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The Bride of Fu Manchu

BRIDEofFUAuthor: Sax Rohmer
Publisher: Titan Books £7.99 buynow1
Review By: David Stonehouse

Some of you may have been worried about Fu Manchu as I haven’t written anything about him for a while. Fear not, everyone’s favourite psychotic Oriental mentalist is back with another deranged scheme for the destruction of the Western infidels.
Like The Daughter of Fu Manchu, this is one self-contained novel length adventure, and a much more satisfying read than the episodic short stories of the early collections.

The action takes place in glamorous Ste Claire de la Roche in the French Riviera and, once again, Nayland Smith and Dr Petrie take a back seat. Our hero this time is Alan Sterling, an expert botanist recovering from a tropical illness with the help of our old friend Dr Petrie. We meet our man exploring a secluded beach where he meets an astonishingly beautiful and exotic girl called Fleurette, whose description will seem strangely familiar to fans of the series so far. Fleurette flirts with him briefly and then disappears, but it’s already too late because Sterling is head over heels.

When he returns to Dr Petrie he finds his friend in a very poorly state. He’s been infected by a deadly disease, but far worse is the shocking revelation that the illness has been created as a biological weapon. A terrible combination of sleeping sickness and plague has been mutated so that it can be carried by insects. This is a weapon which could wipe out millions if it was unleashed on an unprotected population. Fortunately, Petrie has created an antidote, Formula 654, and has administered it to himself. Nayland Smith arrives and tasks Sterling with guarding Petrie but despite his best efforts Fu Manchu’s evil wife, Fah Lo Suee, gets to them. The Doctor sinks into a coma and then dies without leaving a clue how to recreate 654. If that wasn’t bad enough, Sterling wakes from unconsciousness in a secret base in the evil clutches of Fu Manchu himself. All is not lost, though, because at least one member of Fu Manchu’s household seems to want to help him.

The Bride of Fu Manchu is a tightly plotted thriller rather than a mystery and it also adds a lot to the mythology of the series. Fu Manchu’s virtual immortality is explained and other obvious questions are answered. The most basic of these is: how on Earth can Fu Manchu keep pulling off his preposterous schemes? Well, now we know. He has a network of loyal societies and finance developed over hundreds, if not thousands, of years, backing his plots. When Sterling wakes up in Fu Manchu’s secret base he discovers that it is full of the greatest brains of the age, with expertise in every possible field. Fu Manchu has collected them all to steal their skills, faking their deaths and brainwashing them in his secret installations.

The written style is as gleefully over the top as ever, and the plot is taut and exciting, with plenty of twists and surprises before the end. In a lot of ways it feels like a very modern story with its focus on biological terrorism, and the finale is satisfyingly huge and cinematic in scale. It’s all good, bonkers stuff. More please!

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