We meet first Dr Petrie who is immediately surprised by a late night visitor, “a tall, lean ... square cut ... sun baked” man who turns out to be his good friend (Commissioner Sir Denis) Nayland Smith of Burma, formerly of Scotland Yard, who has come directly from Burma. We then learn that various men associated with India are the target of assassination by the Chinese Dr Fu Manchu, who seems to have been active in Burma (as distinct from India), in places such as Rangoon, Prome, Moulmein and the “Upper Irrawaddy”, and who comes to England with dacoits and thuggees.
Fu Manchu is pursued from the opium dens of Limehouse in the East End of London to various country estates. We learn that Dr Fu Manchu is a leading member not of “old China”, the Mandarin class of the Manchu dynasty, or “young China”, a new generation of “youthful and unbalanced reformers” with “western polish” - but a “Third Party”. Nayland Smith is outwitted several times by Fu Manchu, and thus he reflects more the narrow escapes of the later Bulldog Drummond rather than the “logical” superior approach of the earlier Sherlock Holmes.
Fu Manchu is a master poisoner and chemist, a cunning member of the Yellow Peril, “the greatest genius which the powers of evil have put on the earth for centuries”, though his mission is not exactly clear at this stage. He appears to be trying to capture and take back to China the best engineers of Europe, for some larger criminal purpose.
By the end of the book, Fu Manchu’s slave Karamaneh, a beautiful Arab woman, apparently now in love with Dr Petrie, and her brother Aziz, are freed, and Inspector Weymouth, driven mad by an injection of serum from Fu Manchu, is restored to sanity by Fu Manchu, who appears to have escaped from a fire which destroys the house he had previously entered.
I SANK into an arm-chair in my rooms and gulped down a strong peg of brandy.
"We have been followed here," I said. "Why did you make no attempt to throw the pursuers off the track, to have them intercepted?"
"Useless, in the first place. Wherever we went, HE would find us. And of what use to arrest his creatures? We could prove nothing against them. Further, it is evident that an attempt is to be made upon my life to-night—and by the same means that proved so successful in the case of poor Sir Crichton."
His square jaw grew truculently prominent, and he leapt stormily to his feet, shaking his clenched fists towards the window.
"The villain!" he cried. "The fiendishly clever villain! I suspected that Sir Crichton was next, and I was right. But I came too late, Petrie! That hits me hard, old man. To think that I knew and yet failed to save him!"
He resumed his seat, smoking hard.
"Fu-Manchu has made the blunder common to all men of unusual genius," he said. "He has underrated his adversary. He has not given me credit for perceiving the meaning of the scented messages. He has thrown away one powerful weapon—to get such a message into my hands—and he thinks that once safe within doors, I shall sleep, unsuspecting, and die as Sir Crichton died. But without the indiscretion of your charming friend, I should have known what to expect when I receive her 'information'—which by the way, consists of a blank sheet of paper."
"Smith," I broke in, "who is she?"
"She is either Fu-Manchu's daughter, his wife, or his slave. I am inclined to believe the last, for she has no will but his will, except"—with a quizzical glance—"in a certain instance."
"How can you jest with some awful thing—Heaven knows what—hanging over your head? What is the meaning of these perfumed envelopes? How did Sir Crichton die?"
"He died of the Zayat Kiss. Ask me what that is and I reply 'I do not know.' The zayats are the Burmese caravanserais, or rest-houses. Along a certain route—upon which I set eyes, for the first and only time, upon Dr. Fu-Manchu—travelers who use them sometimes die as Sir Crichton died, with nothing to show the cause of death but a little mark upon the neck, face, or limb, which has earned, in those parts, the title of the 'Zayat Kiss.' The rest-houses along that route are shunned now. I have my theory and I hope to prove it to-night, if I live. It will be one more broken weapon in his fiendish armory, and it is thus, and thus only, that I can hope to crush him. This was my principal reason for not enlightening Dr. Cleeve. Even walls have ears where Fu-Manchu is concerned, so I feigned ignorance of the meaning of the mark, knowing that he would be almost certain to employ the same methods upon some other victim. I wanted an opportunity to study the Zayat Kiss in operation, and I shall have one."
How does the world first here of Fu Manchu, the Devil Doctor?
The Deadline for lines will be Friday.