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The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu

(Fu Manchu #1)

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  1,516 ratings  ·  239 reviews
London, 1913the era of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, and the Invisible Man. A time of shadows, secret societies, and dens filled with opium addicts. Into this world comes the most fantastic emissary of evil society has ever known Dr. Fu-Manchu.

Denis Nayland Smith pursues his quarry across continents and through the back alleys of London. As victim after victim disappears at
Paperback, 293 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Titan Books (first published April 1913)
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Bill Kerwin

I like this book, but I feel a little guilty about it. It's not just that it is permeated with orientalist attitudes, but that it makes those attitudes seem less quaint and more sinister because they are reinforced here by blatant racism. It is bad enough that the villain embodies the malevolent cunning of The Inscrutable East, but it is much worse when the hero is repeatedly described as the "savior of the white race."

To appreciate the book as I do--even if you feel guilty about it--it is
Jan 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who are unaware of the threat posed by cunning, diabolical Chinamen
"The most brilliant criminal mind to have existed in generations!" is how our Asian Moriarty is breathlessly described in this shameless Sherlock Holmes ripoff, featuring a doctor sidekick narrating an adventure in which the protagonist is his brilliant detectiveish friend.

The problem with hyperbole is that you have to back it up. Conan Doyle is great at this. There's this fine line: you want to leave the reader unable, usually, to solve the mystery, but when you do the big reveal at the end
K.T. Katzmann
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People Who Love Villains or Hate the Chinese
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To a student a literature, there are classics of older times for which allowances that must be made to understand the cultural in which they were written.

And then there's The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu

The story is simple enough. Knock-off Sherlock Holmes (henceforth KOSH) returns from Asia, informing Knock-Off of Doctor Watson (henceforth KODW) of the threat of . . .

Well, he doesn't really say, honestly. KOSH just pulls KODW through an entire adventure, occasionally mentioning someone named Fu
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone

The review from afar No. 9

Re-revised forward to these overseas reviews:
As I emulate a yo-yo, I continue to rely on an old-style Kindle 3G for any non-technical reading. I tip my hat to the fine folks at Project Gutenberg: virtually every title I have or will be reading in the near future comes from them.

The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu (American title, in England, The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu) begins the most famous series created by the prolific Sax Rohmer (nee Arthur Henry Ward). Rohmer was a
Tim Pendry

'The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu' is the American title for 'The Mystery of Fu Manchu' (published in the UK in 1913) which, in turn, was the novelisation of a series of short stories by Sax Rohmer published in 1912.

It is an exercise in sustained hysteria which is only partly explained by the original short story magazine format with its requirement for cliff hangars and constant thrills. Yet it remains a classic as the quintessential expression of Edwardian imperial paranoia and self-image.

MB Taylor
I finished reading The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu last Friday on the way home from work. Its the first book I read on my Nook; I downloaded it for free from I think I first read the Fu Manchu series sometime in the mid-seventies (or at least first eight). Of course I bought them all, and the remaining six are sitting unread on a shelf (or in a box) someplace.

First, about the edition: According to the text in the book Google scanned a hard copy from some library, converted to text using
Mar 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pyramid
First published in 1913, read by me over 100 years later in 2014. Yes, there are overwhelming amounts of Orientalism and obnoxious English stereotyping. For example, Dr. Fu Manchu is always the face of the "yellow threat." So the novel displays the xenophobia of the age. However, it does present a mysterious, exotic villain. The main characters are constantly failing on this adventurous chase to arrest Dr. Fu Manchu, but they do hustle the reader along in non-stop exploits of hasty detective ...more
Dec 30, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, classics
I came across an old copy of this in my library's stacks. I'm a sucker for old mysteries, and obviously knew of this one by reputation, but let's just say I was still unprepared for the horrific racism and sexism in this book. The plot is very long as you are prepared to accept at face value that the fate of the White Race is on the line at the hands of the sinister Chinese, and to read a great deal of pretty outrageous accusations and characterizations along these lines. Should ...more
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it
This is the first in a series of popular Techno-thriller; Spy fiction written before WWI. Its a Sherlock Holmes-like story. It pits English gentlemen against an Oriental [sic], evil, genius committing acts of espionage, kidnapping and assassination in London for a shadowy Chinese political movement. (A surprisingly modern premise.) Its a good early example of the techno-thriller/spy fiction genres, although a modern reader may find the style to be peculiar when compared to modern examples of the ...more
Nov 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My handful of regular followers will think I've gone quite mad. This is a bad, bad book...but there is more than one way to read a novel, and a certain difference between 'so bad paint drying supervisory duty is a more fulfilling experience' and 'so far beyond bad it's somehow crossed back around to Awesome again'.

As I read it, this is the story about a secret agent/mad scientist of slightly-above average intelligence and the two bungling detectives who try to foil him. Indeed, Agent Smith and
Mar 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
For better or worse, this provocative relic has become one of my favorite books. Rohmer invested his writing with an irresistible pulpy energy which borrows some of the superficial trappings of Doyle's Holmes and improves upon them. Anybody looking for fact or cultural accuracy shouldn't be reading this because it's in fact a grand fantasy, a work of high imagination. This book's loaded with opium dens, clever executions, disguises, chases, and even finds time for a romance.

I can't resist this
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery, old-fashioned
This book is also called The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu. It was made into a talkie in the 20's with Warner Oland in the role of the doctor. (Incidentally, Oland played my favorite Charlie Chan.)
Arun Divakar
Jul 03, 2016 rated it liked it
The two British protagonists of this book are extreme racists. Speaking through the mouths of these two, the author employs almost every possible racial slur against the Chinese. Anything remotely related to China or Asia are right away branded as evil and objects of suspicion.

Thats the most in-your-face fact about the story of Dr. Fu Manchu. Any thought about this book from me could not proceed unless I had put these into words out here. Sax Rohmers story is a celebration of villainy with the
 Reading Reindeer
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical fiction, mystery/thriller, horror
Recommended to Reading Reindeer by: Hearts On Fire Reviews
Shelves: march-2012-reads
Sax Rohmer has been called the true king of the pulp mystery (James Rollins) and in my personal view, Rohmer is pulps crowning achievement (and achiever). As a child in the 1950s and 60s, I loved his Fu-Manchu mysteries, and I love them still on rereading after many decades. They seem fresh and new, and still gloriously written, plotted, and characterized. Titan Books has done the literate world the enormous favour of reprinting Rohmers series, with two currently available and many more to come ...more
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoy reading older novels like this. They are not only entertaining, but I consider them to be fascinating records of their time. You really get to see how things have changed over time, not only with how words are spoken, but what more insensitive words and phrases were used as appropriate back then. This is especially true in a book like this, written and set in London in 1913 and deals with a villain from a foreign land like China. Words like "Chinaman," "Oriental" and "Yellow ...more
Oct 30, 2015 rated it liked it
This is Sax Rohmer's first book featuring the nefarious Dr. Fu Manchu, evil genius and threat to the West. The book was originally published as a series of tales in various magazines in the early 1900's. In 1913, it was published in its current form. The story is fast paced and often somewhat hurky-jerky. It follows Dennis Smith and his friend, Dr. Petrie as the track Fu-Manchu around London trying to stop Fu-Manchu as he tries to kill or kidnap important British scientists and engineers or ...more
Julie Davis
Jul 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listening to B.J. Harrison's reading of it for the second time ... which is fantastic. Yes it's old and it's got some non-P.C. talk in it (because it was written in 1913) but it is a gosh-darned good adventure. Truly, Dr. Fu Manchu is a menace to all that is good, in epic proportions that astounded me with their imagination.

I thought it was interesting that author Sax Rohmer responded to charges that his work demonised Asians thusly:
Of course, not the whole Chinese population of Limehouse was
Aug 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's amazing how much action Sax Rohmer crams into this short, 192-page book. In it, Commissioner Nayland Smith and his cohort, Dr. Petrie, travel around London trying to rescue various chaps from murder, kidnapping, memory loss and assorted attacks perpetrated by the evil Chinese mastermind, Dr. Fu Manchu. The pace of the book is quite breathless, and before all is said and done, we have dealt with poisonous centipedes, opium dens, trapdoors, memory drugs, mummies, poison gas, thugees and ...more
Jack Massa
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
Episodic and moderately entertaining yarn (or yarns) pitting Edwardian British Government agent Nayland Smith and his cohort, friend and narrator, Dr. Petrie, against the master criminal "yellow peril personified" Dr. Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu himself is the most interesting character, and his varied and ingenious ways of facilitating murder in inaccessible locales and locked rooms the most entertaining tropes. It was also amusing to read a thriller actually written in this era (circa 1913) depicting ...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
I know that these are supposed to be terribly politically incorrect, and there is a fair bit of racial typing happening here, but Fu Manchu is a brilliant fictional creation. Rohmer's prose is vivid and his sense of pacing is excellent, as is his flair for the weird. There are moments of pure horror on display here, as well as sequences of action that left me feeling as winded as if I were actually there. That's good thriller writing, and Rohmer's novels deserve to be remembered for their ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime
Nayland Smith arrives unannounced from Burma at the house of his friend Dr. Petrie; follow them through their daring adventures as Smith attempts to capture the evil genius and murderer, Dr. Fu-Manchu...
Colin Garrow
Dec 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Evil genius Dr Fu-Manchu sets in motion his plans for the conquest of China and the downfall of Western civilisation. But he must first deal with doggedly-determined hero of the Empire, Commissioner Nayland Smith and his pal Dr Petrie, who pursue him through the opium dens of Limehouse and several large country houses.

Penned by English novelist Sax Rohmer (real name Arthur Ward), this is the first of the Fu-Manchu books and introduces typically Sherlockian-type investigator Nayland Smith and
William M.
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This first book of the Fu-Manchu adventures is packed with non-stop suspense, action, and mystery. The atmosphere drips with danger and the short chapters have a cliffhanger that keeps you hooked with nearly palpable anticipation. Fascinating characters and engaging dialogue pulls the reader into a world that I very much look forward to visiting again with the next title. One of the most wholly enjoyable reading experiences in a long time. The biographical facts of author Sax Rohmer at the end ...more
A fun read, but very dated. The book is VERY 19th century/early 20th century British in its language, storytelling method, and theme. It's rather racist by today's standards, so keep that in mind as you read it. It's a good story, though, and Fu Manchu is a formidable villain. I've watched a couple of the Fu Manchu movies that have been made over the years (one from the early 1930s, one from the 1960s) and both films were rather corny. This book, even though it's melodramatic and racist, was ...more
Jun 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britain, reviewed, fiction
For every single work of lasting literary value (in anyone's eyes) there must be at least a thousand volumes of easier material not requiring so much work on the part of the reader. Which is by no means to say that such "easier material" does not from time to time throw up its own classics read again and again by all subsequent generations. But the vast majority of such (what can I say?) playground lit, literary fast food, undemanding eye fodder pretty much dies after a generation or so, after ...more
I just had me a nice little dose of déjà vu. Earlier this year I read Sax Rohmer's The Golden Scorpion. And now I have finished The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu. And it was like reading the same pulpy, cliff-hanger, Yellow Peril story all over again. Evil, all-powerful, Chinese master criminal bent on world conquest with ominous green eyes? Check. Leaving behind a trail of murdered experts in their field? Check. Beautiful, mysterious, woman who is strangely enslaved to the evil master criminal, but ...more
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sinophobes, pulp fiction junkies
Shelves: edwardian, crime, 1910s, london
Homicidal fungus, scent-seeking noxious centipedes, dacoits in the eaves, thugs, trap doors, sarcophagi exhaling fatal fumes, and a whole pharmacopoeia of deadly draughts and decoctions are the lethal tools of Dr. Fu-Manchu's insidious trade. His goal nothing less than the complete subjugation of the white race!

Sax Rohmer's pulp fiction thriller The Insidious Dr.-Fu Manchu (1913) is an imperialist's nightmare: the hordes of the East seek to reverse centuries of malign Western exploitation.
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
I've got to say I had mixed feelings about this book, racism aside* because I can take it with a pinch of salt and still enjoy the story. On the one hand it is a thrilling pulp adventure with death traps, perplexing mysteries and criminal masterminds, on the other it is a overwrought, repetetive and somewhat unevenly paced book to sit through.

The action moves steadily towards the first mystery, one of a fatal mark known as the "Zayat Kiss" and the heroes are on the track of the handiwork of a
Oct 13, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a collection of short detective stories involving the villain Fu Manchu. I find it interesting that the name of the villain is well know and not the name of the detective in the series.

There is a reason for that though. Sax Rohmer certainly tried to follow the Conan Doyle mode with a brilliant deductive detective, physician assistant and brilliant adversary such as Moriarity Sax Rohmer just doesn't have the skill to pull it off. The author is really quite good at inventive plots and
Emily Chen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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AKA Arthur Sarsfield Ward (real name); Michael Furey.

Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward (15 February 1883 - 1 June 1959), better known as Sax Rohmer, was a prolific English novelist. He is best remembered for his series of novels featuring the master criminal Dr. Fu Manchu.

Born in Birmingham to a working class family, Rohmer initially pursued a career as a civil servant before concentrating on writing

Other books in the series

Fu Manchu (1 - 10 of 19 books)
  • Tales of Chinatown
  • The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu
  • The Hand of Fu-Manchu
  • Daughter of Fu-Manchu
  • The Mask of Fu-Manchu
  • The Bride of Fu-Manchu
  • The Trail of Fu-Manchu
  • President Fu-Manchu
  • The Drums of Fu-Manchu
  • The Island of Fu-Manchu

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