Monday, April 2, 2012

The Golden Scorpion: Review

The Golden Scorpion by Sax Rohmer is one of many "Yellow Peril"-type adventure/mystery stories from the early 20th Century. Trading heavily on Western fears and the "mysteries of the Orient," super-villains from the East like Rohmer's Dr. Fu Manchu and the titular Scorpion of this story were presented as evil Chinese master criminals out to destroy Western Civilization. If you want your mysteries politically correct or sanitzed, then these stories are not for you. If you want a peek at the mind-set of the time period, then this will show you Western prejudices in full flower. It is obvious that Scotland Yard and the master detective from France (who have joined forces in this story) should look for the villain among the inhabitants of the Chinatown area of London. There is evil abroad--therefore it must be of Chinese origins. Any hint of the exotic is bad...and those hints point directly at China.

In this story, Dr. Koeppel Stuart first encounters The Scorpion many years ago in the East. He is crossing a bridge by rickshaw when suddenly the man pulling him along drops face down on the ground, exclaiming, "Hide your eyes! The Scorpion comes." Bewildered and indignant, Stuart refuses to avert his gaze and watches a forbidding figure with piercing eyes and a face covered by a green veil pass by. Now, back in England, events force him back in contact with the mysterious figure. Prominent scientific men are suddenly dying--apparently of natural causes--and Scotland Yard asks Stuart, an expert on little known poisons, to become involved and try to detect foul play. There is also a famous French detective on the trail--but before long it looks as though he too has fallen victim to the villain and his henchmen. Throw in a mysterious, beautiful woman who crosses Stuart's path--is she friend or foe? Will she reveal her secrets to him or betray him to The Scorpion? It all ends in a slam-bang finish in a mansion full of secret entrances and a death device never before seen by Western eyes.

This is a decent example of the genre. Exciting action, lots of secrets...very little character development, but with all that adventure you might not notice much. As long as you're prepared for the obvious racism inherent to the genre, then the story itself can be a nice escape. I enjoyed it for what it is and actually look forward to The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu by Rohmer (due up for another challenge or two). Three stars.


Debbie Rodgers said...

Sounds like lots of fun!

Sometimes I wonder what attitudes of our present society will be unacceptable a hundred years from now. Attitudes are always changing.

Ryan said...

I think I should read this one at some point in time.

For some reason I loved these type of stories as a kid, especially in the movies.

Bev Hankins said...

Ryan...they're fun. A little pulpy--but that's okay.

Debbie: It is fun. And, yes, one of these days people will look back at the late 20th and early 21st C writing and wonder what were we thinking....