Sun 12 Jun 2011
DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY
by MONTE HERRIDGE
#4. COLIN HAIG, by H. Bedford-Jones.
The Colin Haig stories by H. Bedford-Jones made up a short-run series of six stories published consecutively from the October 7, 1933 issue through the November 11 issue. The stories are narrated by Martin Burke, who is the assistant in charge of Colin Haig’s laboratory in Los Angeles, “unequaled in the country.”
The series relates the adventures of Colin Haig and his assistant against a priestess of Shiva named Madame Vanderdonk. She is supposedly the possessor of an evil eye, which can kill people and animals. This power is shown in the first story in the series, “The Evil Eye of Bali,” and Colin Haig cannot get anyone to believe him when he relates this fact. However, she has criminal agents who seem to do most of the actual killing by various means.
I am missing the second story in the series, “The Desert of Death,” but “The Backward Swastika” is the third story, and involves more of the struggle against Madame Vanderdonk. Lieutenant Kelly of the missing persons detail of the local police makes an appearance at the beginning of the story, relating what they know about Madame Vanderdonk’s activities.
It appears that she is targeting wealthy financiers, stealing their money and causing their deaths. The police have counted ten victims so far, and Kelly tells of a possible eleventh victim named Johansen. Kelly relates all of this information to Burke; Haig has been gone for three days looking for a trail to follow to Madame Vanderdonk based on photographic evidence acquired in the second story.
Charles Hunter, one of Madame Vanderdonk’s murderous agents, appears for the first time in this story and uses a fake Haig letter to lure Burke into a trap, where he finds Johansen. He also meets Madame Vanderdonk, who talks to him. She attempts to manipulate him, but it doesn’t work, as Haig and Lieutenant Kelly arrive in time to rescue the two men. Madame Vanderdonk flees in her car.
In the fourth story, “Circles of Doom,” Burke receives a telephone call from a Professor Malvolio, whose real name is Van Steen. He is a professional hypnotist. Van Steen is asking for information about Madame Vanderdonk. He promises to come and see Colin Haig, but never arrives. He then calls Haig and asks him to come to see him.
Haig arrives to find Van Steen dead by means of poison and Van Steen’s daughter present. Haig and his assistant, with the aid of the police (including Lieutenant Kelly), investigate the situation and discover much information, including a good deal about one of their nemesis’s agents, Charles Hunter (first seen in the third story).
However, Hunter is dead from an accident by poisoning by the time they reach him. Another dead end for Haig, but he has an idea she has her headquarters is in the desert around Palm Springs, and plans to search for her.
The fifth story, “Footsteps of Death,” opens with Lieutenant Kelly saying he can’t help them in their fight against Madame Vanderdonk outside the city limits of Los Angeles. His superiors don’t believe in the evil eye.
Shortly thereafter, another attempt is made upon the lives of Colin Haig and Martin Burke. This impels them to immediately start the search for Madame Vanderdonk’s desert lair. After searching in the heat for quite a while, they stumble upon a dying man whose last words indicate he knows the woman for whom they are searching.
They then search outward from that spot. Martin Burke finds woman’s hideout and is captured. He undergoes another session with Madame Vanderdonk as she attempts to win him over to her cause. He soon escapes, and finds Colin Haig nearby.
Haig wants to go for help and return to attack the dwelling. Somehow, to me this sounds too simple to expect her to stay there and wait for him to return. On to the final part of the story.
In the sixth and last story in the series, “The Niche of Horror,” Colin Haig manages to get himself captured by Madame Vanderdonk. With this series, it was only a matter of time. He manages to escape the evil eye of the madame by sabotaging her base of operations and ending her reign of terror.
This quick, short series of stories did not leave much time for readers to have to wait for each installment in the ongoing story. With the series preplanned and an ending provided, I don’t see why there wasn’t a sequel to it. That is, assuming the series was well received by the readers. It had plenty of action.
The Colin Haig series by H. Bedford-Jones:
The Evil Eye of Bali October 7, 1933
The Desert of Death October 14, 1933
The Backward Swastika October 21, 1933
Circles of Doom October 28, 1933
Footsteps of Death November 4, 1933
The Niche of Horror November 11, 1933