An ex-cracksman turned Scotland Yard detective, Cleek's slim and faultlessly dressed form is topped by an india-rubber-like face, of which he has remarkable control. With the power to distort and transform his visage and mimic any mannerism he desires, Cleek (with the assistance of his cockney assistant "Dollops") makes a super natural detective! Published in the U.S. in 1918 as Cleek, the Master Detective.
ive he'd a made, wouldn't he, if he'd only a-turned his attention that way, and been on the side of the law instead of against it? He walked in bold as brass, sat down, and talked with the superintendent over some cock-and-bull yarn about a 'Black Hand' letter that he said had been sent to him, and asked if he couldn't have police protection whilst he was in town. It wasn't until after he'd left that the super he sees a note on the chair where the blighter had been sitting, and when he opened it, there it was in black and white, something like this:
"'The list of presents that have been sent for the wedding to-morrow of Sir Horace Wyvern's eldest daughter make interesting reading, particularly that part which describes the jewels sent--no doubt as a tribute to her father's position as the greatest brain specialist in the world--from the Austrian Court and the Continental principalities. The care of such gems is too great a responsibility for the bride. I propose, therefore, to relieve her of it to-nigh
There are two points on which a bit of suspension of disbelief are needed in reading the Cleek series. Firstly, as the blurb above says, Cleek is able to transform his appearance just by contorting his face - no wigs, makeup, masks or other contrivances required - apparently due to his mother playing with a rubber toy during her pregnancy. How exactly this also adjusts his height and build isn’t explained. Secondly, despite his sobriquet of ‘Hamilton Cleek’ being widely publicised during his criminal days, practically no-one seems to make the connection on the occasions when he uses the same name after he turns to the side of law and order.
Ignore those two implausibilities, and this book is actually quite a good collection of detective stories - consisting of individual cases, but told as a fairly continuous narrative, held together by the underlying thread of Cleek’s efforts to redeem himself and thus gain the affection of the woman with whom he has fallen in love. There is also another underlying thread concerning Cleek’s erstwhile accomplice, Margot, and her present accomplice, Merode, as Cleek occasionally finds himself foiling their plans. The author plays fair for the most part - the reader is given enough information to solve the case as well, although there are a couple in which essential facts are withheld. All in all, a good read, and I look forward to reading the other books in the series.
2013 SFR GALAXY AWARD WINNER
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