Edgar Wallace: The Four Just Men

The Four Just Men
Edgar Wallace
First published 1906
This edition 20o1, House of Stratus
ISBN: 9781842326831
120 pages
Score: 2/5

Incredibly, Edgar Wallace wrote over 170 books in the early part of the last century. More than 50 of them are available from the publisher House of StratusThe Four Just Men just scrapes into the CWA top 100.

Gonsalez, Poiccart, Manfred and Thery are the Four Just Men, an implacable and seemingly omnipotent cabal of principled assassins who kill in the name of ending injustice. This time around, their target is Sir Philip Ramon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who is passing a Bill that will allow the Spanish government to extradite certain political prisoners. He is given a choice (written in the ‘flourishing effeminate handwriting of the Latin races’): Withdraw the Bill or die.

Essentially this is a reverse locked-room mystery, with the Just Men’s plan only revealed in the final chapter: a how-will-they-have-done-it. However, unlike The Day of the Jackal, say, we don’t get to see enough of the mechanics of their art to build respect for their skills. They simply seem to know everything and be able to achieve anything they like.

This is a short book, but to be honest it reads as a curiosity rather than a classic. I think there are better ways to spend a couple of hours. Wallace’s low profile today – despite apparently being filmed more than any other author – is a reflection of how dated his work seems.

Having said that, he does write with a certain ironic wit:

‘To all students of criminology and physiognomy, Thery must need no introduction…  You may, if you are inquisitive, and have the necessary permission, inspect his photograph taken in eighteen positions. There are also photographs of his ears.’

Final destination: Back to the library

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
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4 Responses to Edgar Wallace: The Four Just Men

  1. Les Blatt says:

    I still enjoy Wallace, I must admit – a kind of shameful pleasure, perhaps. But if you get a chance, try some of his J. G. Reeder stories – “The Mind of J. G. Reeder” for instance. Reeder, a policeman, insists rather apologetically, “I have a criminal mind.” Which he uses to foil and catch criminals (with much the same omnipotence, alas, as do The Four Just Men). You might want to try some other Wallaces – if you don’t look at them too closely for the logical disconnects, they can be great fun. My two cents, anyway.

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    • westwoodrich says:

      Thanks for the comment Les. I will look out for other Wallaces as I did find this an easy read. I should have mentioned in my review that I noticed on the House of Stratus website that there are more in the Four Just Men series.

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