Time for another adventure of Secret Agent X, soon to be reprinted by Beb Books. “Horror’s Handclasp” is from the November 1936 issue of the pulp SECRET AGENT X, and the writer behind the Brant House pseudonym is G.T. Fleming-Roberts, one of the most prolific and best of the Secret Agent X authors.
This novel opens with a séance (always good for pulpish thrills) which Secret Agent X attends in disguise (naturally) because he’s received a tip that a mysterious criminal mastermind known only as The Fury has something to do with what’s going to happen there. Not surprisingly, there’s a little mystical hokum, but then real danger crops up as one of the people attending the séance is murdered by what appears to be a disembodied hand that carries the touch of death.
From there the story gallops off at the usual mile-a-minute pace, as Secret Agent X tries to foil the plans of The Fury. There are gangsters, an eccentric scientist who claims to have invented a death ray, a beautiful femme fatale who may or may not be a professional thief, a sinister mortuary, shambling, zombie-like henchmen (zombie in the classic sense, not speedy brain-munchers, who came along much later), and a room that’s an electrified death trap like something out of a James Bond movie. That ought to be enough to tell you whether or not you’d enjoy this novel. It’s silly, it’s over the top, the plot’s a little thin, and of course I loved every page of it.
The pulp cover is pretty good, too, and actually depicts a scene from the story. The blonde is plucky girl reporter Betty Dale, Secret Agent X’s sidekick and romantic interest, although like everybody else she doesn’t know his true identity. Overall in the series, Betty is a pretty good character. Sure, she gets captured by the bad guys and has to be rescued in nearly every story, but she’s also fairly competent at times and actually helps the Agent.
“Horror’s Handclasp” is one of the better Secret Agent X stories I’ve read, so if you’ve read and enjoyed other entries from the series, you should certainly give this one a try, too.