By H.C. “Sapper” O’Neille.
A gang of men dressed entirely in black has been going round abducting Communist agitators, and thrashing Jewish human traffickers. All extrajudicial, but perfectly all right because the victims are not the sort of chaps a chap invites to his club, or up to the country for the weekend.
When Count Zadowa chucks a bomb at the Black Gang, destroying a desk, it provokes the arrival of the mysterious leader of the agitators… Yes, yes, it’s Carl Peterson, now disguised as the Reverend Theophilus Longmoor, who had secreted some very rare diamonds in the desk, which have now come into the possession of the Black Gang… What? Yes, that’s Hugh Drummond and his chums.
Drummond soon encounters Longmoor, and quickly penetrates his disguise because of the man’s tic of tapping his knee with his left hand.
Drummond is drugged and an accident is arranged, but he manages to extricate himself more by luck than judgement, and he find his way to Peterson’s lair, which is surrounded by an electrified fence. He rescues Phyllis, and is about to escape himself when Peterson and Count Zadowa turn up, having recaptured her.
Peterson is about to have the pair of them murdered when the lights go out and the rest of the Black Gang come storming in.
Not surprisingly, Peterson and Irma manage to escape (again) while Drummond has a chat with his old schoolmate, Sir Bryan Johnstone of Scotland Yard, who has identified him as the leader of the Black Gang, whose days of fun and frolics are now over.
The Black Gang is somewhat darker and more violent than the first volume in the series, and Drummond and his vigilantes are disquieting, it being acceptable for the toffs to act outside the law, but not anyone else.
O’Neille restates his view that the people behind the Communist agitators were only in it for themselves, but that’s also essentially the people who benefit from Drummond’s activities, who aren’t necessarily making life better for the workers.
This is also a waffly book with little sense of an approaching climax as the writer appears to have been stretching out a fairly thin sort of plot. At one stage, wondering how much more of the book remained, I discovered I was far closer to the end than I’d imagined, with no sense that the big finale was nigh.
Drummond seems to work best where he’s a cartoon character. It would not take much to change The Black Gang into a story of tyrants and their brutal thugs abusing the rule of law and human rights instead of heroic chaps ensuring the stability of the realm.
At least this time, no one’s getting gay with anyone or anything.