William F. Deeck

JAMES CORBETT – The Lion’s Mouth. Herbert Jenkins, UK, hardcover, 1941. No US edition.

   Another in Mr. Corbett’s continuing series of poor-quality thrillers. It is apparent that he means well, but he really just can’t seem to break out of the formula, which is a rather humdrum one at that.

   In this novel, Robert Morley, archcrook, has threatened Chief-Inspector Langton of Scotland Yard with kidnapping. Morley wishes to remove Langton so that he can successfully complete his final crime and retire. He is also aware, as the novel proves, that without Langton Scotland Yard is a mere nothing.

   The kidnapping takes place. The case is placed temporarily in the hands of Detective-Inspector Denton — none of the members of the big five wanting to handle it. It is said about Denton that “the set of his chin below humorous grey eyes bespoke his ability to take care of himself in any situation that might arise”. A gross exaggeration, as his later falling over a female, getting knocked out, and kidnapped proves.

   While there is no real mystery here — it is a police procedural, very loosely described — some puzzles are present:

   â€” Is there such a thing as a “Mauser revolver”?

   â€” One of Morley’s henchmen is a Hungarian. We know this because the author keeps telling us, plus the henchman has an accent when the author remembers to provide him with one and says “he in?” and “Schweinhundt!” periodically. Why then would Denton look for him in a shop with provisions “dear to the taste of the Latin”? (Why Denton would also seek him out in “a struggling photographer’s studio” also raises questions.)

   â€” What does “the character he had so skillfully assumed seemed to synchronise with his surroundings” mean?

   â€” After a 45-minute walk, plus time for some ridiculous conversation, Denton whips out a handkerchief from his pocket and covers a woman’s face. He had prepared the handkerchief with “just a spot” of chloroform at his apartment. Where did Denton get this remarkable stuff?

   Not to be compared with Mr. Corbett’s delightfully awful novels, but amusing in its own way.

— Reprinted from CADS 7, December 1987. Email Geoff Bradley for subscription information.

Note:   James Corbett books previously reviewed by Bill on this blog —

      Murder While You Wait
      Gallows Wait
      Vampire of the Skies