goodchild (1888-1969).


  • Ralph Wallace
  • Julian "Connie" Conrad - war veteran
  • Monsieur Fallières - owner of Château Grammont
  • Yolande Fallières - his daughter
  • Monsieur Severin - servant at Château Grammont
  • Arnard Fouchard - of the police
  • Heinrich
  • Niels

Locale: France

Synopsis: Ralph Wallace and Connie Conrad are touring France and encounter Monsieur Fallières and his daughter Yolande, who own the massive Château Grammont; where Connie was billeted during the war.

It turns out the château is also home of a 'monster' who appears periodically, breaking mirrors, and is suspected in the death of a servant a year ago. Monsieur Fallières goes missing, then is found murdered, soom the servant Monsieur Severin is murdered also.

Meanwhile, young Ralph Wallace is attracted to Yolande, while Connie is interested in parlour maid Bertha - who has a couple of seedy associates, Heinrich and Niels, whom she secretly allows access to the house. Both they - and the 'monster' - are after something, but what?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

#7 - The Day of Uniting by Edgar Wallace (1930)


About this edition: This is one of five titles released simultaneously in a Christmas boxed set. These are the only five titles appearing in the green cloth binding.

Edgar Wallace (photo: wikipedia)

About the author: Here is a Wikipedia article on Edgar Wallace. He also authored The Hand of Power in the Mystery League series.

Major characters: 

  • Jimmy Blake, 27, wealthy happy-go-lucky war ace
  • Gerald Van Roon, Jimmy's cousin, roommate, and scientist
  • Joe Sennett, foreman at Ponters Ltd.
  • Delia Sennett, Joe's daughter
  • Tom Elmers, employee at Ponters Ltd.
  • John Stamford Chapelle, Prime Minister of England
  • John Stope-Kendrick, Secretary of State
  • Walter Maggerson, mathematician and explorer
  • Lord Harry Weltman, Minister of Defence
  • Tyrhitt Palythorpe, ex-con, printer of Spice, a scandal sheet

Locale: England

Synopsis: Ponter's Ltd. is a commercial print shop, specializing in scientific texts. They also have a contract to printing government documents. One night foreman Joe Sennett catches Tom Elmers fooling around with the type.  It is found that someone is sabotaging the books being printed by inserting erroneous or nonsense text after the proofs have been approved. Highly embarrassing. 

Jimmy Blake, wealthy happy go lucky war ace, meets and is taken with Delia Sennett; daughter of foreman Joe Sennett. Blake gets an invite from his lodger, Gerald Van Roon, to a dinner of scientific types hosted by Prime Minister Chapelle. At the dinner, explorer Walter Maggerson staggers in begging the PM to stop "The Terror" (but no one knows what "The Terror" is).

Tyrhitt Palythorpe, ex-con and printer of a seamy scandal sheet, tries to lure Tom Elmers away to work for him. 

One night Gerald Van Roon is called away, and is soon found dead on the nearby heath. Soon John Stop-Kendrick dies also by his own hand, while running from "The Terror".

Whatever "The Terror" is, it is the main focus of a group of officials who meet at night in a vacant building and engage in a frenzy of activity to stop it.