The Scorpion by Douglas Carey

The ScorpionCarey, Douglas. The Scorpion, A Limehouse Mystery. Ottawa: Graphic Publications, 1931

Thirty years ago, while living in China, four men looted the Temple of the Buddha of Scorpions.  The gems that they made off with formed the base on which they later built their financial success.  That success took the form of a very profitable silver mine in Mexico.  Now the men have sold their interest in the mine, and as very wealth persons have returned to London for the first time in decades.  After just four months Richard Anthony, one of the partners, is found dead.  He has apparently been stung to death by a scorpion and his house has been ransacked.

Inspector Dalgleish of the CID is assigned to the case.  The Inspector is “an aggressive type of inquisitor, he was one of those who would welcome the introduction of third degree tactics into Scotland Yard.”  Very quickly he tracks down the remaining partners and bullies the story of their youthful indiscretions from them. For Kwong Heisu, high priest of the temple, vowed revenge on the looters.  Inspector Dalgleish is reluctant to believe that he would or even could be pursuing such a course after all these years.  The jewels have long been sold in any case, so there would be no reason to ransack poor old Anthony’s place.  Yet the three survivors are certain that Heisu has at last found them.

What the survivors do not tell Inspector Dalgleish is that the prize jewel of the collection, a ruby coloured diamond known as the Light of Buddha, was never sold.  The partners could never find someone willing to pay them what the gem was worth.  Unable to divide it’s wealth the partners held onto the gem.  Anthony was the one entrusted with its keeping and only he knew where it was stored.  Charles Brimmer, Samuel Norton and Clifford Beauchamp are terrified. These surviving partners hire a Mr. Spink, a detective, to pursue an investigation to find Kwong Heisu and protect the remaining partners.  He is told about the gem but is not permitted to tell the police about it.

Then another of the partners is killed and his lodgings ransacked.  Inspector Dalglish is throughly puzzled.  Spink is equally in the dark.  The killer, the Chinaman Kwong Heisu is able to move through London, in broad daylight and in the best of neighbourhoods with no one seeing or even noticing him.  There seems to be some other power, hidden deep in the shadows, also at work.  “No one but an Oriental could operate with such uncanny precision.  And even at that, it was incredible that the whole chain of circumstances could have been brought about by one hand, working alone.”  How can Heisu, a stranger to England, with no knowledge of London or friends be able to commit such crimes and not be seen or noticed by anyone?

This was a fun read, in the yellow peril vein.  The story moves along at a nice pace and ends with a nice twist.  I only had a problem with the treatment of Tompkins, Richard Anthony’s valet’s “suicide”.  Dalgleish keeps insisting that it was a suicide while, to the reader it seems anything but.  In the end, the reason for Inspector Dalgleish’s seemingly unreasonable assertion is explained.
I have not found out much about Douglas Carey.  Douglas Carey is a pseudonym of John Douglas Carey Dennis (1886-1949?) and was reported to be a Calgary schoolteacher. He was a Canadian and wrote at least one other book also published by Graphic: The Raven’s Feathers, 1930.

Graphic Publications was a short lived Ottawa publisher who attempted to establish a Canadian publishing house that published books only by Canadian authors.  Poor funding and bad timing (the depression intervened) lead to its demise in 1932.  Probably their most successful and famous title was the fictional biography by Frederick Philip Grove, A Search for America. Neither of Carey’s book have ever been reprinted.

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