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The Yellow Claw by Sax Rohmer

The Yellow Claw (1915)

by Sax Rohmer

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Then--his brows drawn together--he stooped to the body of the murdered woman. Partially raising the fur cloak, he suppressed a gasp of astonishment. "Why! she only wears a silk night-dress, and a pair of suede slippers!"

The elusive Oriental villain known as Mr. King masterminds an insidious plot to hold London's wealthy at his mercy.

His henchmen have already killed one socialite, and more are threatened. Hot on the trail are two of Sax Rohmer's greatest detectives, Gaston Max and Inspector Dunbar, as they undertake a case that threatens to destroy the cream of British society.

About the Author

Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward (15 February 1883 – 1 June 1959), better known as Sax Rohmer, was a prolific English novelist. He is best remembered for his series of novels featuring the master criminal Dr. Fu Manchu.
My take..........

My 1915 read for Rich Westwood’s monthly meme over at Past Offences blog was I’m sad to say a less than enjoyable affair.

I wasn't exactly spoiled for options to be honest and after establishing that this was available as a freebie on Project Gutenberg that swung it for me over the other possibility – Russell Thorndike’s Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh. Doctor Syn was a fictional character I could dimly recall from my childhood. I was quite taken with him particularly as I used to holiday for a week at Cub Camp in St. Mary’s Bay – a stone’s throw from Syn’s stomping ground of the Romney Marshes. Maybe 30 pages into The Yellow Claw and I realised I made the wrong choice!

We had a murder and subsequent investigation into the crime, initially by Scotland Yard and Dunbar before the world famous French detective, Max Gaston arrives on the scene to contribute. Our crime has its roots in the opium trade and the mysterious Oriental, Mr King who Gaston has been pursuing since he smashed an opium den in Paris.

In truth, I found the mystery a bit dull and a bit stop-start though it did have its moments; most notably when Gaston goes undercover and infiltrates the opium den as an addict and devotee of the pipe. I found this section of the narrative quite chilling and claustrophobic.

Rohmer does offer up a couple of interesting characters which did help me turn some pages in between contemplation of whether to lacerate my eyeballs with a cocktail stick or not. Soames, our lowly servant, bed egg and chancer was entertaining; despite his cowardice. He did have my support and I was rooting for him to survive the inevitable conclusion. Helen Cumberly, the doctor’s daughter was the other character of interest who attracted my empathy…..all the rest I was fairly indifferent to.

There was an the odd pointless interlude, notably when Gaston turns up in disguise in the pub and tricks the investigating detectives as they are having a drink, almost shouting ………look at me, look how clever I am – you stupid English buffoons. The odd scene owing a bit too much to coincidence to be credible – Soames in the cinema, when the detectives who are seeking him stroll in and have a conversation at the back of the film-house.

Ending was a bit ambiguous……. does the elusive Mr King escape to fight another day or not?
We did have a lovely bit of romance at the end, as the guy who loses his wife, gets the girl, or at least secures his wife’s tacit deathbed permission to get the girl, but actually it’s the wife giving the girl tacit permission to get the guy.

209 pages long, though at times it appeared to be 2000 pages long. Not great and I can safely say I’m done with this author. Best thing about it was that I didn't spend any money on it.

A few reviewers on Goodreads have made mention of racism within the book, with Rohmer taking a swipe at the Chinese or Yellow Peril. I take their point, but it wasn't something that particularly jarred me as I read.

Overall a 2 from 5.

Acquired from Project Gutenberg.

Click to see what other crime fiction readers found for 1915. I hope they had a better time than me.

http://col2910.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01... ( )
  col2910 | Mar 9, 2015 |
This novel has an antiquarian almost "penny dreadful" feel about it. Gaston Max is a renowned French detective who has come to London on the trail of a Chinese syndicate who are setting up opium dens around the world. They have snared would be socialites and people who have acquired the opium habit while on diplomatic service in China. The French Surete has established that a considerable sum of money has come into the Paris opium den through a bank cheque drawn on the account of Henry Leroux, in whose London flat a woman has died.

Max is a master of disguise. He sets up a honey trap to ensnare Mr King by posing as an opium addict who wishes to use the services of the London den. In some ways Max is a forerunner of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. He basically works alone, playing his cards very close to his chest until he is very sure of his deductions, and he relies very heavily on logic.

On the other hand the author can be seen to be in the mould of Conan Doyle with very detailed descriptions of both characters and settings. The language is a little dated, at times using vocabulary many readers would recognize as obsolete.

I was particularly interested in the timing of this plot, set before World War One, which attributes corruption in high places to the Asiatic influences, a little ironic as it was the British who intentionally introduced opium to China through trade in the 1840s. ( )
  smik | Jan 7, 2015 |
A genuine page turner. You had to find out what was going to happen next. ( )
  nwdavies | Aug 21, 2014 |
  angharad | Nov 15, 2005 |
By the author of the Fu Manchu series. As I am a fan of bad novels, and old novels, I had great fun reading this bad old novel. It bills itself as "A novel of perilous adventure", and was originally published in 1915. Plenty racist, as the plot orbits opium dens and their conspiratorial menace to English Society ("evil" occurs four times on the back cover, as well as "doom", "peril", "sinister", and "frightful death"). ( )
  angharad_reads | Oct 21, 2005 |
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Henry Leroux wrote busily on.
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Originally serialized in Lippincott's, February-June, 1915.
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Detectives Gaston Max and Inspector Dunbar chase the evil Dr. King and his international gang of hoodlums to discover the secret of their power over many of London's elite.

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