In Craig Kennedy the American nation might justifiably lay claim to their own Sherlock Holmes, for here is a detective whose activities projected him into the modern age. Where Conan Doyle’s famous character of a more gentle era relied on his superb powers of analysis, Kennedy is able to combine his own intellectual powers with the technological marvels of a new age. Arthur B. Reeve’s classic ‘Craig Kennedy’ stories began appearing in 1910, ensuring him of a place as a dominant crime fighter for the emerging 20th century. Kennedy is perhaps the natural evolution of the ‘great detective’ and the reader cannot but imagine that Holmes would have embraced his newly created techniques with equal enthusiasm. Here the reader will discover the application of lie detectors, gyroscopes, seismographs and an arsenal of other equipment, both real and imagined, to the solving of crimes and the bringing of criminals to justice.
This special Leonaur collection of the ‘scientific’ detective of Columbia University comprises seven substantial volumes, each in a colour coordinated cover. Leonaur hard backs are cloth bound, have fabric head and tail bands and feature gold foil lettering on their spines, so this may be the ideal way to collect and own the marvellous Craig Kennedy detective story series.
In the first volume, the reader will find two complete books of intriguing detective stories to enjoy—The Poisoned Pen and The Silent Bullet, both originally published in 1912. Within its pages enthusiasts can puzzle over many a dastardly crime and, of course, an equal number of brilliantly deduced solutions.
“How was the body discovered?” asked Craig at length, looking up at McBride quickly. <br>
“Day before yesterday madame’s maid went to the cashier,” repeated the detective slowly as if rehearsing the case as much for his own information as ours, “and said that Madame had asked her to say to him that she was going away for a few days and that under no circumstances was her room to be disturbed in her absence. The maid was commissioned to pay the bill, not only for the time they had been here, but also for the remainder of the week, when Madame would most likely return, if not earlier. The bill was made out and paid.<br>
“Since then only the chambermaid has entered this suite. The key to that closet over in the corner was gone, and it might have hidden its secret until the end of the week or perhaps a day or two longer, if the chambermaid hadn’t been a bit curious. She hunted till she found another key that fitted, and opened the closet door, apparently to see what Madame had been so particular to lock up in her absence. There lay the body of Madame, fully dressed, wedged into the narrow space and huddled up in a corner. The chambermaid screamed and the secret was out.”<br>
“And Madame de Nevers’s maid? What has become of her?” asked Kennedy eagerly.
“She has disappeared,” replied McBride. “From the moment when the bill was paid no one about the hotel has seen her.”<br>
“But you have a pretty good description of her, one that you could send out in order to find her if necessary?”<br>
“Yes, I think I could give a pretty good description.”<br>
Kennedy’s eye encountered the curious gaze of McBride. “This may prove to be a most unusual case,” he remarked in answer to the implied inquiry of the detective. “I suppose you have heard of the endormeurs of Paris?”<br>
McBride shook his head in the negative.<br>
“It is a French word signifying a person who puts another to sleep, the sleep makers,” explained Kennedy. “They are the latest scientific school of criminals who use the most potent, quickest-acting stupefying drugs. Some of their exploits surpass anything hitherto even imagined by the European police. The American police have been officially warned of the existence of the endormeurs and full descriptions of their methods and photographs of their paraphernalia have been sent over here.<br>
“There is nothing in their repertoire so crude as chloral or knock-out drops. All the derivatives of opium such as morphine, codeine, heroine, dionine, narceine, and narcotine, to say nothing of bromure d’etyle, bromoform, nitrite d’amyle, and amyline are known to be utilised by the endormeurs to put their victims to sleep, and the skill which they have acquired in the use of these powerful drugs establishes them as one of the most dangerous groups of criminals in existence. The men are all of superior intelligence and daring; the chief requisite of the women is extreme beauty as well as unscrupulousness.
“They will take a little thin glass ball of one of these liquids, for instance, hold it in a pocket handkerchief, crush it, shove it under the nose of their victim, and—whiff!—the victim is unconscious. But ordinarily the endormeur does not kill. He is usually satisfied to stupefy, rob, and then leave his victim. There is something more to this case than a mere suicide or murder, McBride. Of course she may have committed suicide with the drugs of the endormeurs; then again she may merely have been rendered unconscious by those drugs and some other poison may have been administered. Depend on it, there is something more back of this affair than appears on the surface. Even as far as I have gone I do not hesitate to say that we have run across the work of one or perhaps a band of the most up-to-date and scientific criminals.”<br>
Kennedy had scarcely finished when McBride brought his right fist down with a resounding smack into the palm of his left hand.<br>
“Say,” he cried in great excitement, “here’s another thing which may or may not have some connection with the case. The evening after Madame arrived, I happened to be walking through the café, where I saw a face that looked familiar to me. It was that of a dark-haired, olive-skinned man, a fascinating face, but a face to be afraid of. I remembered him, I thought, from my police experience, as a notorious crook who had not been seen in New York for years, a man who in the old days used to gamble with death in South American revolutions, a soldier of fortune.<br>
“Well, I gave the waiter, Charley, the wink and he met me in the rear of the café, around a corner. You know we have a regular system in the hotel by which I can turn all the help into amateur sleuths. I told him to be very careful about the dark-faced man and the younger man who was with him, to be particular to wait on them well, and to pick up any scraps of conversation he could.<br>
“Charley knows his business, and the barest perceptible sign from me makes him an obsequious waiter. Of course the dark man didn’t notice it at the time, but if he had been more observant he would have seen that three times during his chat with his companion Charley had wiped off his table with lingering hand. Twice he had put fresh seltzer in his drink. Like a good waiter always working for a big tip he had hovered near, his face blank and his eyes unobservant. But that waiter was an important link in my chain of protection of the hotel against crooks. He was there to listen and to tip me off, which he did between orders.<br>
“There wasn’t much that he overheard, but what there was of it was so suspicious that I did not hesitate to conclude that the fellow was an undesirable guest. It was something about the Panama Canal, and a coaling station of a steamship and fruit concern on the shore of one of the Latin American countries. It was, he said, in reality to be the coaling station of a certain European power which he did not name but which the younger man seemed to understand. They talked of wharves and tracts of land, of sovereignty and blue prints, the Monroe Doctrine, value in case of war, and a lot of other things. Then they talked of money, and though Charley was most assiduous at the time all he overheard was something about ‘ten thousand francs’ and ‘buying her off,’ and finally a whispered confidence of which he caught the words, ‘just a blind to get her over here, away from Paris.’ Finally the dark man in an apparent burst of confidence said something about ‘the other plans being the real thing after all,’ and that the whole affair would bring him in fifty thousand francs, with which he could afford to be liberal. Charley could get no inkling about what that other thing was.<br>
“But I felt sure that he had heard enough to warrant the belief that some kind of confidence game was being discussed. To tell the truth I didn’t care much what it was, at the time. It might have been an attempt of the dark-visaged fellow to sell the Canal to a come-on. What I wanted was to have it known that the Vanderveer was not to be a resort of such gentry as this. But I’m afraid it was much more serious than I thought at the time.<br>
“Well, the dark man finally excused himself and sauntered into the lobby and up to the desk, with me after him around the opposite way. He was looking over the day’s arrivals on the register when I concluded that it was about time to do something. I was standing directly beside him lighting a cigar. I turned quickly on him and deliberately trod on the man’s patent leather shoe. He faced me furiously at not getting any apology. ‘Sacre,’ he exclaimed, ‘what the—’ But before he could finish I moved still closer and pinched his elbow. A dull red glow of suppressed anger spread over his face, but he cut his words short. He knew and I knew he knew. That is the sign in the continental hotels when they find a crook and quietly ask him to move on. The man turned on his heel and stalked out of the hotel. By and by the young man in the café, considerably annoyed at the sudden inattention of the waiter who acted as if he wasn’t satisfied with his tip, strolled through the lobby and not seeing his dark-skinned friend, also disappeared. I wish to heaven I had had them shadowed. The young fellow wasn’t a come-on at all. There was something afoot between these two, mark my words.”<br>