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review 2017-11-14 16:56
All Good Deeds
All Good Deeds (A Lucy Kendall Thriller) (Lucy Kendall #1) (The Lucy Kendall Series) - Stacy Green
The Four Just Men - Edgar Wallace

Quite by chance, I started on All Good Deeds   while in the middle of re-reading Edgar Wallace's The Four Just Men, so I had a couple of days of vigilante justice delivered in two very different styles, one set in Edwardian London in 1914, the other in present-day Pennsylvania. And while the heroes of the London story are cultured middle-aged males (there are only three of them, actually) the protagonist of the modern story is a pushy, opinionated young woman who goes rushing in where "just men" would – no, not fear to tread, but certainly think very, very carefully before they trod.


Lucy's one concern – and It's become an obsession – is abused children. Years ago when she was working for the Child Protection Services, she was responsible for monitoring a boy of eleven who had been allowed to go on living with his family against her advice and had then murdered his nine-year-old sister. The boy, Justin, subsequently spent several years in juvenile prison but was later released back into society without being tagged as a child-molester. Lucy fought against his release because she considered him a danger but she was overuled by the judge.


Now a nine-year-old girl called Kailey has disappeared, been kidnapped, and Justin not only lives right there in the immediate neighbourhood but turns out to have been in direct contact with the girl prior to her disappearance.


So far as Lucy is concerned, she was right all along and this is an open-and-shut case. When she learns that the Detective in charge of the investigation is Justin's half-brother and that he insists there is no evidence against Justin, she starts taking things into her own hands. Not for the first time. Several pedophiles who had evaded official justice have already met their maker after a brief encounter with her.


But further developments sow doubts in the reader's mind about Justin being in any real sense a pedophile, or dangerous. And a young man approaches Lucy in a bar and informs her that he knows her secret: a word from him to the police would result in Lucy being arrested and charged with a whole series of murders.


The reader is torn in two.


Great writing.


But the moral of the story? All Good Deeds is described as "a psychological thriller". I'm not sure what that means. That the bad guys have psychological problems? Well, yes, but so does Lucy, when judged by normal standards of behaviour in any civilised society.


I wonder where this will go in the second book in the series ...


And The Four Just Men? It is a classic. A little slow perhaps (life then was slower) but essential reading. If you haven't read it, read it. You can download it almost free from Amazon and completely free here.

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review 2017-11-13 15:14
vigilantism justified
The Law of The Four Just Men - Edgar Wallace

It was entertaining to read Flash around this (I started Flash on Saturday and finished it this morning) where Flash has to deal with the ethics of power.  This is a series of stories showing what happens when some people take the law into their own hands.  In these two of the four just men show, with a third retired in Spain and the fourth dead.  There are smatterings of racism, the pseudo-science of physiognomy and a lot of two older men pursuing those who have escaped the legal system.


Also published as Again the Three Just Men (which makes a lot of sense) in 1921 it shows a feeling of how justice is paramount and that there was a possibility of a great new world.


The eugenics train is not a comfortable ride but overall for the period it's interesting, the stories are snappy and bite-sized but I enjoyed it.

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review 2017-11-03 21:16
The consolidated metropolis
Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919 - Mike Wallace

In 1999, the first book of a projected three-volume history of New York City was published, Entitled Gotham, it covered the history of the city from is beginnings as a Dutch colony to the 1898 consolidation that merged the city with east Bronx, Brooklyn, western Queens County, and Staten Island, and won its authors, Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for their labors.


It has taken eighteen years for the second volume to be published, yet the result is well worth that wait. Picking up where the last volume left off, Wallace (who is now soldiering forward solo in his efforts) describes the development of the city in all its particulars, covering its many economic, social, political, and cultural aspects. Though diverse in its scope, much of it is united by a common thread of consolidation, which in many respects was only just beginning. Consolidation was a popular concept of the age, with economic combinations emerging in American industry that dwarfed what had come before. Much of this was possible thanks to the financing provided by Wall Street, which served as the beating heart of the new, ever-more nationalized economy.


Consolidation was also important at the local level, as the city’s leaders now sought to turn the political achievement into a practical reality. To that end, they created a common infrastructure that tied it more closely together, which they did in a vast construction boom that created many of the institutions and arteries upon which the city relies today. Their efforts were emulated by others, as groups from Broadway to the criminal underworld embraced the benefits of combination. Yet not everyone was accommodated in the process, and Wallace’s book chronicles the many disputes that characterized an often painful growth of Gotham into the global metropolis it became by the end of the First World War.


Comprehensive and engaging, Wallace’s book is a worthy follow-up to its award-winning predecessor. Though its size is daunting, the division of the material into subject chapters makes it easily digestible, while Wallace’s ability to use the stories of individual New Yorkers to tell the larger history of the city makes it enjoyable reading. In Wallace the city has found a worthy chronicler, and with the Jazz Age, the Great Depression, and another world war looming, it is to be hoped that readers will not have as long to wait for the next volume.

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text 2017-10-17 07:10
Reading progress update: I've read 77 out of 1200 pages.
Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919 - Mike Wallace

So far this is proving to be every bit a worthy follow-up to the first volume. I’ll have to step up my reading, though, if I’m going to have this finished by Friday!

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review 2017-09-10 20:01
The Green Archer
The Green Archer - Edgar Wallace

It was a message evidently written by one to whom the rules of English were hidden mysteries:

"DEAR SIR, The Green Archer has appeared in Garre Castel. Mr. Wilks the butler saw him. Dear sir, the Green Archer went into Mr. Belamy's room and left the door open. Also he was seen in the park. All the servants is leaving. Mr. Belamy says he'll fire anybody who talks about it, but all the servants is leaving."

"And who in thunder is the Green Archer?" asked Spike wonderingly.

Mr. Syme adjusted his glasses and smiled. Spike was shocked to see him do anything so human.

Well, this was fun! 


The Green Archer has a somewhat convoluted plot but it was so refreshing to read a story with fairly simple writing, simple characters, simple plotting, and still get a sense of being drawn right into the story and guessing alongside the police, the reporters, and the other characters who seem to have a stake in investigating the goings on at Garre Castle. 


Garre Castle, set in deepest Berkshire, is home to Abel Bellamy, a misanthropic American millionaire, who has recently drawn attention to himself when it was reported that the castle has been visited by the Green Archer - the ghost of a poacher who was hanged at Garre Castle.  

A minute passed, and there was no sound or sign of the intruder, and, throwing back the bedclothes, he leapt to the floor and ran out through the door, pistol in hand. The moon was streaming through the windows of the corridor, flooding the hall with light. At first he saw nothing, and then it seemed that the Thing moved from the shadow into the full light. A tall, thin, green figure, with a dead white face, that stood stiffly facing him, bow in hand. Green from head to toe, a vivid, startling; skin-tight green that could not be mistaken. Green everywhere, save that white face that stared blankly.

When a reporter and an investigator from Scotland Yard (a former prison guard has been shot with an arrow) try to question Bellamy, they are unceremoniously thrown out. Bellamy really hates people - be it his staff, his family, or his neighbours. He even gets some dogs and trains them to attack trespassers. However, all of his efforts do not keep out that blasted Green Archer, who seems to have unlimited access to the castle, the grounds, and a cottage in the nearby woods.

As the story develops, we learn Bellamy's life story, and that of his assistant, and that of his neighbours, and that of a whole lot of other parties. I did mention that the plot was convoluted, right?


Anyway, it turns out that that Bellamy has much to hide. And where better to do the hiding than in the dungeons of his very own castle? 


Granted, most of what Bellamy wants to hide are pesky interlopers, and generally anyone who crosses his plans to enjoy his very own socio-pathic ways of life, which include ruining the lives of his late brother and ... others:

Abe Bellamy never lost sleep at nights thinking of the past. Remorse was foreign to his nature, fear he did not know. He had done evilly and was content. The memory of the horror of lives wantonly broken, of suffering deliberately inflicted, of children delivered to hardship and pain, of a woman hunted to death by a tiger of hate that the Moloch of his self-esteem should be appeased, never caused him a second's unrest of mind. If he thought of these old matters at all, he thought approvingly. It seemed right to him that those who opposed him should be hurt. Fortune had favoured him greatly. At twenty he was carrying a hod; at thirty-five he was a dollar millionaire. At fifty-five his million was ten, and he had shaken from his feet the dust of the city that made him and was one of the landed gentry of England, the master of a domain that the flower of English chivalry had won by its swords and built on the sweat and fear of its slaves.


But things just don't go to plan: the Green Archer runs wild trying to steal the key to Bellamy's safe, his neighbour's daugther suspects Bellamy of being involved with the death of her mother, the newspaper reporter suspects him of hiding a good story, a Belgian philanthropist suspects him of being involved with the death of a child, and the police suspect him of being involved with the illegal activities of a gang of London ex-cons.


That's a lot of suspicion to cramp poor Bellamy's style, so he does what all great villains do - he goes mad. (Or, rather, madder than he was already!) Hilarity ensues before the whole plot is explained in the end.



(And, yes, that is the Scotland Yard inspector setting a fuse. Mwahahahha...)


I really liked it. I also watched the 1960s film adaptation straight after and was surprised to find out that the film version (starring such favourites as Gerd Froebe, Karin Dor, Klaus-Juergen Wussow, and, of course, Eddie Arendt) was remarkably true to the original book - but they cut out a lot of the back-stories, which made the film's version a bit illogical. So, yes, amazingly, Wallace's original story make A LOT more sense than the film!


Nevertheless, the film is one of the better ones of the series and certainly captures the atmosphere of the story. 

Valerie Howett flew along, her heart nigh to bursting, her breath coming in short, sobbing gasps, the patter of feet growing nearer and nearer, and behind them racing footsteps of somebody human. She reached the edge of the trees and plunged headlong into their cover. Could she reach the ladder? She dared not look back, and there was no need, for the dog's laboured breathing came to her ears. Never once did she think of the revolver in her pocket, although every step she took brought the smack of it against her hip.

The wood lay on rising ground, a little hillock path led upwards, and the going became more, and more difficult. And then the dog leapt. She heard the snap of the fangs. They missed her heel by the fraction of an inch, and the dog lost ground. Her peril gave her superhuman speed, but she was coming into the open. She hardly realised this until she emerged with the crest of the hill before her. It was her speed that carried her on, otherwise she would have dropped in her tracks in sheer terror. For, clear in the moonlight, his set, white, puffy face staring at her, was a slim green figure, and in his hand a long bow that glittered in the moonlight. She could not stop herself. She was going from one horror to another, but her impetus carried her beyond the check of fear. And then she saw the bow come up, heard the twang of a loosened string, and fell. Some heavy body struck her on the shoulder. She had a momentary glimpse of a great black and yellow hound as it stretched itself in death, and then she fainted.


The story was written in 1926 and despite my enjoyment of the romp that it is, there were, of course, also elements that are a bit jarring to a modern reader. One of them is the - expected - use of terms to describe people from China or India.


Another, tho somewhat more intriguing, is one of the character's defence of capital punishment and as well as the punishment of flogging for some crimes. This makes even less sense when we also get to read about the light-hearted way that Wallace describes how this whole business of having to register guns with the police is such a bore.

"I want to ask you a favour," she said a little breathlessly. "Have you... could you get me a revolver?"

Then, seeing his eyebrows lift, she went on hurriedly and a little incoherently: "Lady's Manor is rather isolated, and it occurred to me... well, it is lonely, isn't it? And Mr. Howett never carries firearms of any description. I wanted to buy one... an automatic in London, but I found that there are stringent police regulations and one has to get a permit... Then I saw you, and it occurred to me..."

"Surely, Miss Howett," said Spike as she stopped to take breath. "I've got a gun at the hotel. I don't know why I carry it around in this peaceful land, but I certainly have one. If you'll wait I'll go get it."

He returned to the Blue Boar at a run and presently reappeared.

"It's loaded," he said as he slipped the weapon from his pocket, "but it is only a little one. And, Miss Howett, if you ever kill a burglar with it, will you give me the exclusive story?"

Because, yeah... Such fun!

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