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The Traitor's Gate by Edgar Wallace

Created: Tue Mar 23 12:11:48 2010 | Last modified: Tue Mar 23 12:11:48 2010

Rating: ********--

The Traitor's Gate

Consider these elements in a crime thriller: a highly respectable regimental officer in love with a lady who doesn't have any idea of her past or family; his disreputable brother who has a criminal record and is apparently contemplating mischief; a mad Oriental Prince with designs on the Empire's Crown Jewels and a certain beautiful lady whom he plans to cart off to his harem in his kingdom and who is assisted in his mad enterprise by a devious, dishonourable mercenary with no conscience; a master-mind criminal who turns out not to be quite who is ultimately; and a shrewd woman detective who works for the police and who uses her sixth sense to an almost uncanny extent to smell out trouble.

With all these thrown in to the mix, Edgar Wallace has weaved out a fantasy tale that resembles a crime thriller but is much more of an adventure novel with elements of mystery thrown in. It's hard to classify "The Traitor's Gate", but be assured that once you get gripped in by the action, you'll read it in one stretch. The first half, in typical Edgar Wallace style is slow paced and takes a round-about way to establish the scenario and the characters of the main plot, but if you can follow the leads thrown in by the author, you will be rewarded for your persistence.

Unlike most Edgar Wallace mysteries, this one has no police officer hero and the story is told from the point of view of an omniscient narrator who frequently shifts focus from one character to another. This can, at times, be disconcerting to a reader used to linear narration. Nevertheless, once you get used to the narrative style, you'll be less bothered about it and more interested in the way the story moves forward. It takes at least 60 to 70 pages for the action to pick up, but once it does, it rushes headlong into the climax. Another problem with this novel is the pacing. While there are several chapters devoted to little or no action, much of the climax is disposed off in a few pages in the last couple of chapters. The ending is satisfactory, but something of Edgar Wallace's usual magic is missing here. And you do detect a few loose ends in this story which are unsatisfactory to somebody who loves a tidy finish. The characters themselves, in typical Edgar Wallace style, are mere caricatures with different names and Wallace doesn't waste too much sympathy on them. If you've read other Edgar Wallace novels, you would recognize his usual stereotypes here as well. You also detect a touch of racism in Edgar Wallace's portrayal of people not of Caucasian origin.

All in all, I rate this 4/5. It's highly readable, but loses a point for being too roundabout. The reader needs to willingly suspend disbelief to swallow some of the plot elements but it's entertaining for what it is.