20 August, 2011

Who is that woman?

The Masked Woman

Johnston McCulley

By the same author as the original Zorro book, and i bought it for the same purpose, to read to JAG, but we never got around to it, unfortunately. He would have enjoyed it, i think, with the same enthusiasm he gave Zorro, though the plot here is, perhaps, a little weaker, and the characters are definitely not as interesting.

The rĂ´le of protagonist seems to be split between the eponymous masked woman and the professor she ends up with in a love match. Unfortunately, neither of them are particularly interesting, nor at all convincing: The professor, for example, at the very beginning of the book, decides with no visible thought to become a criminal simply because an unsuccessful burglar claims to have an annual income twice that of his; at the end of the book he, again with absolutely no reflection, gives up the life of crime to go back to academe. The masked woman, whose motivation is revenge largely against certain criminals, builds a gang around her with no effort at all, the criminals in question being, apparently, the most trusting of men. In addition it turns out, with no prior preparation for a revelation of the fact to the reader, that she is actually a twin; this rather smacks of concealment by the author, rather than the distraction or misdirection which is the stock in trade of the mystery writer, or deus ex machina to get himself out of a position he’d written himself into.

As far as the plot itself goes, it moves quickly, so much so that the one interesting, maybe even original, twist is given no time at all to develop, and the reader is left with the image of a man convinced he has been imprisoned for murder, when in fact no murder took place; that ought to have been developed. All in all, i’m glad i’ve read the book, because it’s been sitting on my shelves for several years now, but i’m less likely to seek another of McCulley’s works than i would be if this were up to the standard of Zorro.

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