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The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu
(previously titled: "The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu" in US)
Sax Rohmer

Titan Books
February 14, 2012 / 978-0857686039
Action/Adventure / Period Piece, Late Victorian London (~1910)

Reviewed by Beth E. McKenzie

I initially approached this book with a modicum of awe. The stories that make up the Mystery of Fu-Manchu are 100 years old. Think of it! One-hundred years old and there is a fresh audience open and waiting for what will seem to be a new set of adventures to secure the freedom and well-being of the peoples of the world!

When I was part way through, I was thoroughly enjoying myself, but I was less in awe. The books follow what we have come to recognize as the Holmes/Watson pattern; a driven savant (Commissioner Denis Nayland Smith) paired with a somewhat unpretentious medical man (Dr.[no-first-name] Petrie) who is consumed by the antics of his friend and the need to record their joint exploits. My change in attitude was not based on disappointment, but by the realization that many of my favorites are over 100 years old: Tom Sawyer, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, White Fang, The Phantom of the Opera, Riders of the Purple Sage and, of course, Sherlock Holmes only start the list.

The work portrays Dr. Fu-Manchu, his dacoits and thugs as the heartless yellow threat that plans to destroy the English infrastructure and subjugate her citizens. The story takes us to turn-of-the-century Limehouse, a neighborhood in London with a reputation for the criminal element where the Devil Doctor directs his minions from an opium den. As a period piece it reflects world events and attitudes discussed in a feature by Victorian scholar Leslie Klinger; negatively stereotypical in our current world, but curiously relevant as a reflection on history. The timing of this release is interesting if the yellow peril is considered a metaphor for the current dearth of production jobs leaving the US and going to Chinese factories. It will be interesting to see how we deal with our own yellow threat and whether a modern Nayland Smith will race to protect the unaware and secure the freedom and well-being of the US economy.

Reviews of other titles in this series

The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu
Emperor Fu-Manchu

Reviewed 2012