Tuesday ’Tec! The Stealer of Marble by Edgar Wallace

capital crimes london mysteriesSkulduggery in the City…

 

Capital Crimes: London Mysteries is a collection of crime short stories, edited by Martin Edwards, published as part of the British Library Crime Classics series. Many of the stories are by authors I’ve never heard of, much less read, but there are a few well-known names amongst them too. I’ll be reviewing the full collection at some point in the future, but here’s a little taster from the pen of one of the best thriller writers of his time, for this week’s…

Tuesday Tec

The Stealer of Marble by Edgar Wallace

 

Edgar Wallace
Edgar Wallace

This story was first published in 1925 as part of a 12-story collection entitled The Mind of Mr J G Reeder. Mild-mannered Mr Reeder works for the Public Prosecutor’s Department, and his fascination for all things criminal sometimes enables him to see through puzzles that leave the police baffled.

Rumours have been going round the City that Telfers Consolidated, an old family-run business, might be about to hit the rocks. Its founder is long-dead and the company is now in the hands of his grandson, Sidney Telfer, a weak young man with no head for business. Sidney’s secretary, Margaret Belman, is coincidentally a neighbour of Mr Reeder’s, though they only know each other as nodding acquaintances.

'The_Mind_of_Mr._J.G._Reader'

Miss Belman is a pretty young woman, who’s walking out with a respectable young man. So she is shocked when one day, out of the blue, her employer asks her to run away with him to South America. The next day, Sidney’s begs her to tell no-one of his proposition, promising that he would marry her as soon as some legal difficulties could be got over. Miss Belman finds no difficulty in turning him down flat, and you can understand why…

The room, with its stained-glass windows and luxurious furnishing, fitted Mr Telfer perfectly, for he was exquisitely arrayed. He was tall and so painfully thin that the abnormal smallness of his head was not at first apparent. As the girl came into the room he was sniffing delicately at a fine cambric handkerchief, and she thought that he was paler than she had ever seen him – and more repellent.

Later that same day, an employee of Telfers, a Mr Billingham, embezzles £150,000 from the firm, bringing it crashing down. Mr Billingham disappears and the best efforts of the police fail to trace him. Because of the size of the theft, the Public Prosecutor’s Department sends in Mr Reeder, but at first he is also at something of a loss. However, one day a few weeks later, Mr Reeder is indulging his hobby of watching criminal court cases, when a woman appears in the dock, accused of having stolen marble chips from a stonemason’s yard. At first intrigued by the strangeness of the crime, Mr Reeder becomes even more interested when it is revealed that the woman is Sidney Telfer’s housekeeper, who had also acted as guardian to Sidney after the death of his parents.

Hugh Burden as Mr Reeder in the 1969 Thames Television series based on the stories
Hugh Burden as Mr Reeder in the 1969 Thames Television series based on the stories

Mr Reeder lets his mind work over his favourite game of patience, and soon figures out the connection between the housekeeper, the stolen marble and the disappearance of Mr Billingham and the money. Have you? No, I didn’t either, and I’m not totally sure it would be possible to on the basis of the information the reader is given – but it’s a lovely puzzle with a nice old-fashioned feel to it, back in the days when fictional criminals came up with more imaginative methods of committing their crimes. The tone of the story has something of a similar feel to the more quirky of the Holmes stories, but is lighter, with one eye always on the humorous aspect. Although there’s a bit of a thrillerish ending, there’s never any real doubt that Mr Reeder will get everything sorted out. I enjoyed the writing style – I don’t know that it would work for novel length, but it made for a very entertaining short story.

“Put down that jug or I will blow your features into comparative chaos!” said Mr Reeder pedantically.

The characterisation is surprisingly good given how little room there is for development, and there’s a clear distinction between the baddies and the goodies. And while the solution to the puzzle is one of the more far-fetched I’ve come across, it works in the context and style of the story. I feel I may have to track down some more of Mr Reeder’s adventures…

* * * * *

Little Grey Cells rating: ❓ ❓ ❓

Overall story rating:      😀 😀 😀 😀

39 thoughts on “Tuesday ’Tec! The Stealer of Marble by Edgar Wallace

  1. This does sounds like a good story, FictionFan, even if the reader isn’t given all of the tools needed to solve the mystery. And sometimes, those older stories do have solutions that are a bit far-fetched. Still, they can be great fun and solid stories, too. Glad you liked this one.

    • I like the far-fetchedness of these older stories – it makes them fun, even when I can’t work it out. And Mr Reeder seems like a beautifully quirky detective…

  2. Aha, this sounds perfectly marvellous! Right up my street, this. Just from the snippets you have posted here, I can tell that this is very much for me. I am going to get it and read it to Terry. The plotting of my next storyline can wait until after this. Many thanks, FF!

  3. Why look at the…thing that Edgar is smoking! Isn’t that fancy? It does remind me of Cruella de Vil, if I’m completely honest. I need to get a hat like that.

    It sounds like an enjoyable short story. Bet he liked Doyle, huh?

    • Cool, isn’t it? It makes me think of Bette Davis. The cigarette holder that is, not the hat. My Dad used to wear hats not unlike that…

      I bet he did! He looks like a man of taste and intelligence… *doesn’t chuckle for fear of looking manly*

      • Oh! It’s a holder is it. Can you still…smoke through it? Or does it just hold? Did he really? That sound super cool. Guys should wear cool hats again. Then I could have an excuse for a collection.

        And sophistication! Can you ever forgive me? *pleading professor eyes*

        • Yes, you smoked through them – I think the idea was to keep the smoke away from the face and to stop it staining your fingers. Plus (I’m sure you really don’t want to know all this but anyway…*doesn’t chuckle*) way, way back cigarettes didn’t have filters at the end, so when you smoked them you’d get little bits of tobacco in your mouth – or worse, if you happened to be a Hollywood glamour queen, stuck on your lipstick. I don’t remember real people using them, but they used to appear in old films a lot. They should! You should get a bunnet!

          Hmm…see, now that I’m a man apparently, I’m not sure the pleading eyes will work as well… *tries to harden his/her heart*

  4. I’m rather fascinated with the language styles of long ago, so this looks like an interesting read. Of course, styles have changed immensely over the years and such a work probably never would see the light of publishing today, but anyway…. By the way, that was kind of a tiny staircase even for back then, wasn’t it?!

    • On the whole I prefer the older fashioned styles of writing, when people knew some adjectives that weren’t swearwords and when they were confident enough with language to be able to play with it. But that’s probably because I’m an old fogey… 😉

      Haha! Yes! I guess they must have been filming in a tiny little studio…

  5. Oh, those little grey cells are smoldering, are they? I did start to wonder how those things could be linked, but then I decided it was best not to start down that garden path. Sadly, I must focus on finishing my tax prep.

    • With your sciency background, you might have a better chance of working it out than we ordinary mortals…

      Ah, we don’t have to do that – the government just takes all our money as we earn it. So much simpler…

    • Not being able to work it out probably would annoy me in a full-length novel, but I don’t seem to mind it in short stories so much. Yes, I think they didn’t feel the need to make everything sound realistic, so they could play with words a bit more…

  6. I love the J.G Reeder stories. Apart from “Terror Towers”, they are all collections of short stories. I of course have them all , so you can borrow, though I’m sure you could get them on Kindle.

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