I had intended to keep this for a treat a bit later in the year. No will power. Another of Story’s Sexton Blake tales, this is closely akin to his novel The Trouble With Harry. Whilst the plot is different it has the kinship of a cousin, perhaps. The small town setting is also reminiscent of other later works. So even here, in a pulp, Story was exercising his talents and his preoccupations, making those work for him.
The tale is fairly straightforward. A bank robbery is meticulously planned by a woman who is a bank clerk and her crime writing husband (with a touch of wickedly smiling self-portrait in there). But from the very beginning nothing is ever quite what it seems and events didn’t quite happen the way you think they did. Even Sexton Blake looks he might be flummoxed by this case.
With twists and turns that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Jive Club, the tale rolls on at a rollicking pace. It is beautifully crafted; written with economy and style; and retains a dark humour throughout. And for all the murder and mayhem, it remains good natured as well, another of Story’s trademarks in the earlier part of his writing life.
The only problem with this is that I’ve read it know and will have to save my pennies to go and buy another one. The originals may have been ten pre-decimal pennies (that’s less that a shilling (5p) for you youngsters, about 4p, in fact), but they don’t come with much change from seven or eight pounds these days. Still, for such superb writing it’s a small price to pay.