Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hopkins Moorhouse’s The Golden Scarab

The Golden Scarab dates from 1926 and was the second of Hopkins Moorhouse’s Addison Kent mysteries. Both novels are included in Coachwhip Publications’ The Addison Kent Mysteries. In fact they’re perhaps closer to the thriller than to the mystery genre and The Golden Scarab really is pretty much a pure thriller.

Hopkins Moorhouse was the pseudonym of Canadian author Herbert Joseph Moorhouse (1882-1960).

Addison Kent is an American popular mystery writer who moonlights as an amateur detective. With his English friend Richard Malabar he investigates the death of a famed French Egyptologist. The Frenchman’s death was put down as being due to natural causes but Kent strongly suspects foul play. A golden scarab from an Egyptian royal tomb disappeared at the time of the Egyptologist’s death, along with a fabulously valuable ruby. The ruby was no Egyptian treasure however, being of much later date. Ordinarily the theft of such a valuable jewel would have led Kent to suspect the involvement of the notorious jewel thief Alceste with whom he clashed in the first Addison Kent novel, The Gauntlet of Alceste. But that’s impossible - Alceste is dead.

A beautiful girl reporter is of almost as much interest to Kent and Malabar as the murder and the robbery. Whether she is really a reporter is open to doubt but who is she really and what part might she have played in the mysterious events on the night of the murder?

The case proves to be far more complicated that even Kent suspected, with bootlegging, hijacking and very modern gangsters playing crucial roles. This leads to kidnapping and a great deal of gunplay including a full-scale gang war. There are also plenty of the features that had become so familiar to mystery readers at that date. Lots of disguises, but not just regular disguises - we’re dealing here with a man who can change his height at will! All this is combined with even more outré features - sacred cats, mummies, secret agents, secret societies, in fact the author throws everything but the kitchen sink into the mix. To say that the tale defies plausibility would be putting it mildly, but then who wants plausibility in a thriller?

Addison Kent doesn’t do very much in the way of actual detection. He stumbles upon solutions and most of the time seems to have very little idea what is really going on. Mind you, I don’t think any sane detective could have unraveled such a byzantine plot.

The whole thing is very pulpy but it’s not without its appeal. As the story progresses the author comes more and more to rely on exclamation points! Lots of exclamation points! Thirteen in a single paragraph! Nothing says excitement like an exclamation point! The more the better!

It’s all outrageously improbable, but to me that’s a feature rather than a bug.

I wouldn’t rate The Golden Scarab all that highly but I am a sucker for mysteries and thrillers that make use of Egyptology (such as S. S. Van Dine’s superb The Scarab Murder Case) so I’m inclined to cut this one some slack. It’s sillier than The Gauntlet of Alceste but it’s more fun. Worth a look but don’t set your expectations too high and don’t expect the plot to make any sense at all.

1 comment:

  1. I want plausibility in a thriller and I think lots of people do.