Monday, 6 July 2015

Review: An African Millionaire, by Grant Allen

Sir Charles Vandrift, ruthless South African diamond mogul, meets his match in Colonel Clay. Masquerading as a Mexican Seer, Clay, with little more than a few parlour conjurings, makes away with five thousand pounds of Vandrift’s fortune. And Clay’s not finished, he’ll swindle Vandrift to his last pound. After all, how can Vandrift fight a master of disguise, a hawk who can be anyone and anywhere?  

The series in a line: Gentleman swindler cons a millionaire over and over again. Sounds repetitive, doesn’t it, twelve stories performing the same dance. But Allen avoids stagnation by differentiating the stories just enough. Of course the stories have a formula, but they never descend to the formulaic. In each story Allen introduces one or two new characters – It doesn’t take a mystery aficionado to spot the criminal. But the unmask never hogs the climax. Allen doesn’t tease and hint at where, oh where, is that damned Colonel Clay. He focusses on the con, rather, on how that magnificent bastard Clay will swindle that petty bastard Vandrift.