“So we meet again, Drummond, do we?” she said.

“My dear,” he cried, “I protest. As a conversational effort after all these years that remark is not worthy of you.”

“How long have you been listening outside that door?”

“From the acute agony in my ear I should put it at a day or two,” he answered. “But maybe it was worth it. Anyway here we all are—a merry united party, brimming over with girlish secrets. Tell me—just to satisfy my vulgar curiosity—why did you murder young Marton?”

Once again dead silence settled on the room.

“He seemed to me,” continued Drummond calmly, “a poor sort of specimen but comparatively harmless withal.”

“Are you mad?” said Hardcastle at length. “What possible reason could we have for killing him?”

“That's just what I'm asking you, Tom. It seems such a drastic method of dealing with the poor bloke.”

“I presume you're trying to be funny, Captain Drummond,” answered Hardcastle. “Or else your conversation with the policeman outside is indicative of your true condition. Why if you suffered from this absurd delusion did you say nothing about it at the inquest?”

“Middle stump gone west,” said Drummond. “But I was forgetting that you know but little of our national game. I will tell you. I said nothing about it because, though I know it, I was, and am, quite unable to prove it.”

“Then how dare you make such a monstrous accusation?” shouted Slingsby. “Are you aware, you young cub, that we can sue you for libel?”

“Of course,” agreed Drummond pleasantly. “Why not start proceedings to-morrow? My old friend Peanut of Peanut, Walnut & Chestnut has always acted for me in similar cases in the past. And in the meantime may I help myself to a drink? In the past, Madame,”—he turned to the woman in the chair who was still watching him steadily—“I was a little chary of drinking at any of your parties, but I feel that, since you were not expecting me, this whiskey will prove quite safe.”

The Return of Bulldog Drummond

You get the idea. Captain Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond is a brave, dashing, cheerfully candid, candidly insolent hero who spends much of his life breaking into arch-villains' secret hideaways, outwitting their henchmen, being captured, making polite conversation to the master criminal over a glass of sherry, then escaping certain death at the last moment. He was invented by Herman Cyril McNeile writing under the pen name “Sapper”—who was, like his creation, a First World War veteran in search of a peacetime occupation.

“Bulldog” Drummond appeared, together with his perpetual (and interchangeable) friends Algy Longworth, Toby Sinclair, Peter Darrell, and Ted Jerningham, in six novels in the 1920s and early 1930s. In the first, “Bulldog” Drummond, he places a classified ad in The Times stating his desire for adventure, and is rewarded with a reply from a young lady concerned about some “business acquaintances” of her father. He uncovers a plot by arch-villain Carl Peterson to deliver England into the hands of the evil Communists—purely for Peterson's financial gain, of course, for he is above politics.

In the end, of course, the evil mastermind is defeated but lives to fight another day, while Drummond gets the girl, who will serve as an excellent kidnap victim in future volumes. It is hard to say whether the portrayal of weak, defenceless women or of evil, scheming foreigners with dirty political motives and no sense of fair play is the more politically incorrect by present-day standards.

The Communist revolutionaries return in the second novel The Black Gang. But a degree of what might be termed science fiction is introduced into the still somewhat political-economically centred plots with The Third Round, which is concerned with the political machinations in the wake of a discovery of a secret process for cheaply synthesising diamonds; and yet more so in The Final Count, in which the volatile invention is that of an instantaneously fatal contact poison. Interestingly, in neither of these books is there the classical mad scientist out to destroy the world: the diamond-builder is a pure academic, blind to all values but the advancement of knowledge, whereas the inventor of the poison sought—with, perhaps, telling political naîveté—simply to arm his country with “a destructive force so terrible that no other nation would dare to make war against it.”

The four novels I've mentioned are the only ones featuring Carl Peterson, and the two subsequent ones that do not are widely felt not to be as good. In The Female Of The Species, the plot device of the villain setting up elaborate methods to torture the hero (thus giving him too many opportunities to escape) approaches self-parody as the book largely consists of Drummond chasing round the country solving cryptic clues which are supposed to lead him to his kidnapped wife. (This being said, the dénouement is logical and not too overwrought.) Worse, in the last book The Return of Bulldog Drummond, Drummond's life is at one point spared only because of a sudden change of heart on the part of his arch-nemesis, which from her previous behaviour is difficult to credit.

Such faults as these aside, the “Bulldog” Drummond novels are rip-roaring 1920sDornford Yatesthrillers which combine the drama of James Bond with the dialogue of Lord Peter Wimsey. They are worthy of a place on the bookshelf of any lover of crime-busting English gentlemen.

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