7 January 2015

Review: THE GOLDEN CLAW, Sax Rohmer

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

An illusive Chinese mastermind and his henchman have already killed one socialite and they hold a mysterious sway over many of London's elite. What is the secret of their power? Follow the trail with Sax Rohmer's famous detectives Gaston Max and Inspector Dunbar as they chase the international gang of hoodlums and their leader, the evil Dr. King.

My Take

This novel has an antiquarian almost "penny dreadful" feel about it. Gaston Max is a renowned French detective who has come to London on the trail of a Chinese syndicate who are setting up opium dens around the world. They have snared would be socialites and people who have acquired the opium habit while on diplomatic service in China. The French Surete has established that a considerable sum of money has come into the Paris opium den through a bank cheque drawn on the account of Henry Leroux, in whose London flat a woman has died.

Max is a master of disguise. He sets up a honey trap to ensnare Mr King by posing as an opium addict  who wishes to use the services of the London den. In some ways Max is a forerunner of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. He basically works alone, playing his cards very close to his chest until he is very sure of his deductions, and he relies very heavily on logic.

On the other hand the author can be seen to be in the mould of Conan Doyle with very detailed descriptions of both characters and settings. The language is a little dated, at times using vocabulary many readers would recognize as obsolete.

I was particularly interested in the timing of this plot, set before World War One, which attributes corruption in high places to the Asiatic influences, a little ironic as it was the British who intentionally introduced opium to China through trade in the 1840s. 

I've read this for the Crime Fiction of the Year Challenge @ Past Offences for the year 1915.
It is also a book for the 2015 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge.

My rating: 4.0

About the author (1883-1959)
Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, better known as Sax Rohmer, was a prolific English novelist. He is most remembered for his series of novels featuring the master criminal Dr. Fu Manchu. Born in Birmingham he had an entirely working class education and early career before beginning to write. His first published work was in 1903, the short story The Mysterious Mummy for Pearson's Weekly. He made his early living writing comedy sketches for music hall performers and short stories and serials for magazines.
See more at Fantastic Fiction


Margot Kinberg said...

Sounds like an interesting, if dated and biased, look at the drugs trade of the early twentieth century, Kerrie. I wonder if Christie read Rohmer's work, given you saw hints of Poirot in Max.

Irene said...

great review thanks.

vicki (skiourophile) said...

I've not read any of this series - must give it a go.


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