Fu-Manchu - The Hand of Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer
|Fu-Manchu - The Hand of Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer|
|Genre: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: Sax Rohmer's third Fu-Manchu book is rather similar to the first two - but why change a winning formula? If you're not bothered by outdated attitudes and are looking for an exciting read which you won't want to put down, this series does the job better than most written in the century or so since its original publication.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: May 2012|
|Publisher: Titan Books|
Nayland Smith has summoned the loyal Dr Petrie back from Egypt to the familiar setting of London. The streets of the capital have seen much terror in the early 20th century, but with Fu-Manchu dead, surely the worst is over? Not so… for the agency of the Si-Fan, the doctor's masters, still lurk. Can Smith and Petrie put an end to their terror once and for all?
Firstly, it’s Sax Rohmer, it’s not remotely politically correct, read at your own risk, and all the usual warnings. (Having said that, I didn’t see as much racism towards the Chinese as in the previous two books, to be fair, unless I’m taking less notice of it. That said, I’d still warn readers that they need to these were written in a very different time with attitudes that reflect that.)
So, with that out of the way, is it any good? It’s still not winning any prizes for literary merit, but the huge saving grace of Rohmer is he throws so much stuff at you that it’s never anything less than massively entertaining. It takes less than 10 pages for the first death here, and we get to a point where there’s more action taking place off-page than there is overall in many novels, presumably because fitting it all in the actual narrative would have turned this into a brick of a book.
Of the action we do get to see, it’s the usual kind of thing. Deadly poisons, horrible death traps, beautiful women, and of course the Devil Doctor himself. (Apologies for the reveal that he’s still alive, but given he returned from the ‘dead’ in book two as well and there’s another 11 books to come then it’s hopefully not too great a spoiler.) Despite the repetition, it’s completely gripping, builds the characters well and actually has a more interesting ending than either of the first two, leaving me salivating over the thought of getting my hands on book four when it comes out.
One really interesting thing about the series as a whole, by the way, is the way the relationships between narrator Petrie, hero Smith and Fu Manchu are handled. For all the talk of villainous foreigners and their lack of honour, I think there’s been about half a dozen times in the first three books when they were potentially able to kill each other but didn’t because they’d given their word not to for various reasons. It’s an oddly charming aspect of the story – it’s hard to imagine many modern day heroes sticking to this, let alone the villains! That said, it’s surprisingly plausible in the way Rohmer has managed to develop the three characters.
Anything between a mild and really strong recommendation depending on personal tastes. I’m completely hooked on it as a series and if I got my hands on the remaining 11 today I’m pretty sure I’d finish them all within a fortnight! As always with these rereleases, special mention for the spellbinding cover – great work.
For more action from a similar period, I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - both the Holmes novels and the lesser-known classic The Complete Brigadier Gerard Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
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