Book Review: Okewood of the Secret Service by Valentine Williams

Posted July 18, 2022 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Okewood of the Secret Service by Valentine Williams

I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Okewood of the Secret Service by Valentine Williams
Genres: Spy thriller
on May 12, 2012
Pages: 135
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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Second in the Dr. Adolph Grundt spy thriller series, per Williams, it was first published in 1918. Its alternate title is The Secret Hand.

It’s free, so go get it, if you enjoy vintage tales.

My Take

I learned about the Okewood character from Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime, 2, a Tommy and Tuppence story, and decided to explore these vintage mystery characters.

Okewood of the Secret Service revolves around patriotism with all the machinations of spying thrown in to spice things up. Very much a book of its time, it’s a bit over-the-top but fascinating for conveying the time period.

Williams uses third person protagonist point-of-view from Okewood’s perspective, so we’re privy to his thoughts and emotions.

Okewood and Strangwise are the kind of friends who have spent three months living in each other’s pocket on the Front, and yet Okewood knows very little about the man.

Barney has had a busy life, working vaudeville and burglary. It does make me wonder how he found time to perform if Scotland Yard knows so much about him. It is interesting how these vintage mysteries harp on a person’s nationality as to the why of their personalities or interests. Oooh, the suggestion of Oriental cruelty in the room’s garishness.

Williams has quite a thing for dialect as well as red herrings, from strands of hair to white packages in red ribbon, and Nur-el-Din’s histrionics and stories.

Why does Barbara have a framed photo of her boss in her bedroom? I don’t think much of her intelligence, if she hasn’t absorbed some of the Chief’s secretiveness.

This Chief is something else, and his penchant for sending his agents around in unknowing circles is probably why he’s such a success. He does appear to think of almost everything.

I dunno, it’s very sad that people see a person who smiles a lot as being untrustworthy. I smile a lot because I’m a naturally cheery person; I guess that makes me untrustworthy. Hmmm . . .

Williams flips us back and forth chronologically throughout the story. We read the “bad” parts first and then he provides the explanation.

Nur-el-Din sure has a lot of “escape” stories and excuses for why she got involved. Williams makes good use of her “artistic temperament” to throw people off, express her own insecurities, and keep us twirling in confusion. We do finally learn why Nur-el-Din needs to find a better hiding place for her package and why she wants to leave the Palaceum.

As for Okewood. Oy. He knows better than anyone and makes good use of that knowledge to screw things up.

Hmm, an interesting distinction between serving Germany versus serving the House of Hohenzollern.

Oooh, that Okewood really skewers “Mortimer” at the end.

It’s a tale of characters and action with a dizzying pace of twist and turn.

The Story

Vaudeville is dying out, so when vaudevillian Mackwayte is asked to step in and then has hopes of a long engagement, you know he’s radiant with excitement.

Almost better is meeting up with an old friend who takes advantage of his daughter to secrete a package with her. Even better is planning to “kill” Okewood in France.

In the end, it’s the love of a good woman who sets everything straight.

The Characters

Major Desmond Okewood, a born Cockney of Anglo-Irish descent, is a soldier, full-stop. His brother, Francis, is with the Secret Service and currently serving on a German Staff in Jerusalem. Private Gunner “Buzzer” Barling, a signaller, is the brother of Okewood’s late soldier-servant, Private Henry Barling. Buzzer’s desertion story is quite informative.

Captain Maurice Strangwise knows a lot about artillery work and recently escaped from a German prison.

Arthur “Mac” Mackwayte, a.k.a. Monsieur Arthur, is a quiet man in his personal life, but quite the comedian on stage. Barbara Mackwayte is his loving daughter who is secretary to the chief of the Secret Service. Potter is his usual dresser.

The Palaceum is . . .
. . . a London theatre which still presents vaudeville. Fletcher is the frustrated stage manager. Samuel runs the place. Hickie of Hickie and Flanagan broke his ankle. Georgie is another performer. Jackson.

Nur-el-Din, a.k.a. Marcelle, is the newest thing in Oriental dancers and an old friend of Mac’s. Monsieur Arthur met her when she was a young acrobat with the Seven Duponts. Ten years ago, she was Marcelle Blondinet, a singer in North America. She’s also “Madame Le Bon“, a Belgian refugee. Marie is Nur-el-Din’s dresser. The rest of her entourage includes Lazarro, a.k.a. Sacchetti, Le Tardenois, who has a bad reputation, and Ramiro.

Harris appears to be a booking agent and vaudeville is languishing. Barney had been a great vaudevillian, but is close to begging these days. He certainly doesn’t feel any loyalty to friends. Scotland Yard has known him to be a receiver for years. The Samuel Circuit.

The Secret Service
The Chief is perfect for his role, as he’s excessively secretive and trusts NO ONE. Matthews is his confidential clerk. Duff, Gordon, Bates, Dug, Harrison, and No 39 are agents. Mrs Butterworth is a female agent. Mr Crook is an incredible expert on resemblances.

Sir Bristowe Marr is an admiral and the First Sea Lord. Colonel Lambelet is a Frenchman who speaks English perfectly. The United Service Club, a.k.a. The Senior, is the “parliament” of Britain’s professional army and navy. I think Charley is the engineer on that secret train. Captain Beardiston, the assistant provost marshal, deals with catching deserters and absentees, etc. Macdonald was a bombardier.

Scotland Yard
Marigold is with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

The ray-fined wife of deployed Captain Viljohn-Smythe is renting out rooms. “Galadys” is her housemaid. Her neighbor across the way is Dr AJ Radcombe, a nerve specialist.

Mortimer heads up this new, too-successful German spy ring. Minna Malplaquet is handy with a knife. Behrend, No 13, and Max, a.k.a. Mirsky, a Whitechapel Jew and a German agent Francis met in Russia. J Rass owns The Dyke Inn, just down the road from The Mill House. Rufus is someone’s dog.

Basil Bellward, a.k.a. Wolfgang Bruhl, is said to be a respectable, retired Englishman. He lives in The Mill House in Essex; Martha is his housekeeper and John Hill is a handyman. Bellward’s neighbors include Sir Marsham Dykes of The Chase, Stanning, and Tracy Wentfield of the Channings, Home Green. Dr Haines is in the village.

Bryan Mowbury, a.k.a. Bernhard Marburg, is known to have been in the German Secret Service and has a watching brief.

Bischoffsberg is a German millionaire in Antwerp. Von Wurzburg of Berne is another patron. Prince Meddelin is with the German Embassy in Paris and administrator of German Secret Service funds in France. Count Plettenbach is the prince’s A.D.C. Erich brought the prince a souvenir from Poland. Hans von Schornbeek had been a German officer in the First Prussian Foot Guards and a spy in America.

Julien is the maitre d’hotel at the Nineveh Hotel in London. Tommy Spencer is a journalist with the Daily Record. Mrs Chugg is the charwoman who found the body. The Blondinets live in Sermoise-aux-Roses near Lyons in France. Hamley is a military writer. D.O.R.A.??

The Cover and Title

The cover has a thick black border surrounding a central graphic of a man’s silhouette standing on sand with a background of bushes at the top of a cliff overlooking the Channel with a cloudy, greenish sky. The author’s name is at the top with the title at the bottom; both are in white.

The title introduces a new agent, Okewood of the Secret Service.

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