Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Bride of Fu Manchu, Part Four
Sax Rohmer’s The Bride of Fu Manchu was originally serialized in Collier’s from May 6 to July 8, 1933 under the variant title, Fu Manchu’s Bride. It was published in book form later that year by Cassell in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The US edition retained the original magazine title until the 1960s when the UK book title was adopted for the paperback edition published by Pyramid Books.
Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Alan Sterling lead the police raid of Mahdi Bey’s Riviera estate. Moving deep below sea level in the underground catacombs, they find themselves cut off by steel doors which descend on both sides. Fearing for their lives and plunged in darkness, they are startled to hear the voice of Fu Manchu informing them he is leaving by submarine and that Dr. Petrie and Fleurette go with him. He explains he is sparing their lives only because Sir Denis and Sterling spared his when they both encountered him in his opium trance.
Smith and Sterling manage to climb through an opening in the catacombs and descend into the underground stream and swim across until they can climb the rocks leading to the beach at St. Claire. Sir Denis notes that Petrie could never have made the journey to the submarine in his weakened condition and sees evidence of oil trails that suggest that another party has left the beach via motorboat. The question remains where the motorboat will meet up with the submarine. Smith suspects their destination would be a yacht with which to transport the party to the rendezvous.
While on the way to the Prefect of Police’s office, Smith explains to Sterling the tragedy that befell Petrie and his wife eighteen years ago, when their three week old baby daughter passed away unexpectedly. Smith suggests the baby girl may actually have been a victim of Fu Manchu’s catalepsy-inducing drug and that Fleurette is the Petries’ long lost daughter. Sterling realizes that is why Dr. Petrie was startled when he saw Fleurette, because of her strong resemblance to her mother.
At the Prefect of Police’s office, Sir Denis discovers a yacht from Argentina, the Lola, has recently departed from Monaco and is the property of Mahdi Bey. Certain this is the vessel on which Fu Manchu, Fleurette, and Dr. Petrie have sought refuge, Sir Denis organizes plans to intercept the vessel before it reaches the submarine. Precious time is lost as Smith is forced to appeal to diplomatic contacts in order for the French authorities to cooperate with British intelligence in a surprisingly realistic turn of events that only builds suspense for the reader.
Sir Denis and Sterling board a naval destroyer that overtakes the yacht. Rohmer completely surprises the reader by having the Lola overtaken before reaching its rendezvous and Fu Manchu placed under arrest. Dr. Petrie is found to be recovering his strength and is elated at the reunion with his now fully grown daughter. Fleurette and Alan are reunited with Petrie’s blessing. The doctor wires Kara with the extraordinary news.
Rohmer again allows the power of bureaucracy to be felt on proceedings. While Fu Manchu is under arrest in Paris, he appeals to the Chinese legation. Despite the dossier on him, Nayland Smith has no evidence to tie him to any crime, even the recent plague outbreak. Sir Denis has retained a French consul to try to arrange extradition to London. Fu Manchu has his own attorney in Paris, Maitre Foli, who is a member in good standing of the Si-Fan and the most celebrated attorney in France. Hope of extradition looks slim.
The ending comes as an unexpected shock to the reader. Maitre Foli has a private meeting with his client and then departs for the Chinese legation. When Sir Denis and Sterling enter Fu Manchu’s cell, they find Maitre Foli wearing Fu Manchu’s robes. Fu Manchu has made good his escape, disguised as the respectable Maitre Foli. The old attorney accepts the fact that his role in allowing Fu Manchu to escape justice will end his long career in disgrace and result in a prison sentence for what remains of his life. His chilling final words to Smith and Sterling that close the novel is that his life is a small price to pay to see that Fu Manchu’s work continues. Flabbergasted readers doubtless turned their mind back to Fu Manchu’s cryptic threat to Sterling to hold onto Fleurette if he can as a clear indication of what is in store in the next book in the series.
William Patrick Maynard was authorized to continue Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu thrillers beginning with The Terror of Fu Manchu (2009; Black Coat Press). It was followed by a sequel, The Destiny of Fu Manchu (2012; Black Coat Press). Next up is a collection of short stories featuring an original 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