Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bat Wing by Sax Rohmer

Original Publication Date: 1921

Genre: Mystery

Topics: voodoo, Cuba, colonialism, Edgar Allan Poe, Sherlock Holmesesque 


Paul Harley is asked to solve a mystery. Colonel Menendez, a Spanish plantation owner, believes that a curse has followed him from Cuba. Someone has nailed a bat wing to the door of his new home in Surrey. This seems like a ridiculous prank to Harley but Menendez insists that this is a warning from the followers of voodoo who are out to get him. Harley and friend take a fishing holiday out to Surrey to investigate this mystery and hopefully prevent a murder.

The Good

This is a really well drawn out story with an interesting plot and a twisty ending. Plus, there is an Edgar Allan Poe lookalike in this book! Also, don’t you think Sax Rohmer is a most excellent nom de plume? He sounds like a super villain.

The Bad

Some of the dialogue is clunky. People exclaim, “What?!” quite often. There’s also a local policeman who has his head up his butt. He’s a pompous old fool who says, “Oh I see!” every five seconds. That was all over the top.

The Ugly

This is the book that prompted the discussion with Aarti and Tasha about racism. It’s bad. At one point, a character pretty much says that you can’t trust black people because there is a possibility that they are practicing voodoo on you. Harley wants to know if there are any black people in the area, “just in case.” Then there is the Chinese servant of the neighbour who is devoted to the mistress of the house. He’s done some heroic things in her honour but the author makes him out to be “dull” and not with it.

With the exception of the cringe worthy stereotyping and the ridiculous policeman, the rest of the book is entertaining.

This was a LibriVox recording by Mark Nelson. Nelson is a big deal in the sci-fi narration business and quite popular on LibriVox. He has this accentless American voice that made me think I previously heard him trying to sell me cholesterol medication. But he’s actually very good and his foreign accents are fantastic. The only thing that makes me ponder is some of the characters are British but he doesn’t give them accents when they speak. I wonder why he chose to do this?