A Debt Discharged by Edgar Wallace
Created: Wed Jul 20 10:15:29 2011 | Last modified: Wed Jul 20 10:17:43 2011
Most of Edgar Wallace's crime thrillers usually adhere to a pattern. But there are variants. Sometimes, the villain's identity is revealed halfway through the book. Sometimes, there is a shadowy character whose identity comes as a surprise towards the end of the book. But most commonly, there is an attractive lady who is the main draw of the story and around whom a mystery centres. "A Debt Discharged" is not unlike most of Edgar Wallace's crime thrillers, but it still has an attractive and old-world charm.
The plot can be simply summarized as follows: an amateur American investigator, Wentworth Gold loosely attached to the American embassy in Britain, is on the trail of a gang of forgers and there are a few suspects, but no evidence to bring any of them to book. A long time ago, there was a kind of "Crime Club" in France, whose members were rowdy students with anarchist tendencies and who indulged in what amounted to little more than mischevous pranks. But two members of this club had actually perpetrated a serious forgery which resulted in their flight from justice. A chronic drunkard, by name Tom Maple is exceptionally talented at engraving banknotes and who has an especially attractive niece in Verity Maple. Comstock Bell has a secret from his past that is torturing his soul and Mr. Helder is a strange and slimy character who has a weakness for pretty faces from the opposite sex and whose occupation is a cause of concern to Mr. Wentworth Gold. How these characters come together and the reasons for Comstock Bell's mysterious marriage to Verity Maple and subsequent disappearance is what forms the "thriller" part of the novel.
This is a slow paced novel and takes time to build up, but Edgar Wallace fans will find it familiarly reassuring. Of course, the initial plot complexity can put off some readers, but the novel itself is very readable and straightforward. The characters are not too well-developed or complex, in keeping with Edgar Wallace's tradition of focussing on the plot, and once you recognize the flow of the story, it is easy to read and enjoy. Not unlike another similar novel based on a gang of forgers, "The Forger" by the same author. Recommended for Edgar Wallace fans and fans of old-time, classic crime thrillers. I rate it 7/10.