Thursday, December 22, 2011

When all else fails, hit ‘em with a stove.

Read/Watch ‘em in order: Entry #8

Well, the Shadow has taken care of three fingers of the loosely knit criminal organization known as the Hand. He’s taken out blackmailers in New York City, a murder-for-hire gang in Philadelphia, and an insurance racket in Chicago.

Now the cloaked crime fighter takes to the high seas to fight modern day piracy. This all happens in "Crime Rides the High Seas," from the January 15, 1939 issue of The Shadow Magazine.

And this makes for a fun and unique setting. Nearly all the action this time around takes place at sea. First, there’s an attempt by the villains to scuttle a freighter carrying a shipment of gold. Then the Shadow infiltrates the pirate’s headquarters aboard a yacht. Then the Shadow’s top agents get some well-deserved time in the spotlight as they “join” a gang of thugs aboard a fast lugger, intent on spoiling a plan to attack a salvage ship.

Writer Walter Gibson provides a strong and logical plot centered around some of his best-ever action scenes. Especially noteworthy is the Shadow’s battle aboard the yacht, outnumbered by a gang of thugs until some of the honest crewmen spontaneously join with him.

And the Shadow’s agents—always presented as capable men in the best Shadow novels—really outdo themselves this time. On their own amidst a large gang of cutthroat killers, five of the Shadow’s best guys have to take sudden and dangerous action to save innocent lives. It’s a collective Crowning Moment of Awesome for Harry Vincent, Cliff Marsland, Hawkeye, Tapper and Jericho Druke.

I always appreciate the brawling Jericho’s all-too-infrequent appearances in the Shadow novels. He’s really a fun character and he really shines this time around, saving a fellow agent’s life on two occasions (once by throwing a STOVE at a pair of thugs) and joining in a blazing gun battle armed with nothing but a pair of frying pans. 

The story moves back ashore for the climax, which involves several bizarre plot twists (one of which was probably telegraphed a little too heavily in advance) and wraps up with yet another crime boss who comes to the erroneous and fatal conclusion that shooting it out with the Shadow is a good idea.

The Hand novels continue to get better with each installment. But there’s still one Finger left in the evil organization. So the Shadow will soon be travelling south to Virginia and the Carolinas to break up a vicious kidnapping ring.

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