Thursday, June 16, 2016
Diamonds of Death
Read/Watch 'em In Order #68
"Diamonds of Death" (Black Mask, August 1931) finds private eye Jo Gar in San Francisco. He's found six of the ten stolen diamonds, but his one remaining suspect managed to slip through customs without the remaining four being discovered.
Fortunately, a customs agent visits Jo Gar with new of where the suspect has holed up. Unfortunately, the customs agent isn't really a customs agent. Jo is being lured into a trap.
Jo Gar knows the agent was a fake and the supposed hide-out is a trap. But this is a chance to find the rest of the diamonds, catch the man responsible for so many murders and finally just get to go home. So he walks into the trap. (Though not without making some preparations first.)
This final story in the "Rainbow Diamonds" series is wonderful. Jo Gar's final confrontation with the chief bad guy is very, very tense and keeps the reader riveted to the story from start to finish. The serial has a whole is the high point in the career of an already great hard-boiled character, with this final chapter arguably the best of the lot.
It's interesting to compare this story with "Red Dawn"--the fourth story in the serial. I was a little critical of that one, because several elements of the story (the bad guy spouting off information for no good reason) seemed a little contrived. "Diamonds of Death" ends with a similar situation and once again has the villain conveniently explaining his actions, but somehow comes across as much more natural. I'm not even sure why--Raoul Whitfeld simply makes it work here.
There's another aspect of the story I love. Jo Gar arrives at the house he's been lured to by cab. Part of his preparations for foiling what he knows is a trap is to tell the cab driver to honk his horn at set intervals, then go for the police. The cab driver ups the ante by saying he packs a gun and is willing to come into the house after Jo Gar if necessary.
Gee whiz, all this for a fare he literally just met. You just don't get that kind of service nowadays. I blame Uber.
The next Read 'em in Order will be a look at the first of two Doc Savage novels in which the Man of Bronze battles a villain who may actually be as smart as he is.