The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer

Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green.

The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax RohmerThe Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu has all the weaknesses of the typical pulp stories of its era. It perpetuates racial and gender stereotypes, it relies too much on melodrama, and it overuses hyperbole. And yet, with all that, it still manages to entertain.

The two protagonists, Petrie and Nayland Smith, are out to save the world from the evil genius Dr. Fu-Manchu. Try as they might to stop him, Fu-Manchu always stays one step ahead, moving from one shady hideout to the next, unleashing horrible dangers upon helpless victims. Fortunately, the two heroes have the help of the alluring Karamaneh, woman of mystery.

Fans of the old pulp magazines like Doc Savage, The Shadow or Weird Tales will find much to enjoy in The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu. Readers with more modern tastes may find it offensive and hard to stomach.

As for me, despite its flaws, I loved its energy, its exotic flavor, and the way Rohmer brings the evil Fu-Manchu to life.

I read this book as part of several reading challenges this year, the main one being the Follow the Clues Mystery Challenge. Earlier this year I read The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux which had an introduction by Otto Penzler. That led me to The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu, which also has an introduction by Penzler. The Open Road Kindle edition has a clock on its cover, which is the clue to my next mystery, 4:50 from Paddington, which also has a timepiece on its cover.

The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer
First edition London: Methuen Publishing, 1913
Kindle edition Open Road, 2014
Print length: 148 pages

Deacon Nick

Nick Senger is a husband, a father of four, and a Catholic school teacher, vice principal and technology coordinator. He taught junior high literature and writing for over 25 years, and has been a Catholic school educator since 1990. In 2001 he was named a Distinguished Teacher of the Year by the National Catholic Education Association.

3 Responses

  1. NawfalAQ says:

    The obvious flaws of its time aside, I notice you still think better of the novel qua novel than I did. But I was curious about you thoughts on the energy of the novel. I felt it was rather stop-and-start; haltingly throughout the whole piece. Would you be inclined to read the second in the “Fu Manchu” series?

    • Deacon Nick says:

      Hi, NawfalAQ, thanks for the question. Yes, I would read the second novel, especially as a free Kindle edition. I can see what you mean by it feeling “stop-and-start.” I suppose that’s the result of it being a collection of stories that were published separately. The stops didn’t feel too jerky to me, though, they felt more like a short rest between bursts.

  2. Chelley Toy says:

    Brilliant start to February! Thanks for linking up to the British Books Challenge 🙂

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