Tag Archives: detective story

Where Have All the Children Gone? [1985] / Where are the Children? [1996]

Where are the Children cover

Published: as Where Have All the Children Gone? Judy Picture Library #272

Reprinted: as Where are the Children? Mandy Picture Library #243

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Plot

In Victorian times, Flossie Ford is a poor slum girl that has made good and now runs her own florist shop in Cheapwell. The gentry are among her clients, including prim Miss Courtney and her bookworm brother Algernon Courtney. Flossie is particularly known for her buttonhole flowers. Still, Flossie has not forgotten her origins or her family, and can revert to Cockney, which she had to take special lessons to overcome.

Street children start disappearing from Cheapwell. Homeless, uncared-for waifs are the targets, but one exception is Flossie’s cousin Frankie Ludd, so it is personal for her and her Aunt Ada. Superintendent Spenser of the police recruits Flossie’s help because she can operate as both a Cockney in the slums and a respectable florist among the smart society; the police suspect someone in the smart society is behind the disappearances.

As the latter Flossie notices something odd when she arranges the flowers for Miss Courtney’s dinner party: one of their guests, Mr Warby-Bellowes is “one of their kings of industry”. Flossie is a bit surprised at this because Warby-Bellowes does not seem to be the sort who would appeal to the Courtneys, but she thinks nothing of it.

As the former, Flossie picks up a clue from the mudlarks that Frankie was buying a pie at Beck’s Wharf before he disappeared. At Beck’s Wharf, Flossie learns an old woman named Ma Jiggs bought the pie for Frankie, and she is now buying another pie for another waif. When Flossie asks Jiggs about Frankie, Jiggs denies all knowledge of him and says she just buys pies for waifs out of charity. However, Flossie senses Jiggs is mealy-mouthed and false, and therefore the sort who could lure children away with seeming kindness. But there is as yet no proof of this, and all Flossie can do is tell Spenser about Jiggs.

Where are the Children 2

Next day Flossie is arranging flowers for a wedding at the home of another client, Mrs Leighton, where she sees Warby-Bellowes again. A maid named Carrie tries to tell Flossie she just found out something about Cheapwell while she was home in Blackscar, a town a long way from Cheapwell. But before Carrie can say more, Mrs Leighton expresses disapproval at her maid wasting time talking to tradespeople. Later, Warby-Bellowes visits the florist shop and also asks Flossie what Carrie was trying to tell her. Flossie finds this suspicious and says they were just talking about the wedding.

At the police station Flossie finds the police are questioning Jiggs, who denies any connection with the missing children and stands up to interrogation. They are forced to release her, but both they and Flossie are suspicious of her. Then Carrie stumbles into the station, all beaten up. Carrie falls into a coma and can’t be questioned, but Flossie reports what passed between them.

A week later, Flossie goes back to Beck’s Wharf in Cockney disguise, where she finds Jiggs is no longer buying pies for the waifs. Jiggs tells Flossie she lost a good job because of her. Flossie retorts what good job that could be. Yes, what could it be – luring children off, maybe? Flossie reports this to Spenser.

At the hospital Carrie regains consciousness but is too scared to tell Flossie and the police anything. The police think the kidnappers may lie low after the scare they had, but they are wrong. The disappearances merely shift to a new section of Cheapwell, Nine Arches, and friends of the disappeared children insist they must have been kidnapped. By now the disappearances are sending waves of fear and paranoia through the street waifs and the slum dwellers of Cheapwell.

Flossie hits on a plan to flush out the kidnappers. She sets herself up as a target at Nine Arches, along with her cousin Alfie and friend Bert, and the police will be shadowing them. The kidnappers take the bait. A man named Wilkes (evidently Ma Jiggs’ replacement) approaches them. Wilkes is dressed more respectably than Ma Jiggs but looks sinister and evil, and is soon tempting them away with promises of food and warm clothing at a shelter full of “sad little souls” like themselves. They allow Wilkes to lure them away and to a closed wagon, where he locks them in and says they are going to be put to work. Flossie peeks out through the cracks in the wagon and is stunned to learn that Wilkes is in the pay of none other than the prim Miss Courtney! Presumably Algernon is involved too.

Where are the Children 4

The wagon takes them to (surprise, surprise!) Blackscar. They are put to work as (presumably unpaid) slave labour in a factory under a cruel overseer. They find Frankie, who has been badly beaten for trying to escape. They can’t escape without Spenser’s help, but he has lost the wagon and the trail. Fortunately the police pick up the wagon again and track it and Wilkes down to Warby-Bellowes. They overhear Wilkes telling Warby-Bellowes that the consignment was delivered safely (Spenser realises what this must mean) and more is promised. Spenser tackles Warby-Bellowes, who denies all knowledge about missing children. Spenser tells Warby-Bellowes he wants to pay a visit to his factories in the morning.

When the overseer is informed of this he hides the children. But Flossie leaves her calling card for the police – a buttonhole flower she put on the overseer. Spenser spots the clue immediately, orders an immediate search of the factory, and finds the kidnapped children.

The racket is exposed and stopped. The horror makes shock waves in the press, with photographs of the three racketeers on the front page. To reduce the chances of a repeat, Aunt Ada offers a home for homeless waifs. Flossie finds her shop is now even more popular and people keep asking her to tell the story over and over.

Thoughts

The racket is not unlike the one in Girl 2’s “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory”, in which a racket targets and kidnaps runaways and uses them as slave labour in a dress factory. The ways in which the children are kidnapped in both stories is very similar (lured away by false charity before being thrown into a vehicle and carted off to the slave factory) although one is set in Victorian times and the other in modern times.

Where are the Children 3

Unlike Nightmare Factory, this story is not told from the point of view of the abducted children and their struggle to survive, escape and expose the racket. It is told from the point of view of the people who are trying to find them. This gives the slave story the perspective of a detective story and a mystery that needs to be unravelled and a different take on the group slave story formula, which makes a nice change.

Again unlike Nightmare Factory, the abductees are lucky that the disappearances are noticed as soon as they start and alert people. The racketeers clearly played on the notion that nobody cared about homeless waifs, so nobody would even notice they were gone. If Wilkes has anything to go by, they may even have justified their actions in their own minds with the excuse they were doing the waifs and society a favour by clearing them off the streets and giving them employment. Of course the real reason is greed and making handsome profits by using slave labour instead of paid (if cheap) help. But they made the mistake of taking children who were not homeless waifs, such as Frankie Ludd, which did get noticed and raised the alarm. (This mistake is similar to the one the racketeers in Nightmare Factory eventually make.) The racketeers also made the mistake of assuming nobody would care about the waifs. There were people who did, including Flossie and the police.

Where are the Children 1

Flossie would make the old tried-and-true serial of a poor girl who rises above her poverty to become a great success through her talent for floristry if DCT had gone down that avenue with her. Instead, they give her the perfect vantage point to turn detective on behalf of the police in tracking down the disappeared children. Flossie has the best of both worlds for the job, with her slum origins that enable her to investigate the slums and her floristry reputation and connections to high society that enable her to investigate the gentry. She picks up clues at both ends, without which the police would never have cracked the case. And Flossie did it so well that none of the racketeers realised the florist and the slum girl were one and the same. The flowers do their part as well. Arranging them gives Flossie access to the homes of the gentry to do investigating, and Flossie’s trademark buttonhole flowers enable her to leave a call for help on the cruel overseer without making him suspicious.

Unfortunately the Courtney racketeers put on such convincing shows of respectability that Flossie did not suspect them. Flossie was completely fooled by Miss Courtney’s conduct of being a prim old maid who was so absorbed with her house, while her brother Algernon never seemed to do anything other than read books. Flossie thought Miss Courtney had probably never even heard of homeless waifs, much less know anything about the missing ones. When Flossie finds Miss Courtney out, she learns the hard way that appearances can be so deceiving. Fortunately Warby-Bellowes was not as clever as the Courtneys and made mistakes that made Flossie suspicious.

If Flossie had been a serial, there was scope to use her in more detective stories on behalf of the police, using her slum background to move among the slum areas, her floristry to probe the gentry, and leave flower trails for the police to follow. But she was a picture story library, which have few sequels.

Fear from the Past (1979)

Fear from the Past cover

Published: Judy Picture Library #192

Artists: Ian Kennedy? (cover); unknown (story)

Plot

June Mason and her father are on holiday in Germany and enjoying a Rhine steamer cruise. Then, one night an unknown man seizes June and throws her overboard. As he does so, June notices a scar on his right wrist.

A woman named Hanna Schmidt rescues June. The attack remains unsolved and of course June has been traumatised. In gratitude to Hanna, the Masons grant her request to stay with them for a few days, at their fine home near Dover.

All seems well until June is surprised to see Hanna out walking on the estate in the dead of night. But Parker the gamekeeper mistakenly fires a warning shot at Hanna because he mistook her for a poacher. Hanna’s story is that she could not sleep because of a romantic conflict of interest: she has fallen in love with an Englishman named Roger Mills while already loving another man in Germany. She asks the Masons if she can invite Roger over. June and her father think it is an awkward situation, but as they are grateful to Hanna, they agree to her request, but Roger must stay in the village.

Fear from the Past 2

As Hanna sets off to post her reply to Roger, Parker suddenly gets shot. Apparently his gun went off, and the injury is serious. When Roger arrives, he is allowed to take over Parker’s job and lodge temporarily because he has gardening experience.

Then June notices a scar on Roger’s wrist and recognises it as the one she saw on the assailant who threw her off the steamer. Soon June is drawing the right conclusions: Roger and Hanna are carrying out some sort of criminal plot. Roger threw her into the river for Hanna to “rescue” so Hanna would gain the Masons’ confidence and access to their property. Roger deliberately shot Parker so as to get his job and access to the Masons’ estate. June decides against telling her father for now in case he does not believe her, but is going to watch Hanna and Roger very closely.

June steals an opportunity to sneak into the gardener’s lodge and search Roger’s belongings in search of clues. She finds a rough map of their property that looks very aged and faded. On the map are the words “next to the elm” and “summerhouse” in German. She realises Hanna and Roger are after something hidden in the grounds. Her guess is confirmed when she finds Roger digging near the roots of an elm, and knows it is not because of rotting roots as Roger claims.

June goes to tell her father – only to find a note that he has gone to Manchester on urgent business. But in fact Roger has drawn Mr Mason away with a phony call.

Fear from the Past 4

Worse, Hanna saw June snooping in the lodge. When she tells Roger, they realise they must act fast. The trouble is, Roger has discovered the summerhouse has been moved since the map was drawn. This has left them with dozens of elms to check now and created an unforeseen delay when they had anticipated only a short time was required. They decide to work through the night, when June is asleep.

However, June is not asleep; she is keeping watch and sees Hanna sneak off into the woods. She follows, but Roger catches her. They leave June tied up, gagged and locked up in the gardener’s lodge, and they return to work. They intend to vanish for good once they find what they are looking for.

But Hanna and Roger have made two mistakes. First, they neglected to bind June’s legs, so she can still use them. Second, they did not see the dog-flap in the lodge. So, though still bound, June manages to escape. She flags down a lorry, and once the truckers see her bound and gagged they untie her and then come with her to stop the plotters. They arrive in time to see Roger and Hanna unearth what they have been looking for: a cache of valuables buried under an elm. The truckers seize the criminals and June calls the police.

The whole story comes out under police interrogation. Hanna’s father had been a WW2 pilot who looted a stately French home when the liberation of Paris started. He fled across the Channel in his plane, but was shot down and also wounded. Despite his injury, he managed to parachute into the grounds with the loot, bury it under the elm, and draw the rough map of its location. He was captured and spent the rest of the war in a British POW camp. His wounds prevented him from returning to retrieve the treasure, so he entrusted the job to Hanna.

Fear from the Past 5

Parker pulls through and is expected to make a complete recovery. Hanna is handed over to the German authorities while the British police charge Roger. The French government sends a letter of deep gratitude for the return of the valuables, particularly for the part June played. June then tells Dad she fancies their next holiday to be in Switzerland. Dad jokes they will have to make sure nobody pushes her off a mountain.

Thoughts

This is a very straightforward mystery story. It gets off to a very catchy start when a shadowy assailant attacks June on the steamer and throws her into the Rhine. Being pushed overboard would a terrifying, traumatic experience for anyone. The artwork makes the attack even more frightening with its use of black-and-white used in silhouette. The assailant and his motives are completely unknown. It can only look like attempted murder. Readers would very likely be set off in the direction of why anyone would want to kill June.

When June goes home she thinks she is safe, but the reader knows better; there wouldn’t be any point to the story otherwise. The attacker is sure to strike again, and the reader reads on in suspense to see when and how he will return. We wonder if he will strike at Hanna as well when she tags along with the Masons. Things get even tenser when the two shooting incidents occur, though they seem to be mishaps and nothing to do with the assailant.

Fear from the Past 3

When June sees the scar on Roger’s wrist and recognises it, she exhibits impressive powers of observation and deduction. Despite the shock, she had managed to notice the scar on her assailant’s wrist and remembered it. And once she sees it again, it only takes her a few minutes to work out the truth. She also shows tremendous courage in snooping into Roger’s belongings and realising she has to stand on her own when her father is called away on a phony call. She also shows resourcefulness and quick thinking when the crooks tie her up in the lodge. They think they have her secured, but she escapes quickly due to her superior knowledge of the lodge and their forgetting to tie her feet.

Roger and Hanna do have to be admired for their craftiness. The Masons realise the criminals must have spent months watching them in order to know about their Rhine cruise and put their scheme together. Their plan to gain access to the Masons’ property to start their search was extremely cunning. But things can go wrong with even the best-laid plans; in this case, the relocation of the summerhouse causing an unexpected delay and giving June more time to work out what is going on. And criminals have to make mistakes at some point. This happens when they try to secure June, but make the two mistakes noted above. Mr Mason also believes that attacking June outright on the steamer was another mistake and gave them away. It certainly did when June saw the scar during the attack. And suppose someone had witnessed the attack and caught Roger? They would have been far more clever to stage an accident for June on the steamer and make it look like an accident.

Fear from the Past 1

There are two quibbles with this story. The first is the title, which does not sound very descriptive of the story. “Fear from the Past” sounds like the protagonist has to overcome some fear in her past or something. Couldn’t they have found a better title, and one that summed up the cover (showing the attack on the steamer) more appropriately? The second is the second panel on page 51, where June escapes through the dog-flap. A speech balloon is used for June here, but it shouldn’t be because June is gagged. It should be a thought balloon. This is clear sloppiness on the part of the letterer and editor.

Still, this is an engrossing story. The early attack on the steamer makes it even more gripping, particularly as the attacker and his motives remain unknown. The plotting is well paced and tight, and there is no meandering into red herrings. The use of black inking and the contrast of white space add to the atmosphere and tension of the story, and also to the night scenes, when a lot of the plot developments occur. There are plenty of panels where the artwork is simply sumptuous, such as the one where June falls into the Rhine. We can see that the artist would be brilliant at a ballet or gymnastics story.

Hot Gossip!

Plot

Everyone thinks the Mount Comp school magazine is boring. Then the ALTERNATIVE school mag appears, and it is filled with gossip and poison pen lies about staff and pupils. Its venom is particularly aimed at one pupil named Ali. Nobody knows who is producing it, and it keeps appearing despite the head’s warnings. Ali’s brother and friends start detective work to track down the culprit.

hot-gossip

Notes

  • Photo story

Appeared

  • Hot Gossip! –  Bunty: #2062 (19 July 1997) – #2067 (23 August 1997)

Who is ‘J’?

Plot

Vicky Brown’s sister Mary is emotionally upset by someone with the initial ‘J’, and then has an road accident that leaves her comatose. Vicky turns detective to track down ‘J’, believing ‘J’ to be responsible for Mary’s accident. But this has her hurting a lot of innocent people whose names begin with J because she has wrongly assumed they are ‘J’.

J

Notes

  • Artist: Barrie Mitchell

Appeared

  • Who is ‘J’? –  Mandy: #919 (25 August 1984) – #932 (24 November 1984)

 

Not a Clue!

Plot:

Wendy Watson works for Sheldrake Homes (a parody of Sherlock Holmes). She is the one who ends up solving the mysteries and getting Homes out of scrapes he gets himself into.

Clue

Notes:

Appeared:

  • Not a Clue! –  Mandy: #677 (05 Jan. 1980) – #688  (22 March 1980)
  • Not a Clue! –  Mandy: #701 (21 June 1980) – #708  (09 August 1980)

Other Appearances:

  •  Not a Clue! –  Mandy Annual 1982