Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937) by John P. Marquand
Pbk., Little, Brown and Co., 278 p.
This is the second of the Mr. Moto series of mystery novels that I have read (see my review of the other here.
The author abviously relied on a certain formula for these novels but his milieu is quite unique and the writing skillful.
In Think Fast, Mr. Moto the protagonist is a young man named Wilson Hitchings who is the scion of a large banking concern, Hitching Brothers. As his first assignment, his uncle sends him out from Shanghai to Honolulu to deal with a stain on the family name. The daughter of the family's black sheep has opened a gambling house there and called it the Hitchings Plantation. Wilson is to take stock of this woman and offer (nay, force) her a buyout and then close the place.
Of course, all is not as it seems and who pops up in Hawaii but Mr. Moto. The plot then whirls into an international financial intrigue involving mobsters, Manchurian crime lords and corrupt officials.
Throughout it all Mr. Moto handles things with adroit efficiency while at all times being portrayed as the quintessentially subservient Oriental. Take this quote which encompasses the dichotomy:
"Thank you so much for being so polite", Mr. Moto said, "Yes, I can do many, many things.I can mix drinks and wait on table, and I am a very good valet.I can navigate and manage small boats. I have studied at two foreign universities. I also know carpentry and survying and five Chinese dialects. So very many things come in useful. Ah, there are the lights in line. You steer so very nicely, Mr. Hitchings."
Definitely worthwhile novels to pick up for a light entertaining read.