Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Black Heart by Sydney Horler (1928)

Sydney Horler (photo:

About the author: Here is a Wikipedia article about Sydney Horler. He also has three titles in the Mystery League series: The Curse of DoonePeril! and The False Purple.

Major characters:

Gilbert Chertsey, an author-turned-adventurer

The members of The Black Heart:
  • Sir Luke Benisty, the tall, slim aristocrat
  • Sylvester Lade, owner of the teahouse
  • Barrington Snell, writer for the scandal sheets
  • Lefarge, the square-bearded man
  • Thibau, the pale shadow
  • C. R. J. Simpson, the dead man in the closet
The good guys:
  • Ann Trentham, the violet-eyed mystery woman in black
  • Honorable William Summers
  • Napoleon Miles, a.k.a. Paul Lorenzo, club guitarist
  • Washburn Rinehart, a.ka. James Forbes, advisor to the US president
Locale: Paris and London


Gilbert Chertsey, of Clarges Street, London, is a romance novel author who sets out to see Paris in search of plot ideas for his novels. He is accosted by two men, Lefarge and Thibau, who offer him a large amount of money to return to London and take up residence in a certain apartment at 712, Guildford Street. Intrigued, he accepts the offer. A mysterious woman in black (Ann Trentham), warns him not to go through with it. 

He arrives at the apartment to find a dead man (Simpson) inside. He goes out and encounters Trentham, who again warns him not to stay there. When he returns to the apartment, the body is gone. Sir Luke Benisty invites him into The Society of the Black Heart, and he decides to join - as a spy for Ann Trentham, whom he is falling for.

Chertsey is given an assignment by the Black Heart - to spy on an arriving American, James Forbes. Chertsey meets up with him to find, to his astonishment, he is really his uncle, Washburn Rinehart, travelling incognito. Rinehart is travelling on behalf of the president of the US to forestall a war in Europe.

Rinehart, Chertsey, and Trentham all wind up prisoners of the Black Heart in an old mansion.


Syndey Horler is a writer of thrillers - and thrillers they are! They are page turners from Page 1. The story begins with a beautiful mystery woman, dark tea houses on the side streets of Paris, and the streets of London.

The action continues to pick up with no letup. The story is similar to Hitchcock's plots in which the innocent man is drawn into intrigue; and there are many similarities here to Hitchcock's North by Northwest. The action comes to a climax in - where else? A dark, moldy old castle complete with secret passages, sliding doors, and a dungeon.

I continue to seek out Horler's books. Three of his titles appear in The Mystery League publications of the 1930's. See my blog, Reading the Mystery League.

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