Friday, August 4, 2017

Your Turn, Mr. Moto: Review

Your Turn, Mr. Moto (1935) is the first story in John P. Marquand's mystery thriller series starring Japan's number one secret agent, Mr. Moto. The only's not really Mr. Moto's story. Yes, he is a vital character, but the real protagonist of this early spy thriller is World War I flying ace Casey Lee. At the beginning of the story, Lee is a bit disenchanted with rhis American homeland. When he first came home from the war, he was feted and paraded and generally fawned over. But when the crowds of grateful Americans longing to hear his tales of bravery in the face of the enemy dwindled, he found that he missed the life of danger and adrenaline which accompanies combat. He then spent time as a stunt flyer and giving testimonials for various products. Which brings us to Tokyo, Japan.

A large tobacco firm offered him the chance to make a flight from Tokyo to the United States with plane and expenses provided. But the longer Lee waited for the the plane to arrive and the publicity machine to get rolling, the more he spent on drink and the louder he proclaimed his disgust for the good ol' U S of A. One night he gets word that the tobacco company has changed its mind about the flight and plans to offer him passage home and nothing else. He gets himself particularly well-lubricated, makes a bigger spectacle of himself than usual, and wakes up to find Mr. Moto attentively waiting up on him in his room. Moto asks him if he truly meant his declarations of the night before--when he declared he was through with America and tore up his passport.

Before Casey knows it, he has pledged himself to Moto's service and gotten himself involved with a beautiful White Russian refugee. They're all after top secret plans that Moto is afraid have fallen into the wrong hands. He, the Russian Sonya, and Moto set sail on a ship bound for Shanghai. Once there, Casey is meant to mix with his countrymen and see if he can discover whether the Americans have the plans. But getting to Shanghai will be a difficult task all on its own. A mysterious man comes into his cabin at night with strange messages. Then the mysterious man is killed. Everyone assumes that Casey has been given the plans and there are those who are willing to kill him for the information. It doesn't help that Casey falls in love with Sonya...even though he's not sure that he can trust her. He'll have to decide soon. Because his own fate and the fate of several nations' naval forces may depend on it.

This is a fairly entertaining spy novel that gives a very good sense of East Asia during the years between the world wars and it provides a fairly complicated look at the Japanese of the time period. Mr. Moto is a spymaster and, in some ways, a bad guy--but he is no stereotypical Fu Manchu and he is a very honorable man. When faced with the resolution which Casey provides, he accepts it and honors his bargain with the American. Were he the typical Asian villain from the time period, he would be threatening all sorts of revenge at being thwarted. 

Casey changes from the dissolute man of the opening chapters to the brave hero of World War I fame. He finds the answers to Mr. Moto's dilemma, fashions his own solution to what to do about the plans, foils a villain more dangerous than Moto....and manages to get the girl in the end. A pretty satisfactory bit of light espionage entertainment. ★★

[Finished 7/25/17]

This fulfills the "Hat" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have only ever seen the movie versions, which I really like (most of the best of them were written by Philip MacDonald in fact) - glad to hear the books are still fun. Marquand seems like a truly forgotten author these days. Thanks Bev :)