Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Mystery of the Folded Paper by Hulbert Footner (1930)

Also published as "The Folded Paper Mystery"

About the author: See this Wikipedia article

Major characters:
  • Finlay Corveth, news feature writer
  • Nick Peters, watchmaker
  • Henny Friend, owner of Boloney Bar
  • Nick Casino, a hit man
  • Kid River, small time hoodlum
  • General Diamond, a mercenary, a.k.a "The American"
  • Nipperg, a.k.a. "Robespierre"
  • Milly, Kid River's girlfriend
  • Mariula Peters, a.k.a. Mary Dare
  • Amos Lee Mappin, crime writer
Locale: Manhattan NY and Hoboken NJ (on opposite sides of the Hudson River)

Synopsis: Finlay Corveth, freelance feature writer, visits his old friend Nick Peters in his tiny Manhattan watch repair shop after hearing he had been burglarized. Peters had been hit on the head by a brass ball removed from his bedpost, and the shop ransacked; apparently by someone looking for something they could not find - but they took the brass ball away with them. Peters reveals he has a precious emerald locket hidden away somewhere safe, and says it is intended to be security for a young girl, Mariula Peters, who is away at school.  

Finlay suspects the emerald locket may be in the brass ball, and follows the trail of the ball as it passes through several hands, including a couple of small time thieves Nick Casino and Kid River. He recovers the ball at a scrap metal dealer. Finlay goes to Peter's shop to return it, but finds him strangled to death.

With the help of his friend, crime writer Amos Lee Mappin, they open the ball to find the emerald locket, and inside it a folded up piece of blank paper. They suspect General Diamond is behind the crooks trying to steal it, and strike up a friendship with him.

Mariula Peters, now kicked out of boarding school, is brought to Hoboken and gets an acting part in the theatre, under the stage name Mary Dare. Finlay and Mappin decode the blank paper, and seek out an unknown treasure.


This story is fast-paced and is fascinating for its look at 1930's Manhattan/New Jersey. It gets a bit dizzying with the constant trips through the Lincoln Tunnel to go back and forth. I am familiar with some of the neighborhoods in which the story is set (Inwood, Kingsbridge, Riverdale); and a map such as on a Dell Mapback would have been helpful. You may wish to get out a map of Manhattan to help you enjoy the story.

I had expected the two-bit hoodlums from the first part (Nick Casino, Kid River and Milly) to reappear, but they never did. Instead we get a couple of arch-criminals which Finlay and Mappin identify by nicknames (The American and Robespierre) as they do not know their real names. We eventually get the real names (General Diamond and Nipperg, respectively). 

Two especially good characters are young Mariula Peters, who gets a surprise ending; and Nipperg's wife, Diasy; who enjoys flirting with with Finlay.

A most amusing scene is when Finlay and Mappin throw General Diamond off the track to the treasure, by substituting a map with fake directions. 

The ending is a satisfying, surprise turn of events.

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