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Sax Rohmer – The Hand of Fu Manchu

Sax Rohmer – The Hand of Fu Manchu
Review By: David Stonehouse
Titan £7.99

Titan continue their plan to release all of Sax Rohmer’s original Fu Manchu stories with this third instalment; The Hand of Fu Manchu. Readers who are up to date with the adventures so far will remember that at the close of the last book Fu Manchu appeared to have been killed by a gunshot to the head. However, when our hapless heroes, Smith and Petrie, return to London, strange and terrible plots are afoot. It is clear that the threat of the Yellow Peril hasn’t abated in the least and agents of the evil Si-Fan organisation are carrying on their wicked antics where the Doctor left off. Even so, the mysteries have a distinctly Fu Manchu flavour about them. Yes, you’ve guessed it – Doctor Fu Manchu wasn’t really dead at all!!!!

Nothing much has changed. The adventures are presented in brief short chapter episodes. It’s still amusingly badly written and hysteria, hyperbole and exclamation marks abound. The mysteries continue to be as cheerfully mad as a box of frogs without ever being very taxing on the grey stuff. As heroes Smith and Petrie remain as useless as ever – in this instalment they spend as much time being drugged or kidnapped as they do investigating things – but there is something winningly endearing about the way they shamble about leaving total chaos in their wake. You can guarantee that anyone they talk to for more than five minutes will die an untimely and spectacular death within a couple of pages.

The atrocities committed by Fu Manchu are no less inventive than before. We get booby trapped safes, female assassins, deadly animals and crazed hypnotists to name but a few. This time round he has more accomplices, notably the aforementioned lady assassin, Zarmi, but there are plenty of others. The rule of thumb here is that anyone foreign is up to no good. There’s an added subplot in the plight of the beautiful Karamaneh who’s had a peppered history in the books so far. At first she was an ambiguous figure who may or may not have been an ally. As soon as it was clear she was on our heroes’ side she got kidnapped, drugged, lost her memory and turned evil. At the beginning of this book she’s back to her right senses and Petrie is very much in love with her. The only trouble is that Fu Manchu has her back in his evil yellow clutches. Will Petrie ever be reunited with his lost love? Well, that would be telling.
So, what do we need to know about The Hand of Fu Manchu? Basically, this is just more of the same. If you liked the first two books you’ll like this. If you weren’t very keen there is nothing at all here to change your mind. For me it remains a guilty pleasure which is absolutely ridiculous but fun enough to entertain for a few hours. There are still lots more of these to come but I hope there are changes to the formula on the way because, if not, the novelty of Fu Manchu will start to wear off pretty quickly.
David Stonehouse

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