Thursday, February 11, 2021

Temple Tower by H. C. McNeile (1928)

This is #6 of 10 Bulldog Drummond novels written by McNeile. After his death, the series was continued by Gerard Fairlie.

About the author: Herman Cyril McNeile, MC (1888 -1937), commonly known as Cyril McNeile and publishing under the name H. C. McNeile or the pseudonym Sapper, was a British soldier and author. In 1920 he published Bulldog Drummond, whose eponymous hero became his best-known creation. The character was based on McNeile himself, on his friend Gerard Fairlie and on English gentlemen generally. McNeile wrote ten Bulldog Drummond novels, after his death the series was continued by Fairlie. (Wikipedia article)

Major characters:
  • Captain Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond
  • Peter Darrell, our narrator
  • Mr. Spragge, of Spragge's Farm
  • Jean Marillard, a.k.a. "le Rossignol / the Nightingale"
  • Mr. Granger, resident of Temple Tower
  • Gaspard, Mr. Granger's servant, a.k.a. "le Crapeau / the Toad"
  • Miss Patricia Verney, Granger's newly hired secretary
  • Tom "Freckles" Scott, Miss Verney's boyfriend
  • le Bossu Masqué, a.k.a. The Silent Strangler
  • Paul and Madame Vandali
  • Jean Picot, the Vandali's chauffeur
  • Victor Mathews, New York City Police
Locale: the moors of England

Synopsis:  Captain Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond, a gentleman adventurer (in the mold of The Saint) and his friend, Peter Darrell (our narrator), have just seen their wives off for a holiday in France. They are looking forward to a visit themselves as they head across the moors to Hugh's home. 

No sooner do they arrive, then they observe mysterious red and blue flashing signal lights from a neighboring farm of Mr. Spragge. The only other person on the moors is Mr. Granger. Since the lights are not for Hugh, they must be meant for Granger. Granger's home is Temple Tower, a former convent. Granger has supplemented the walls surrounding it with a large hound, glass and other fortifications. 

Hugh is trying to find a way to investigate when he encounters a young woman, Miss Patricia Verney, and her boyfriend, Tom "Freckles" Scott, en route to Temple Tower. She has just answered a job posting as Granger's secretary; and Hugh enlists Tom to assist in spying on the Temple Tower.

Some new suspicious people arrive on the scene: Paul and Madame Vandali, and their chauffeur Jean Picot.

First, Hugh, Peter, and Tom spy on Spragge's farm, and find a man (Jean Marillard) making a rope ladder. Later they spy on Temple Tower to find the ladder has been used to breach the wall. A New York policeman, Victor Mathews, finds them and enlists their aid. Matthews fills them in on the back story, in which a mysterious killer, le Bossu Masqué, also known as The Silent Strangler, was involved.

Review: This is the first Bulldog Drummond story I have read, and it wasn't quite what I expected - yet better than expected. Drummond is a gentleman adventurer (the 'Captain' is his former military rank) quite similar to Simon Templar / The Saint. As in The Saint, there is even a beautiful blonde named Patricia in the adventure (although she is not cast as Drummond's girlfriend).

Mysterious happenings abound, as it common in the era. We have mysterious lights in the night, a large hound on the moor (sound familiar?), a hunchback, a walled mansion, a secret passage, and mechanical traps. 

I did guess correctly the identity of the criminal mastermind, le Bossu Masqué, but it did not detract from the adventure. This one is a good read for the dark, stormy night.

Caution: one instance of the n-word.


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