Most of the JTS Sexton Blake’s that I have read to date have been of a particular type – witty, light, entertaining. They have also sometimes bordered on the farcical. Yet this one is different. To begin with it has an urban setting. The London of the late 1950s is never overtly described, yet the settings for each scene are beautifully drawn and when put together, along with the tiny snippets of incidental detail, a realistic and detailed picture is drawn.
The other major difference is the sense of menace. By concentrating the opening of the book on Marion Lang and her predicament along with the reaction of the other characters to this, Story succeeds in setting the mood for the whole novel – the threat that hangs over the individuals and the Blake organisation. This is done with great subtlety. Story can draw broad, comic characters and make them seem realistic. Here he proves that he is just as capable of giving us a serious, dark toned work where one actually fears for the main characters.
The quality of the writing is, as ever, high. The plot is subtle enough to hold interest without being over-complicated. The characters are well rounded. The dialogue is crisp and to the point. Lean and fighting fit; it’s a master class in good writing.