Sexton Blake – Allies edited by Mark Hodder (2020)

This is the third of five anthologies featuring Sexton Blake, the ace detective who appeared in more than 4,000 stories written by more than 200 authors over a span of more than 80 years. Three tales, each edited by Mark Hodder, in which Blake works alongside one of several associated; individuals who have come to be trusted “Allies”. Each story is preceded by a fictional interview of Blake by Hodder, in which they discuss the “Allies” characters and the original writers of the stories. Also, as these stories were written in times when norms were very different from today, these introductory interviews often put into context portions of the stories that might appear antiquated or even “politically incorrect”. 

The Case of the Seventh Key by W. W. Sayer (1925)

Blake receives a commission to track down a pickpocket and is soon boarding the Orient Express in a chase across Europe. A fun and very fast paced story. When Blake comes up against a gang of jewel thieves he’s the one who, uncharacteristically, needs rescuing, and the King’s Spy, James “Granite” Grant, steps in to save the day.

Ghost Mobile by Gwyn Evans (1931)

A ghostly lorry and its skeleton driver are reputed to be responsible for innumerable deaths along a dark stretch of road in the Chiltern Hills. Blake, along with American sleuth/gunman Ruff Hanson, and journalist Splash Page investigate a complex web of revenge and cold-blooded murder. 

The Mystery of Walla Walla by G. H. Teed (1913)

When landowner Edward Jameson cheats John Treherne out of his homestead, Yvonne Cartier uses some irregular means to alter the situation. In the past Sexton Blake and Yvonne have been on opposite sides of the law. Now they find they must work together against the scheming Jameson, and save Blake’s friend Tinker while they’re at it.

I remember watching one or two of the Sexton Blake movies in my time. And while I knew that there were hundreds of stories written around the character, I’d never come across any to actually read. The stories here are short, light-weight, quick reads. The introductions add perspective, making the read all the more enjoyable. To be kept in mind is that while Sexton Blake may be styled as a detective, with all of the chases, gun battles, fistfights, and sheep rustling, these stories depend more on action than deductive reasoning and would be closer to the espionage/action genres than detective fiction. But that’s ok, because it was great fun, very entertaining and a wonderful diversion.

Source – Review Copy – Rebellion Publishing via NetGalley

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – Just the Facts Ma’am 2018 – Who: A Journalist

6 thoughts on “Sexton Blake – Allies edited by Mark Hodder (2020)

  1. Jonathan O

    I remember watching the TV series back in the 60s with Laurence Payne in the title role. Unforunately it seems that almost all of it has been lost. (Payne wrote some crime novels himself – I think they may have been more thrillers than detection.)

  2. I read the first of these reprints and found them more intriguing and interesting than I thought I would, though as you point out, probably less for their detective work. It’s funny reading of a character going on the Orient Express prior to Poirot’s trip – as the later trip is so firmly etched into one’s mind.

  3. It is often the “politically incorrect” bits which are most interesting. You only need read a little Ian Fleming to realise how misogynistic the ’50s and ’60s were. Fascinating how attitudes change.

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