Monday, March 25, 2024

Sexton Blake: The Green Jester - Donald Stuart

“The Green Jester”, a Sexton Blake novella by Donald Stuart, appeared originally in UNION JACK #1379, March 22, 1930, and was reprinted in the collection SEXTON BLAKE WINS, which is where I read it. It’s a very entertaining yarn in which a mysterious killer sends warning limericks to his intended victims on cards that bear a drawing of a sinister jester dressed in green. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take long for the press to dub this unknown murderer The Green Jester. The great detective Sexton Blake and his friend Inspector Coutts are soon on the case as well, trying to discover a connection between the seemingly unrelated victims. They’re almost in time to prevent one of the murders, arriving at the country estate of a retired doctor who has received one of the grim warnings, but The Green Jester has beaten them to the punch and has left behind more grisly handiwork. The chase isn’t over, though, as Blake continues trying to untangle this deadly scheme.

This is one of those proverbial ripping yarns, as Stuart keeps the story moving along at a fast pace with storms, midnight chases, and plenty of action. In his introductory comments, Jack Adrian, the editor of SEXTON BLAKE WINS, mentions that Donald Stuart was heavily influenced by the work of Edgar Wallace. Now, I’m very, very far from an expert on Wallace, having read exactly one of his novels, but even so, “The Green Jester” sounds like a Wallace title to me, so I’m sure Adrian is right. That just makes me want to read even more by Stuart, and Wallace, because I sure enjoyed this one.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is also one of the rare occasions where I was ahead of Blake on figuring out who The Green Jester was, although there was one angle I didn’t have nailed down. Still, I felt pretty good about my deductions.

The cover image above is from Mark Hodder’s invaluable website Blakiana. If you’re a Sexton Blake fan and haven’t visited there, you should check it out right away.

I’ve enjoyed every story so far in SEXTON BLAKE WINS. It’s a fine collection.


Chap O'Keefe said...

Donald Stuart was Gerald Verner (1897-1980). Most recently, heaps of his thrillers were reissued in Linford Mystery Library large-print editions by the Ulverscroft people.

James Reasoner said...

I've discovered that many of them are available as e-books, as well. Definitely going to be reading more by him.