Friday, 22 August 2014

REVIEW: "Sexton Blake and The Silent Thunder Caper" by Mark Hodder

He may be decried as the poor man's Sherlock Holmes, but Sexton Blake has been around almost as long and at one point was just as well known and successful. The other Baker Street detective, Blake originated as a thinly-veiled Holmes pastiche but over the many years he starred in thrilling prose, radio and film stories he developed into his own man. Now Obverse Books has gained the rights to the character, and has published the first volume in the sixth series of the Sexton Blake Library, the first such publication since 1968.

Obverse has already dabbled with the Blake canon, with a short collection of stories featuring his nemesis Zenith the Albino, which included such Blake luminaries as Michael Moorcock among its contributors. Now, though, Sexton Blake returns to the fore with The Silent Thunder Caper, a gripping story from Philip K. Dick Award winner Mark Hodder. After a brisk introduction to Blake's history from 1893 to the present day, the story begins in fine style with a touch of the science fictional before settling in to Blake's Baker Street lodgings. The Silent Thunder Caper is a rip-roaring story in fine style, drawing on the 1930s golden age of Blake adventures for its inspiration. Hodder captures the cunning of Blake, the derring-do spirit of his sidekick Tinker and the the hilarious malapropisms of his housekeeper Mrs Bardell. It's a thrilling adventure that pits Blake against new threats and old enemies; a fine reintroduction for the character.

Also included in the volume is “The Wireless Telephone Clue,” a classic Blake story from 1922, written by G.H. Teed. This is the original appearance of the villainous Three Musketeers, witty parodies of the Bertie Wooster type characters that were by then becoming ubiquitous in English humorous literature. Far more cunning than they appear, the Musketeers make wonderful villains for an adventure with a comical bent. Including their first appearance here not only brings some of the history of Blake to a new audience, but makes a fine companion piece that sits well alongside the new story. The only weak point is that the mystery of the Musketeers is already revealed in their 2014 appearance, but this is a small quibble, for the story is still hugely enjoyable in its own right.

The Silent Thunder Caper is a fine start to what I hope is a long and successful series of new Sexton Blake adventures, featuring enemies old and new.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book for free from Obverse Books, and I am also due to be published by them soon. However, I would never post a dishonest review. I have previously refrained from reviewing a freebie that was not to my taste. We can't all like the same things, after all. 

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of The Silent Thunder Caper, click here to enter a Goodreads giveaway.

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