...Wallace wrote screen plays, poetry, historical non-fiction, 18 stage plays, 957 short stories and over 170 novels, 12 in 1929 alone. More than 160 films have been made of Wallace's work.So there's no doubt that Wallace could grind 'em out. Nor that he had a knack for grinding out stuff people of his time really, really liked. People of today, not so much, other than a few weirdos like me.
But enough background and generalities. This is about one particular Wallace book – Angel Esquire. The book was published in 1908, one of Wallace's earlier novels.
I downloaded the book (here) after reading this review last year (but just got around to reading the book):
Christopher Angel, an eccentric Scotland Yard detective, will remind you of Albert Campion in his early, silly-ass days, but he is often genuinely amusing, as well as resourceful: “Great fellow for putting things right … if you’re in a mess of any kind, Angel’s the chap to pull you out.”
When he’s not working on a case, he sits at his desk working on a racing form, and he is not perturbed at all when the police commissioner comes into his office and finds him so occupied. Angel is the perfect sleuth for a far-fetched mystery involving master criminals, English gangsters, and an intricate puzzle that must be solved before the rightful heirs can receive several million pounds.As the reviewer says, the plot is 'far-fetched'; but I will attempt a summary: A crooked gambler
|Gertrude McCoy, who played |
Kathleen Kent in the 1919 movie,
The fortune, though, is not to be divided among these three. The gambler loved puzzles of various types, and left behind a will that included a short rhyme/word puzzle. The first one to solve the puzzle, the solution being the combination to the gambler's elaborate safe, would get all the money.
One of the male legatees, Jimmy (just Jimmy), declines his rights in favor of the damsel. It turns out that he is not in fact a crook, but an aristocrat (a baronet – Sir James Something) who played at crime for the amusement it brought and never really stole anything, or always gave it back, or something (the 'gentleman crook' was a popular figure in thrillers of this time – Raffles being the best remembered today).
The other, Conners, is a genuine bad guy, who is part of a gang called the Borough Lot, who seem to spend most of their time hanging out in their clubhouse discussing what badasses they are and getting captured and let go for no good reason that I can discern.
I described Conners as a bad guy, but he's not the main villain of the story. If you haven't picked out the really bad guy by roughly the mid-point of the story, though, you're not trying. It's not a spoiler, I trust, to let you know that the girl ends up with the money, Jimmy ends up with the girl, and Angel is being arch and wry right up to the final paragraph.
It's a very good book for the limited audience of folks like me who dig this stuff. It's not really a mystery story, which is my usual favorite genre, it's more of a romantic thriller with some improbable crime elements thrown in.
For those who demand what they think of as 'realism' in their reading – steer clear, this is most definitely not you cup of … er, rotgut whiskey. I much prefer, for the most part, escapism, and Angel Esquire is not a bad escape.