(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Bruce Graeme created not only conventionally moral protagonists—detectives, private investigators, and high-minded amateur sleuths—but also a lovable thief who leads police on many merry chases. The criminal Blackshirt is every bit as calculating, original, and clever as Detective Sergeant Robert Mather and amateur sleuth Theodore I. Terhune, other Graeme characters. Blackshirt, though a thoroughgoing wrongdoer, excites readers’ sympathy because of his good-natured mode of operation. His exploits were followed avidly for five decades by mystery lovers in Great Britain and elsewhere, as the series was continued by Graeme’s son, the prolific mystery writer Roderic Jeffries, who used the pen name Roderic Graeme for his Blackshirt books.

Graeme’s tales tend to have a certain air of unreality about them, with their farcical situations and bizarre characters. At times, too, his plots rely excessively on outrageous coincidence. Still, in the main, his English and Continental settings are convincingly portrayed, his characters are realistic, and his plots are plausible.