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 third part.
The section begins with Shan Greville’s delirious account of his and Sir Denis Nayland Smith’s foolhardy infiltration of a meeting of the Si-Fan’s Council of Seven while disguised as Mongolian monks. Sir Denis recognizes Ki-Ming among the attendees and fears the mandarin will likewise remember him if he gets a good look at his features beneath the monk’s cowl. Greville sees Madame Ingomar enter the room and recalls her true identity as Fah lo Suee, the daughter of Fu Manchu. Unable to understand the council’s conversation, the truth promptly reaches him when a gong sounds and the two Mongolian monks appear while all eyes turn upon Sir Denis and his companion.
Greville recovers consciousness to find himself in Chinese clothing in a foreign household. A Chinese surgeon attends him and denies any knowledge of Sir Denis or of a location known as el-Kharga. Greville collapses once more. When he recovers a second time, he is in the presence of Fah lo Suee who claims to be able to read his mind. She offers proof that she is aware of his love for Rima Barton. Greville is too weakened to realize he has been drugged and tricked into revealing information to his captor. He collapses again.
Upon his next recovery, he finds Fah lo Suee speaking of her desire to rule Russia, the home of her mother and how, as a half-caste herself she is drawn to Greville. She speaks openly of how the Si-Fan is the New World Order that will unite the East under a single power and how she intends to be at the forefront of the New Wave that threatens to sweep the globe.
While her father may sublimate all sexual impulses to focus his considerable energies solely upon the realization of the goals of the Si-Fan, Fah lo Suee embraces her sexuality as a tool and sometimes even a weapon. While she is not Rohmer’s first femme fatale, she is the first to hold a position of authority traditionally associated with a patriarchal figure. Head Centre in Rohmer’s The Emperor of America anticipates this, but the revelation of the character’s gender comes too late in the proceedings to register with readers. Both Head Centre and Fah lo Suee prefigure Sumuru, the character who is the culmination of all of Rohmer’s femme fatales and serves as a fascinating and effective critique of male-dominated power structures in post-Victorian Western fiction. The psychological ramifications of the intelligent, independent, sexually liberated woman as a threat equal or greater to that posed by the intelligent powerful foreign other that permeated colonial anxieties of the era is equally telling.
Fah lo Suee confides in Greville that she plans to remove Swazi Pasha, the advisor to the Turkish president who poses a threat to her goals. Shan is embarrassed to admit that Fah lo Suee forces herself on him and he is too physically weak to resist. The surgeon returns a short time later and administers an injection which causes him to lose consciousness once more.
The story picks up considerable speed once Greville recovers to find himself paralyzed while a hunchback dacoit is moving his immobile form. Soon enough he understands a police raid is in progress and, despite his weakened state, is elated to find Superintendant Weymouth leading the rescue. The police subdue the hunchback and soon free Greville who slips into unconsciousness once more. Greville receives a shock upon waking when he learns that it has been an entire month since he and Nayland Smith were reported missing in Egypt and that he has been in Limehouse, London’s Chinese quarter, the entire time.
Weymouth takes him to the Petries’ hotel where he is placed under the doctor’s care. Petrie is able to restore Greville thanks to the mysterious Dr. Amber who has prescribed an antidote. Petrie has never met his colleague in person and is troubled that Dr. Amber always seems to avoid meeting him face-to-face.
Weymouth is ready to give up Nayland Smith for dead. It has been over a month since his capture and they have heard nothing of him. The Superintendant is working closely with Scotland Yard to arrange Swazi Pasha’s protection (thanks to Greville’s intelligence information). Swazi Pasha is staying in the same hotel as Greville, the Petries, and Weymouth. Mrs. Petrie returns that afternoon from shopping in Burlington Arcade distraught believing she glimpsed Dr. Fu Manchu from a second-storey window above an Oriental jeweler’s. Through all of this, Shan cannot shake the tantalizing memory of Fah lo Suee making love to him and the hazy memory of the month he spent in Limehouse living as her kept man.
That night, Greville is disturbed by more memories of Fah lo Suee’s post-hypnotic suggestion. Convinced he is experiencing a premonition of Swazi Pasha’s assassination, he rushes to the politician’s suite and is amazed to discover Sir Denis Nayland Smith! Together the pair succeeds in saving the Pasha from assassination by the Si-Fan. Most alarming of all, they apprehend the Pasha’s double who would have replaced him as a puppet for the Si-Fan. They are further confounded when Smith reveals the man the Si-Fan would have assassinated was not the real Pasha, but his twin brother who agreed to stand in as a decoy to save his brother’s life while the real Pasha was safely stashed away in a Paris hotel.
Having thwarted the Si-Fan’s plot, Smith and Greville gather with Weymouth and the Petries while Smith discloses his weeks of captivity under the Mandarin Ki-Ming, the president of the Council of Seven. Smith reveals he learned that Dr. Fu Manchu had hidden his secrets in the Tomb of the Black Ape in 1917 when he retired from the Council of Seven. It was her father’s secrets that Fah lo Suee sought to unearth by abducting Sir Lionel and excavating LaFleur’s tomb. Her purpose, of course, is to succeed her father and wrest control of the Si-Fan from Ki-Ming.
Greville excitedly tells Sir Denis that Mrs. Petrie believes she had seen Dr. Fu Manchu in London the previous day. All are left speechless when Smith reveals that she was mistaken for Dr. Fu Manchu was in Paris the entire time, occupying the suite next door to Swazi Pasha! The reader is left to eagerly await the concluding installment when Dr. Fu Manchu and his duplicitous daughter will finally take center stage as Sax Rohmer’s Daughter of Fu Manchu reaches its startling conclusion.
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