Monday, January 01, 2007

06.38 Last Laugh, Mr. Moto by John P. Marquand


Last Laugh, Mr. Moto (1942) by John P. Marquand
Pbk., Berkeley Medallion, 158 pp.

Surprisingly, I had never heard of the Mr. Moto books until I came across this one in a used bookstore. Of course, given the sweet cover, I picked it up immediately. As it turns out six Mr. Moto books were written beginning in 1935 by John P. Marquand primarily as a response to the Charlie Chan books. More famously, a series of Mr. Moto movies were made and starred Peter Lorre in the lead role. I have never seen any of these but supposedly they are inferior to the novels.

Last Laugh is interesting in that Mr. Moto is only a peripheral character until the last act of the story. The protagonist is a drunken ex-Navy pilot who has thrown over everything in his life after being passed over for a promotion. He lives on his sailboat and plies various ports in the Carribean until his welcome is worn out. In Jamaica, he is chartered to take a mysterious American and his beautiful wife out to explore an uninhabited island. The couple come across oddly and veer between friendliness and aggressive urgency. When the reach the island it becomes clear that the are not who they said they were and have a nefarious ulterior motive. The surprising arrival of Mr. Moto on the island throws their whole plan into disarray.

The novel was pleasant surprise. The overarching plot was a bit feeble but the author writes well.

For more info see:

"Mr Moto is short slender man of indeterminate age who speaks perfect English as well as numerous Chinese dialects. He seems to have questionable taste in clothes (checked golfing suits on train rides, for example) has noticable gold fillings in his front teeth and keeps his hair in a "Prussian Brush Cut". He has a proficiency with firearms, jujitstu, and is unfailingly polite. He seldom (if ever) resorts to disguises - he seldom seeks to disquise his presence in a particular theatre of intrigue; which may be good thing, considering his rather unique appearance. He is never the main protagonist of the story - rather he appears at strategic points in the story, a catalyst for action.

1 comment:

Olman Feelyus said...

That's cool that he's kind of a freak. I had the idea that he was more like the perfect chinese detective, who always solved the mystery. I had a friend who quite enjoyed the movies.