Sax Rohmer’s Daughter of Fu Manchu was originally serialized as Fu Manchu’s Daughter in twelve weekly installments of Collier’s from March 8 to May 24, 1930. It was published in book form the following year by Cassell in the UK and Doubleday in the US. Rohmer divides the novel into four sections, comprising three chapters each. This week, we examine the fourth and final installment.
The novel’s finale gets underway at a breakneck pace. Sir Lionel Barton has retreated to Abbots Hold, his estate in the English countryside. Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Police Superintendant Weymouth are there to oversee Sir Lionel’s safety as well as that of his right hand man, Shan Greville, and Sir Lionel’s niece (and Greville’s fiancée), Rima. Dr. Petrie and his wife, Kara are delayed while both Shan and Rima are ill-at-ease locked up in Sir Lionel’s ancient and mysterious home with his requisite menagerie of exotic wildlife (including his pet cheetah).
Rima is rattled by the legends that Abbots Hold is haunted and is convinced she has glimpsed a ghostly cowled figure the night before. Both she and Shan are troubled by the gypsies who have camped just on the border of the estate. Her uncle’s many oriental curios (such as the lacquered cabinet in the sitting room) are also weighing heavily on Rima. She tries losing herself in a book, but is bothered by the musty smell of the house and resorts to spraying the room with perfume. That night, Shan is unable to sleep, convinced the tapping he hears is Morse code. Investigating, he spies the ghostly cowled figure of a monk from the East Tower signaling to a figure in Sir Lionel’s room. Attempting to intercept the figure, he stumbles upon Sir Denis, who is forced to take him in his confidence. Smith reveals he disguised himself as the ghostly monk and that he was communicating with Weymouth via Morse code. Neither man trusted Sir Lionel or Greville because they had previously been hypnotized by Fah lo Suee and Smith believes Fu Manchu’s daughter has infiltrated Abbots Hold. Sir Denis startles Greville by stating that now Rima can no longer be trusted as well.
Smith employs Shan as a guard to watch Rima’s room and Sir Denis’, but cautions him to stay silent and remain hidden. Greville watches Smith retire to his room. The minutes pass like hours and Rohmer builds suspense well, drawing upon his many previous haunted house tales for effective atmosphere and a potent sense of foreboding and creeping dread. Finally, an amazed Greville watches his fiancée emerge from her room and enter Smith’s room. Startled, he watches from the window and sees her spray her perfume at what he believes to be Smith’s head resting on his pillow. Rima then returns to her room and Greville watches through her window as she rinses out the perfume bottle at the sink before returning to bed.
Puzzled by these strange happenings, he is shocked to discover Sir Denis at his side. Smith leads him inside his apartment and lets him smell the pillow that Rima sprayed. Her perfume smells suspiciously like hashish! Sir Denis informs him that the gypsies outside the estate are, in fact, Fah lo Suee and several dacoits in disguise. Rima has been hypnotized by Fah lo Suee to act as their agent in removing Sir Denis. Thanks to the vigilance of Smith and Weymouth, they have failed in their aim.
Rohmer cheats slightly in having Weymouth casually mention for the reader’s benefit that Nayland Smith lost track of Dr. Fu Manchu after having spotted him in Paris. The reason for this sloppy continuity error quickly becomes apparent once Greville takes a phone call from Petrie’s mysterious colleague, Dr. Amber, who had provided the antidote to the paralysis drug with which Petrie revived Greville. Dr. Amber pleads with Greville to come to his hotel room without delay as Nayland Smith’s life is at stake. Foolishly, Greville hurries off and finds himself face-to-face with the Chinese surgeon who treated him in Limehouse when he was Fah lo Suee’s captive.
Dr. Amber is really Li King Su, an old associate of Dr. Fu Manchu who longtime readers will recall. He successfully infiltrated Fah lo Suee and Ki-Ming’s revived Council of Seven for the purpose of gathering intelligence for his master. He offers proof that Dr. Fu Manchu has been acting to aid them because, for the moment, Nayland Smith shares the same goal – the defeat of Fah lo Suee and Ki-Ming. Li King Su makes it clear that Dr. Fu Manchu wants the secrets of the Si-Fan returned to the Tomb of the Black Ape forever. As a further sign of good will, the surgeon gives Greville the address where Nayland Smith will be walking into a trap that evening. Believing he must act on the information immediately, Shan hurries to the address, where he spies Fah lo Suee and is abducted before he can react.
He recovers consciousness to find himself a captive in the house. Fah lo Suee shows him a trunk containing Li King Su’s corpse and tells him the traitor has been discovered. She expresses her desire to have him for herself if he is willing to serve her. Before Greville can answer, he hears Smith call to him. Greville fights against Fah lo Suee’s Nubian manservant, but the giant easily overpowers him and throws him into a room with the bound and beaten form of Sir Denis. Greville recognizes the truth that they are both doomed with no hope of escape.
The door opens and the giant Nubian enters. Convinced they are about to meet their fate, they are surprised to find they are gagged and moved to the cellar. They listen and understand that Superintendant Weymouth is conducting a search of the houses in the area in the hopes of finding them. Sadly, the Superintendant is fooled by Fah lo Suee disguised as a harmless old woman. Once Weymouth departs, they learn that Rima is also a captive. While Sir Denis is to be executed and dumped in the Thames, Shan is to accompany Fah lo Suee back to China with Rima as a hostage to insure his cooperation.
Rima lets out a gasp and Shan turns to see the lacquer cabinet in the corner of the room open and a mummy steps out into the room. Upon second glance, Shan recognizes the mummy is actually a decrepit frail old man whom Sir Denis recognizes as Dr. Fu Manchu! The dacoits and the Nubian fall to their knees before him. Fu Manchu commands Fah lo Suee to kneel in obedience. She obeys and he gives the command for his dacoits to take her away. He speaks briefly with Sir Denis and Greville explaining that he is a man of honor who is merely opposed to the ambitions of the British Empire. As his daughter had said earlier, he assures them the Empire is collapsing. He also notes that it was his wish that the Si-Fan slumber, but that his daughter has foolishly awakened it and that a second world war is the likely outcome. He assures them that that while he is Lord of the Si-Fan, he will do his best to preserve peace.
Dr. Fu Manchu makes a dignified departure, taking his rebellious daughter with him. He arranges for Weymouth to rescue the three of them shortly after his departure. The novel ends with a brief coda one year later. Shan is ensconced in Sir Lionel’s dig at Nineveh and looking forward to his wedding to Rima when he receives a peculiar gift in the post – a box containing an antique silver ring set with a large emerald. There is no note in the box, leaving Greville to ponder the future and the reader to welcome Sax Rohmer’s wholly successful revival of his classic series. This would prove to be the first of seven more novels in the series that would see print over the course of the next decade, all bestsellers at a time when Fu Manchu was also appearing in a film series from Paramount, in a daily newspaper strip, and in a radio dramatization of the current book on The Collier Hour. Interestingly enough, Rohmer’s next move was to spin Sir Denis Nayland Smith off into solo adventures – for the second time, as we shall see in next week’s column.
William Patrick Maynard was authorized to continue Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu thrillers beginning with The Terror of Fu Manchu (2009; Black Coat Press). A sequel, The Destiny of Fu Manchu was published earlier this year by Black Coat Press. Next up is a collection of short stories featuring an Edwardian detective, The Occult Case Book of Shankar Hardwicke and a hardboiled detective novel, Lawhead. To see additional articles by William, visit his blog at SetiSays.blogspot.com