Monday, September 02, 2013

Sexton Blake: Dead Respectable

 This 1967 Sexton Blake novel is the most London-centric of the later Blake adventures that I've read so far. Beginning at Embankment, the book wanders all over the city as Sexton Blake hunts an American college student who has gone missing. The search will center on Chelsea, where a dangerous but charismatic man known only as Bobo holds sway over the beatniks, hippies, and other young people.
   This is definitely another swinging sixties story with lots of scenes in nightclubs, private swinger parties, and such. There are references to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and other sixties culture. The book is also another fairly hardboiled crime story. Lots of violence as Blake and his assistant Tinker mix it up with thugs and drug addicts in the mean streets and back alleys.
   That's one of the most fun things about these books. you never know quite what sort of adventure you're going to get. Could involve the supernatural. Could be a spy thriller. Could be humorous. Could be a whodunit. Could be a hard edged crime story. You just have to dive in and find out. Personally I prefer the ones where Blake is solving a murder, but that's just because I've been reading mysteries for many years.
   The author of Dead Respectable is Desmond Reid, which was a house name for Fleetwood/Amalgamated and later for Mayflower/Dell. I've no idea who really wrote it. According to Wikipedia, at least 30 writers used the pen name at one time or another, including Michael Moorcock on his one Sexton Blake book, the Caribbean Crisis, which he wrote with James Cawthorn.
   Whoever the writer, they preferred old school Blake. The great detective operates out of his Baker Street flat rather than his Berkley Square office. Tinker is his main helper with little mention of Paula Dane of Blake's other employees. Even Pedro the bloodhound makes a brief appearance.
   The plotting is solid, and even though I did spot the 'big reveal' about halfway through, Dead Respectable is a decent enough mystery. A good entry in the series.

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