Thursday, October 5, 2017

“The Man of Dangerous Secrets” by Maxwell March

Robin Grey occupies an unusual position with Scotland Yard. He is a policeman, but he’s often involved in cases and situations unknown to most everyone else in the force. He has a number of talents, one of which is the ability to remember faces.

Late one evening, he’s waiting for the boat train at Waterloo Station in London, scouting for someone the Foreign Office is particularly interested in. This night, he sees something else – a young man exits the train, be accosted by an older man, and flung onto the train’s electric tracks. Robin rescues and saves the young man, and is rather astonished at the would-be murderer’s identity – one of Britain’s best-known industrialists. The man quickly disappears into the crowd.

As it turns out, the young man who was nearly killed is said to be interested in marrying a certain Jennifer Wren, a beautiful young woman whose father, Sir Henry Wren, has ties to the industrialist in question. Miss Wren’s two previous fiancées were both killed, and it looks like the third time was almost the charm. Someone wants to make sure the woman doesn't marry.

Not realizing who it was who saved the young man’s life until they meet and talk, Miss Wren asks Robin Grey to investigate. But it’s too late to save the young man; he’s been poisoned. So, to help the lovely Miss Wren because it’s love at first sight for Mr. Grey, he suggests they pretend that they’re engaged, to see what can be smoked out.

Margery Allingham
The Man of Dangerous Secrets, written by Margery Allingham under the pen name of Maxwell March, was originally published in 1933 (in Britain, where it was first issued, it bore the name of Other Man’s Danger). It’s filled with car chases, kidnappings, conspiracies, a doctor who appears to be straight out of a 1930s horror movie (Peter Lorre could have played him in a movie version), a damsel in distress multiple times, and, because this is an Allingham novel, a romantic sub-plot.

Allingham (1904-1966) was a prolific writer during her career, producing 21 mystery novels and short story collections involving her detective Albert Campion; 12 additional mystery works; and three under the pseudonym of Maxwell March. She was one of the stars of the Golden Age of Mystery (1920s-1940s), along with Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, and several others.

The Man of Dangerous Secrets is high melodrama, very much a product of its time but still a fun and absorbing ready today, some 84 years after it first appeared.


Top photograph by David East via Unsplash. Used with permission.

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