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When the Foreign Secretary Sir Philip Ramon receives a threatening, greenish-grey letter signed FOUR JUST MEN, he remains determined to see his Aliens Extradition Bill made law. A device in the members' smokeroom and a sudden magnesium flash that could easily have been nitro-glycerine leave Scotland Yard baffled. Even Fleet Street cannot identify the illusive Manfred, Gons When the Foreign Secretary Sir Philip Ramon receives a threatening, greenish-grey letter signed FOUR JUST MEN, he remains determined to see his Aliens Extradition Bill made law. A device in the members' smokeroom and a sudden magnesium flash that could easily have been nitro-glycerine leave Scotland Yard baffled. Even Fleet Street cannot identify the illusive Manfred, Gonsalez, Pioccart and Thery - FOUR JUST MEN dedicated to punishing by death those whom conventional justice can not touch.


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When the Foreign Secretary Sir Philip Ramon receives a threatening, greenish-grey letter signed FOUR JUST MEN, he remains determined to see his Aliens Extradition Bill made law. A device in the members' smokeroom and a sudden magnesium flash that could easily have been nitro-glycerine leave Scotland Yard baffled. Even Fleet Street cannot identify the illusive Manfred, Gons When the Foreign Secretary Sir Philip Ramon receives a threatening, greenish-grey letter signed FOUR JUST MEN, he remains determined to see his Aliens Extradition Bill made law. A device in the members' smokeroom and a sudden magnesium flash that could easily have been nitro-glycerine leave Scotland Yard baffled. Even Fleet Street cannot identify the illusive Manfred, Gonsalez, Pioccart and Thery - FOUR JUST MEN dedicated to punishing by death those whom conventional justice can not touch.

30 review for The Four Just Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    Warn Ramon that the Four do not go outside their promise. If they have threatened to kill in a certain manner at a certain time they will be punctual. We have proof of this characteristic. After Anderson's death small memorandum book was discovered outside window of room evidently dropped. Book was empty save for three pages, which were filled with neatly written memoranda headed 'Six methods of execution'. It was initialled 'C.' (third letter in alphabet). Warn Ramon against following: drinking Warn Ramon that the Four do not go outside their promise. If they have threatened to kill in a certain manner at a certain time they will be punctual. We have proof of this characteristic. After Anderson's death small memorandum book was discovered outside window of room evidently dropped. Book was empty save for three pages, which were filled with neatly written memoranda headed 'Six methods of execution'. It was initialled 'C.' (third letter in alphabet). Warn Ramon against following: drinking coffee in any form, opening letters or parcels, using soap that has not been manufactured under eye of trustworthy agent, sitting in any room other than that occupied day and night by police officer. Examine his bedroom; see if there is any method by which heavy gases can be introduced. We are sending two men by 'Lucania' to watch. The detective finished reading. 'Watch' was not the last word in the original message, as he knew. There had been an ominous postscript, Afraid they will arrive too late. Ha! That was fun. Granted the premise is ridiculous, the plot has massive holes in it, the writing is tainted with all of the hallmarks of its time, and the solution was drawn out of a hat at the end, but it was fun to read this. In a way, this was also an interesting book to show up differences in how our understanding of the term vigilante justice has changed since 1905, when this was written, and how our understanding of the particular "justice" exerted in this story may have changed, too. Or has it? I mean, I read an article the other day discussing an apparent rise in people believing that it is ok or even justified to send death threats to politicians. Nothing new there, of course, even if it is hitting home hard when this is a reality for friends in that career path. However, since the murder of Jo Cox over something as trivial (in the greater picture of things) as her stance on Brexit this issue has been a very public one. So, yes, there were angles to the story that were a lot more intriguing than the plot itself, which fell apart even on the basic premise that a bill could be stopped becoming law just by killing of a single minister. It's just not quite how it works. Thankfully.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    Surprisingly contemporary... When the British Foreign Secretary decides to push through a law which will allow the enforced return of political refugees to their countries of origin, he becomes a target of the Four Just Men – a group of vigilantes who set out to right what they perceive as wrongs that the normal systems of justice can't touch. The story is a kind of cat-and-mouse game where the reader, along with the entire British public, waits to see if the Four Just Men succeed in carrying out Surprisingly contemporary... When the British Foreign Secretary decides to push through a law which will allow the enforced return of political refugees to their countries of origin, he becomes a target of the Four Just Men – a group of vigilantes who set out to right what they perceive as wrongs that the normal systems of justice can't touch. The story is a kind of cat-and-mouse game where the reader, along with the entire British public, waits to see if the Four Just Men succeed in carrying out their threat to assassinate the Foreign Secretary. This was a rather odd read for me, in that I hated the premise – vigilantes are not my cup of tea – and yet found the storytelling compelling enough that I found myself racing through it. It's well written and the pacing is excellent. Wallace sits on the fence himself as to the rights and wrongs of it – he shows both sides, but doesn't take too strong a stance in favour of either. I believe in later books he chose cases that weren't quite so murky, where it was clearer that the victims of the Just Men deserved their fate, and I suspect I might prefer those. This one, however, despite having been published way back in 1905, has a surprisingly relevant plot. The purpose of the legislation is to prevent political agitators from using the safety of foreign countries to stir up revolutions back in their own nation. With my recent Russian Revolution reading, it made me think very much of those Russians, like Lenin, who spent their time in the safety of exile encouraging their countrymen back home to commit acts of terrorism against the state. But I also couldn't help thinking of the West's current moral struggle over the question of allowing in refugees at a time when the fear of terrorism is high, or the difficulty of expelling people even when it's known they are attempting to radicalise others. It's a quick read – somewhere between a long novella and a short novel. There is a mystery of sorts over how the Just Men plan to carry out the assassination. Martin Edwards tells us in his book The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books that, as an advertising ploy, Wallace offered cash prizes to readers who could work out the solution. Apparently, so many did that it nearly bankrupted him. I wish I'd been around at the time, because I thought it was blindingly obvious. I suspect, though, that might be because the key is more commonplace now than it would have been back then. Forgive the vagueness, but to say more would be a major spoiler. The rest of the plotting works much more effectively. There is a real sense of the building tension as the deadline approaches. The Foreign Secretary is not physically brave, but shows a good deal of moral courage in the end. The police are shown as competent and vigilant, good men determined to protect the Secretary even at the expense of their own lives, if necessary. The press get involved and we see their dilemma of being ordinary good people who don't want to see murder done but also journalists who do want a huge front page story! Wallace handles all these ethical questions well and believably, I thought. The Just Men themselves are more shadowy, with no real background given as to why they've set themselves up as judge and executioner or how they got together. I found them far less credible. But I was pulled along in the need to know whether the Secretary would survive. An intriguing read that provoked more thought than I was anticipating. I don't think I'm sufficiently enthusiastic to want to read more of the adventures of the Four Just Men, but overall I found this one interesting and entertaining enough to be glad to have read it, and to recognise its claim to be a classic of the genre. And, on that basis, recommended. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cphe

    A locked room mystery/thriller. A group comprising of four men plan to carry out an assignation at the highest level in English politics and so change the course of history. A dated story but surprisingly contemporary for world politics. Depending which side of the fence you are sitting on the "four just men" could easily be viewed as terrorist. Enjoyed the locked room aspect and the period. Not a lot of characterisation on offer. This particular edition was poorly edited so unable to recommend.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    This was an interesting twist from your average mystery. In my opinion, there really aren't any good guys. It does pose the question: when is vigilante justice justified? The story, however, was well written and quite suspenseful. No one knows who the Four Just Men are, where they are from, or where in the world they could be at any given moment. They are vigilantes who through ingenious means execute people they believe have gotten away with criminal activity. They have assassinated royalty who h This was an interesting twist from your average mystery. In my opinion, there really aren't any good guys. It does pose the question: when is vigilante justice justified? The story, however, was well written and quite suspenseful. No one knows who the Four Just Men are, where they are from, or where in the world they could be at any given moment. They are vigilantes who through ingenious means execute people they believe have gotten away with criminal activity. They have assassinated royalty who have murdered and gotten away with it; priests who sexually abused their parishioners; and other high profile people who have hurt others with impunity. A minister in the British parliament is trying to push through a bill that would alter the amnesty status of certain Spanish delegates who would be persecuted and probably executed if forced to return to Spain (this takes place during the Spanish Civil War). The man receives a letter from the Four Just Men that warns him that if he brings the bill to Parliament, they will kill him. The minister refuses to back down and a race is on in the Scotland Yard to discover the identity and plans of these four men before they carry out their threat. Others with more phlegmatic dispositions might read the story calmly enough, but I found it stressful, suspenseful, but entertaining as well. I have just found out there are more Four Just Men stories. This will not be the last book by Edgar Wallace I'll be reading.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Phaney

    2012 Review: It was weird. I know, and distinctly recall the exact feeling, that I completely loved these men when I first read this long ago. I admired them and they were beyond cool and ingenious. I still think they’re ingenious. Thing is? I also think they are very probably in the wrong. They’re murderers, killers, and their only frame of reference is their own sense of justice and their conscience. They’re the original vigilantes. Now in the case of that raping priest one of them killed it’s a 2012 Review: It was weird. I know, and distinctly recall the exact feeling, that I completely loved these men when I first read this long ago. I admired them and they were beyond cool and ingenious. I still think they’re ingenious. Thing is? I also think they are very probably in the wrong. They’re murderers, killers, and their only frame of reference is their own sense of justice and their conscience. They’re the original vigilantes. Now in the case of that raping priest one of them killed it’s a pretty simple theory. If the law can’t touch a criminal, they are the ones who dispense justice. Some of the other cases cited were perhaps less black and white, but still. Evil people were killed by our three just men. But in this book? They set out to kill a minister so that he can’t pass a bill that would release political refugees to their original countries. Okay, put like that it seems at least moderately simple again. But it’s really not. Who’s in the right here? Who’s wrong? And how can those three be the ones to decide? At one point they even bring up that they’re doing God’s work, and, really, that sounds awfully like those nutcase psychopaths you get in fiction. That minister they kill? He believes he is doing the right thing. And shouldn’t a law be discussed by the governing body instead of being basically blackmailed and terrorized away? That it actually works is the weirdest thing of all, actually. But back to the question of what’s right. Our minister does not come across like a very nice man and his motives may not be the purest, but they are far from malicious either. He actually gives a very good speech before he dies, wherein he states that he believes in the justice of his cause, and the four believe theirs is the just cause. And that’s really the point of the matter. Yeah, that bill he is trying to force through (since it appears he has the assembly under his thumb) is not something I can agree with, but he does give some valid arguments. I like how he obviously understands the counter-arguments as well and acknowledges them in said speech. The thing is? Being against that bill (and thereby saving at least one country from dictatorship and famine, or so we’re assured) does not seem to justify murdering a person who stands up for what can be argued to be a valid position on a political subject. Someone who won’t let himself be blackmailed by terrorist threats, even as his death becomes more and more a certainty. Sure, I don’t like that minister. Who would? But I respect him. Manfred and his buddies? I dunno if I can respect them. The admiration I used to have for their skill and spirit has deflated. Completely. They’re… Well, I hope they will deal with clearer causes in the other books. Maybe this is just me growing up, or me applying realistic considerations to a story of mystery and sensation from a completely different time. But I’m sad my heroes are debunked. At the same time! It’s probably a very admirable thing to have their first book handle a matter that is, at least to modern eyes, not black and white and does not set them up as pure and infallible heroes. This story and they way it is told illuminates both sides of the argument and efforts and actually makes for a pretty deep conflict. As a reader it’s up to me which side I choose; even though it’s obvious where the author places his values. So yeah. Not what I expected. But intriguing for that very reason.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I just finished not only The Four Just Men but the next one in the series The Council of Justice too. It's good for the Four Just Men that I kept going after the first book because I didn't like them when I was reading the first one. I am incredibly glad I am not one of the four just men because I don't want to be one of the people who not only decides who gets killed, but then goes and does it. How would I ever decide who is worthy of living? Or dying for that matter. I suppose I could pick all I just finished not only The Four Just Men but the next one in the series The Council of Justice too. It's good for the Four Just Men that I kept going after the first book because I didn't like them when I was reading the first one. I am incredibly glad I am not one of the four just men because I don't want to be one of the people who not only decides who gets killed, but then goes and does it. How would I ever decide who is worthy of living? Or dying for that matter. I suppose I could pick all the serial killers, rapists or child molesters, but I still don't want to be the one doing the picking. I keep having this imagine in my head of one day explaining to Jesus how I came to decide who lives and who dies, and that's even before I have to explain killing the person. But, luckily for me I'm not one of the four just men. As for who they are: We're told in the prologue the four men are Leon Gonsalez, Poiccart, George Manfred, and Thery, or Saimont, no one seems to know which name is really his. He is the unlucky fourth man, he doesn't seem to know what he is doing there, what they are doing, what anyone is saying, as for being one of the four just men, he's never heard of them, and it is never clear to me how they came across this guy in the first place or how they talked him into helping them when he never heard of them before, but they did, and that's our four men. As for Poiccart, if he has a first name no one told me about it. Oh, they are all wealthy gentlemen, the first three, I don't know what the fourth is, and they have nothing better to do with their money than run around killing people. I have been giving some thought to the plot writing this obviously, and can't come up with one woman in the entire novel. There had to be one in there somewhere, but I can't think of one. Anyway, these men feel that there are some bad guys that can get away with anything, so they have decided to make sure this doesn't happen. They usually send the bad guy two warnings to stop whatever it is he is doing, and if he doesn't he ends up dead, usually in a strange way. This time it is the British Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Philip Ramon, because he is trying to get a bill passed that will remove protection from extradition for foreign nationals living in exile in their country. It doesn't seem like the kind of thing to kill the guy over, but that's what they are going to do. I'm not sure why they are so upset, the politician guy is going to bring up the bill, whatever that's called, then I suppose they will debate it for an eternity, then finally vote on it, but it won't pass because the other side won't vote for it no matter what it says. At least that's how it works here. By the time the bill would have passed all the exiles the four just men are trying to protect will have died of old age. And so the rest of the book is them planning the murder, and the politician refusing to listen to them, and a whole bunch of police setting up traps and protection and things like that, and wondering if anyone is going to get killed and how, considering all the police standing around. I'm not telling you any more about it except there are only three just men by the end of the book and, this I found fascinating, originally the book came with the offer of a huge prize for anyone who guessed the ending, unfortunately for Wallace he must not have been as mysterious as he thought because he eventually had to declare bankruptcy as too many people guessed correctly. I wonder how huge the prize was. I'm not sure what he meant by guess the ending, I guessed who would be dead by the end, but not how. I didn't like this one very much, I didn't like these guys running around choosing who lives and dies, but I continued on to the next one and I like that one better, so I'll move on to that one for my next review. In the meantime, happy reading.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nick Duretta

    I can see why this was hot stuff in its day (around the turn of the 20th century) but it doesn't age well. Wallace was an incredibly prolific writer of thrillers, and this one introduced the venerable "locked room" mystery that was to become a staple of mysteries and thrillers for years. A man, targeted for murder at a specific time, locks himself in a room in which there is no other access. Yet he's murdered anyway--how? The explanation here is barely convincing and not very satisfactory. The w I can see why this was hot stuff in its day (around the turn of the 20th century) but it doesn't age well. Wallace was an incredibly prolific writer of thrillers, and this one introduced the venerable "locked room" mystery that was to become a staple of mysteries and thrillers for years. A man, targeted for murder at a specific time, locks himself in a room in which there is no other access. Yet he's murdered anyway--how? The explanation here is barely convincing and not very satisfactory. The writing is a bit florid, the characters mostly generic, but the depiction of early 1900s London makes this somewhat worthwhile.

  8. 4 out of 5

    DeAnna Knippling

    Fun, fast read. Four criminals swear to kill a man unless he does what they want. His honor demands that he shall not bend. But the criminals act only for the greater good... A nice crime story of a type that isn't often seen these days. I liked it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Claire Admiral

    ★★★☆☆ 3 stars

  10. 4 out of 5

    John

    Somehow, probably because of the 1959–60 TV series, I seem to have known about the concept of the Four Just Men all my life -- and I've even discussed on my Noirish site the 1939 movie based (very loosely) on Edgar Wallace's novel -- so it came as quite a surprise recently to realize that I'd never actually read the novel itself. The Four Just Men are essentially psychopaths, but they've channeled their psychopathy into the murdering only of people who are doing immeasurable harm to numbers of ot Somehow, probably because of the 1959–60 TV series, I seem to have known about the concept of the Four Just Men all my life -- and I've even discussed on my Noirish site the 1939 movie based (very loosely) on Edgar Wallace's novel -- so it came as quite a surprise recently to realize that I'd never actually read the novel itself. The Four Just Men are essentially psychopaths, but they've channeled their psychopathy into the murdering only of people who are doing immeasurable harm to numbers of others -- child molesters, tyrannical rulers, etc.: only bad guys, in other words In fact, at the outset of the novel there are three Just Men, one of their number having been fatally caught in a shootout; they have recruited as a fourth a more-common-or-garden serial killer who has a particular expertise that will be useful to them in their latest caper. That caper involves as its target Sir Philip Ramon, the UK's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who plans to put through Parliament a bill that would endanger those rebels against vile repression in Span currently sheltering in the UK. The Four Just Men give him warning after warning that they'll kill him if he persists with the bill, but of course he ignores them and . . . There's also a locked-room mystery here that must have seemed a heck of a sight more impressive when the book was first published (1905) than it does today. At the time it was the subject of a contest -- "guess the murder method" -- that Wallace ran in conjunction with the Daily Mail, where the book was serialized. So many people got the right answer that Wallace was bankrupted. This was Wallace's first novel and, having read a few of his later ones, I was very pleasantly surprised by it. The others I've read have had a sort of pleasing mediocrity to them -- rather like the entries in the long Edgar Wallace Mysteries series of B-movies that Merton Park Studios churned out in 1960-64 -- but this novel has a genuine wit that the others I've read lack. I chuckled several times at the humor, and felt a definite sense of suspense as the hours ticked down toward Sir Philip's deadline. This short novel is by no means a fine work, and its central premise is beyond reprehensible (who decides who're the bad guys who deserve to be murdered?), but it's certainly very well worth reading, not just as entertainment but to find out how the wordsmithing machine that Edgar Wallace became got started. Wallace wrote five further Just Men books. While reading this one, it struck me that someone ought to continue/recreate the series for a 21st-century readership. I'm here if you want me, Edgar Wallace Estate.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marley

    Certainly not the best or best written mystery ever published, but such a fun read! I don't know if Wallace intended to, but he certainly skewered MPs, which is part of the fun. Not surprisingly, he's got anarchists wrong (the Four Just Men argue they aren't anarchists, and they're not), but reflects the fear of anarchists fueled by the press and ppoliticians--not to mention the acts of whacks who thought themselves anarchists or agent provocateurs--in the late 19th early 29 century. As an histo Certainly not the best or best written mystery ever published, but such a fun read! I don't know if Wallace intended to, but he certainly skewered MPs, which is part of the fun. Not surprisingly, he's got anarchists wrong (the Four Just Men argue they aren't anarchists, and they're not), but reflects the fear of anarchists fueled by the press and ppoliticians--not to mention the acts of whacks who thought themselves anarchists or agent provocateurs--in the late 19th early 29 century. As an historical entity, it's well worth the read. I'll get around to reading the rest of the series. And as other reviewers have noted the Four Just Men dole out dole out justice to the most deserving.

  12. 5 out of 5

    ShanDizzy

    This was a very intense story especially given when it was written. It has certainly stood the test of time and could be classified today as a thriller. Having said that, I was stunned by the arrogance of the vigilantes. I think this sentence sums it up for me "Here are men arrogating to themselves the divine right of superior judgment."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vishwas

    This short and taut thriller is one of the best you will ever read in the crime genre. A story of four vigilante men, it makes for great reading and is definitely the perfect book for a boring afternoon!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    In my quest this year to always have one classic novel going, I decided to start with this author I never heard of, an early 20th century Brit who specialized in journalism and the Victorian/Edwardian version of thrillers. "Four Just Men" was the start of a series about a determined band of European vigilantes who decide to kill off people in the world whom the law cannot punish. In this debut, their target is none other than the foreign secretary of Great Britain, who is pushing through a bill t In my quest this year to always have one classic novel going, I decided to start with this author I never heard of, an early 20th century Brit who specialized in journalism and the Victorian/Edwardian version of thrillers. "Four Just Men" was the start of a series about a determined band of European vigilantes who decide to kill off people in the world whom the law cannot punish. In this debut, their target is none other than the foreign secretary of Great Britain, who is pushing through a bill that would deport a Spanish champion of freedom and subject him to certain imprisonment or death. The trick of these books is getting you to like these cultured assassins and buy into the nobility of their otherwise illegal and unethical actions. The rest is the same kind of dabbling in new science that Conan Doyle had Holmes carry out. In this case, of course, the entire force of the Metropolitan Police is arrayed against the four gentlemen, who not only make their threats public but give specific dates on which they will issue other warnings and carry out their killing. The foreign secretary is petrified by this threat, but is also so convinced of his propriety that he will not give in. And police officials throw everything they have into protecting him. Will the Four be able to pull this one off, especially after their newest recruit tries to turn himself in? And what happens when a pickpocket gets involved late in the game? And what methods will they use to commit the righteous crime? It all gets resolved satisfactorily in this quick read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    I enjoyed this book much more than I expected. I knew nothing about it other than it's on my list of top mysteries to read. Turns out it is terrific satire that is surprisingly (and depressingly) very applicable to the current state of human affairs.

  16. 4 out of 5

    J.J. Lair

    You get the point of view of the Four, the police, witnesses, and local thieves. I can’t go into the best parts because it will give away plot points. It gets tense in the tea shop.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Arthur Pierce

    There are portions of this book that are gripping, and other spots that are quite tedious. Wallace is not a great writer by any standards (at the beginning of part 2 he finds it necessary to spell out to the reader that they should sympathize with the title characters) and I'm sure it bothered him not a bit when readers pointed out that much of the incident of his books strained the credibility. There is no doubt that this sort of thing influenced the comic book super hero genre for years afterw There are portions of this book that are gripping, and other spots that are quite tedious. Wallace is not a great writer by any standards (at the beginning of part 2 he finds it necessary to spell out to the reader that they should sympathize with the title characters) and I'm sure it bothered him not a bit when readers pointed out that much of the incident of his books strained the credibility. There is no doubt that this sort of thing influenced the comic book super hero genre for years afterwards (onto the present day, for that matter) and, as such, a certain amount of historical importance can be attached to it. If I could, I would give this book two-and-a-half stars, as I found it to be neither consistently compelling nor a complete waste of time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laura Rittenhouse

    A mystery that is the opposite of a who-done-it. From the beginning you are introduced to the 4 just men and learn of their desire to kill a prominent politician in England if he doesn't meet their demand. The demand is simple, do not table a bill that will allow the extradition of political activists. Not only is the reader told of their intention, the politician, police, newspapers and entire British population know as well (and a good portion of the rest of the world). The mystery is around ho A mystery that is the opposite of a who-done-it. From the beginning you are introduced to the 4 just men and learn of their desire to kill a prominent politician in England if he doesn't meet their demand. The demand is simple, do not table a bill that will allow the extradition of political activists. Not only is the reader told of their intention, the politician, police, newspapers and entire British population know as well (and a good portion of the rest of the world). The mystery is around how the 4 men will kill the politician and whether or not the police can stop them. Great story, interesting concept, well told, good read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    There can't be many authors who have a best seller that bankrupts them but Wallace managed it with this book, the story of how he did is every bit as entertaining as anything he wrote and is well worth investigating, anyway back to the book. A short book, a novella really, how four criminals pull off a remarkable crime under the police-force's nose. This isn't a book of hero's and villains, there's no Sherlock Holmes to solve the crime and the four men themselves are shadowy figures, it's just t There can't be many authors who have a best seller that bankrupts them but Wallace managed it with this book, the story of how he did is every bit as entertaining as anything he wrote and is well worth investigating, anyway back to the book. A short book, a novella really, how four criminals pull off a remarkable crime under the police-force's nose. This isn't a book of hero's and villains, there's no Sherlock Holmes to solve the crime and the four men themselves are shadowy figures, it's just to see how the crime is committed that builds up the tension.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sammy

    Not really worth it. A dimestore novel, but it's outlived its usefulness. Too many characters, and a plot which is promoted as "one of the great puzzles of crime fiction" but really hangs entirely on contrivance. Points, though, for some of the unexpected deviations - the story of Billy Marks is affectingly handled - and for its surprising timeliness: a story about well-meaning activists who become terrorists in their bid to stop an illegal immigration bill planned by self-righteous-but-decent p Not really worth it. A dimestore novel, but it's outlived its usefulness. Too many characters, and a plot which is promoted as "one of the great puzzles of crime fiction" but really hangs entirely on contrivance. Points, though, for some of the unexpected deviations - the story of Billy Marks is affectingly handled - and for its surprising timeliness: a story about well-meaning activists who become terrorists in their bid to stop an illegal immigration bill planned by self-righteous-but-decent politicians. Interesting, but unworthy.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bill Fletcher

    Cold and rainy night, power went out in the house and this was the perfect book to snuggle up with on my Kindle. Okay, you can't exactly snuggle up with a Kindle the way you can with an actual book, but it sure beats trying to read by candlelight. Definitely an old-fashioned writing style and kind of a poor-man's Chesterton, but a very fast read and interesting enough that I'll read more of his stuff, especially if the lights go out again!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    This was more interesting for the story of the story -- Edgar Wallace's life and the bankrupting contest he sponsored for the book -- than for the story itself. However, that story was interesting, a Sherlock Holmes story without a memorable Holmes but with the same atmosphere, and a bit more suspense. It's also very short, so I found it well worth the time to read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    David Macpherson

    This is a strange old book. The heroes are rich folk who are planning on killing a government official because he is about to introduce a piece of legislation into Parliament they are against. It is clever and has some nice detail and it moves, but the sense of moral vertigo kind of threw me, it was an odd reading experience.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Edith

    Edgar Wallace was a great storyteller - he wrote "King Kong" for heaven's sake! This story is a real pleasure to read - about a vigilante group on the trail of a bomber in London.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    Most enjoyable! A backwards murder mystery, where you're rooting for the murderers. A fun thriller with a touch of the Wodehouse about it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    Interesting twist to the mystery format - the book starts with the "4 just men" (vigilantes) planning the death of English minister Ramon and the murder doesn't occur until almost the very end.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Miika Hannila

    An astonishingly well written and timeless classic. Wallace has the ability to describe place and time vividly and without lengthening the novel unnecessarily.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Penny

    Ok read but wouldn't classify it as one of the crime books of the 20th century

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    The Four Just Men is a story about a group of men with a degree of intellect and financial means that allows them to dispense their own form of justice when they feel that conventional justice will not do an adequate job. In this book, they have sent a death threat to a ranking politician threatening to kill him unless he kills a Bill that he's working to put into law. We are only given a few details about the Four Just Men and their history. In addition to trying to stop this bill, they have al The Four Just Men is a story about a group of men with a degree of intellect and financial means that allows them to dispense their own form of justice when they feel that conventional justice will not do an adequate job. In this book, they have sent a death threat to a ranking politician threatening to kill him unless he kills a Bill that he's working to put into law. We are only given a few details about the Four Just Men and their history. In addition to trying to stop this bill, they have also meted out their own justice in other countries around the globe where they feel only they are able to bring balance where the law has failed. I found it intriguing that the book focuses on this group of vigilantes, setting them up as the heroes versus the government and the police. The idea of vigilante justice like this is something that's pretty common in dystopian novels or in cases where justice is meted out against a person or organization that is blatantly criminal (as seen in superhero stories) but in this story, I didn't feel that sufficient evidence was given to show that the actions of the Four Just Men was wholly warranted. Setting that aside, I found the story and its methods to be interesting. The men portrayed as highly civilized men of honor. Even their terroristic processes are bound by honor as they are sworn to first deliver warnings and demands to their target in order to give him ample time to "do the right thing." In other words, they do not glory in murder but rather just want to convince people to live and uphold the law in the way they desire. Most of the action is seen through the point of view of the Four Just Men as they work through the machinations of their plot. They deliberate amongst themselves as to whether or not the Foreign Secretary will accede to their request or if they will be forced to kill him. There is also a bit of unease in their group since during this particular mission they were required to employ the assistance from someone outside their group and they are unsure of his reliability and trustworthiness. At the same time, we see the actions of Scotland Yard and of the Foreign Secretary and other government officials as they deal with the incoming threats and work to find and stop the actions of the Four Just Men. I was pleased to see that Scotland Yard is presented as highly competent rather than a bunch of fools. They struggle to find the Four Just Men because they are outmatched, not because they are incompetent. I also enjoyed the discussions presented between the politicians. The stubborn nature felt a bit stereotypically satirical but also potentially realistic. Without spoiling too much, I will say that the Four Just Men did carry out multiple acts of mayhem in the course of the book. Their methods were mysterious and extravagant while also employing methods that could be explained with simple logic. This unraveling of the plot was certainly enjoyable. Overall, I had mixed feelings on this novel both while reading it and upon completing it. As mentioned, I found the character interactions and development to be fun and interesting. The mystery and its reveal were also fun. The main problem I had was around the ambiguity of who I should truly be rooting for. I think it is in that grey area that this novel truly shines. It makes a stark claim of good versus evil but it leaves the nuances blurry around the edges. In this, it mirrors the real world in many ways. All too often we hope for clearly defined boundaries of right versus wrong as we look to see justice carried out but instead we can usually find reasons to show at least some sympathy for both sides of the argument. In those cases, who is to decide where the balance truly lies and who is it that should be judge, jury and executioner? It is these lingering thoughts that make this novel stand out as a hidden classic to be enjoyed more than a century later. **** 4 out of 5 stars

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rick Mills

    Major characters: The Four Just Men: George Manfred, the leader Leon Gonsalez Poiccart Miguel Thery, a.k.a. Saimont Bernard Courtlander, a replacement also... Sir Philip Ramon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Billy Marks, pickpocket turned informant Detective Superintendent Falmouth Charles Garrett, reporter for The Megaphone Countess Maria Slienvich, a.k.a. The Woman of Gratz Synopsis: "The Four Just Men" (FJM) are a group who seek to enact justice outside the law. They are responsible for the deaths Major characters: The Four Just Men: George Manfred, the leader Leon Gonsalez Poiccart Miguel Thery, a.k.a. Saimont Bernard Courtlander, a replacement also... Sir Philip Ramon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Billy Marks, pickpocket turned informant Detective Superintendent Falmouth Charles Garrett, reporter for The Megaphone Countess Maria Slienvich, a.k.a. The Woman of Gratz Synopsis: "The Four Just Men" (FJM) are a group who seek to enact justice outside the law. They are responsible for the deaths of 16 people over time, who in their opinion, escaped justice. Part I: Sir Philip Ramon has come to their attention. Ramon is Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and while having committed no crime, is responsible for the introduction of a bill which the FJM oppose. This is the Aliens Extradition bill, which will allow the expulsion of persons who have come to England for sanctuary. The FJM have just replaced one of their number with Spaniard Miguel Thery. They groom him to execute Sir Philip, in the event he fails to withdraw his bill as they demand. The FJM, although killers, are exceedingly fair; and warn their victims in advance. Extraordinary measures are taken to protect Sir Philip. Newspaper ads are also placed offering rewards for the capture of the FJM, but it appears his end is inevitable. Part II: An anarchist organization, the Red Hundred, is now the target of the FJM. After Miguel Thery meets his end, a new fourth is added -- one who goes by the name Bernard Courtlander. Manfred's cat-and-mouse game with the Woman of Gratz continues. Manfred winds up arrested and imprisoned, where he maintains he will escape to avoid the death penalty. Review: The Four Just Men are like four Simon Templars all at once. They go after those who escaped justice, and mete it out themselves; to the wink-wink of the authorities. Part I, the affair of Sir Philip Ramon, is exciting and winds up as a locked-room puzzle. Part II becomes confusing and hard to follow, as there are three distinct groups (FJM, Red Hundred, the police) - then four (adding the cult-like Rational Faithers) all against each other simultaneously. It then turns into a locked-room mystery as Manfred looks to escape from the condemned cell at the prison. The attitudes of the prison authorities are interesting as they treat Manfred with great respect as they reluctantly bring him to the execution house. Will he escape? If there is to be a sequel (and there are several!) he must! (One aspect which I found a bit annoying: Sherlock Holmes-like teaser references to fictitious previous cases which are not authored anywhere. At least when the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew plug a previous case, it really exists!)

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