The Twister by Edgar Wallace
Created: Sat Mar 20 14:45:19 2010 | Last modified: Sat Mar 20 14:45:19 2010
"The Twister" is one of Edgar Wallace's stranger novels. It's not exactly a mystery, but more of a crime thriller involving the stock market, shares, horse racing and wealthy financiers. The character of the title is one Anthony Braid, a man with an unsavoury reputation within a certain crowd but is nevertheless one of the most respectable millionaires in the City. A race-horse owner, his main source of fortune is the stock market, particularly the diamond market. Unfortunately for his enemies, his peculiar brand of honesty leaves them baffled: he always tells the truth as it is, which is the ultimate twist.
The story goes like this: Lord Frensham is a nobleman whose fortunes are tied up with Lulunga Oils, a company he has virtually invested his life savings on. His nephew, Julian Reef is an unprincipled gambler on the stock market and his partner is a repulsive Dutchman with a scandalous past. Together the two of them are involved in various schemes to get rich quick and in the process abuse Lord Frensham's misplaced trust in them for their own ends. Unfortunately for Lord Frensham, he suspects Anthony Braid, not Julian Reef, of manipulating the Lulunga share price and leading to his ruin. The results are disastrous. Lord Frensham is found dead in his office late one evening and the verdict is "suicide in a state of unsound mind." Anthony Braid is not happy; neither is Inspector Elk of Scotland Yard - a languid man wih peculiar mannerisms and unconventional views, but extremely astute nonetheless. After her father's death, Lady Ursula Frensham is in a precarious position financially, but a series of fortunate circumstances leave her with plenty of money to secure her future after Lulunga Oil shares appreciate sharply in value in the market. Subsequently Julian Reef's own fortunes take a down-turn. Nonetheless, he continues playing with shady ideas to become rich and places his entire future in the hands of the scientific Dutchman, Mr. Rex Guelder, who claims to have invented a machine to create pure white diamonds from tinted ones of far lesser value. What happens as a result of this experiment leads to the dramatic finale. I won't reveal the plot further, but it's a sufficiently complex story which leads to thrilling action in the climax. The battle of wits between the suave, sophisticated Anthony Braid and the unscrupulous Julian Reef make up most of the story. Along the way, inspector Elk - seemingly disinterested in his duties and bored with life - quietly investigates the circumstances leading to Lord Frensham's death.
Edgar Wallace's narration is almost leisurely at times and not what one would expect of a crime novel, but that's what one would expect of a British writer of the early 20th Century. It's oozes of the era of the past and the atmosphere is sufficiently built up as the action moves swiftly between London and the counties; between race-courses and City offices; between the bright sunshine of Hampshire to dank, dark nights on the river Thames. I would rate it 3/5 because it is quite long-winded at times and the battle of share markets might not appeal to the modern detective fiction fan. The final pages provide a fitting climax, though, and makes up for the rest of the story.