First Published in June 1942 - 191 pages
This book is divided into two distinct parts. The first half of the book is a story that is in fact a rewrite of a previous story by W. E. Johns. It had originally been called
and the heroes were Steeley and Tubby. This “Steeley” story had been published in 'The War Thriller' (number 586) on 27th April 1940. In 'Sinister Service', Steeley becomes Lance Lovell and Tubby becomes Lance's brother, Rodney Lovell. As to the second part of the story, it appears to be completely original but there has to be a possibility that it is a rewrite of another Johns story - either previously unpublished or published in a unknown periodical.
If anybody can shed any light on this, please let me know!
FORWARD BY RODNEY LOVELL
The forward, written in the first person, as is the entire book, tells us how Rodney Lovell came to be in the Secret Service (or, as some call it, the Sinister Service). He and his brother Lance, who is some three years older than Rodney, are the sons of a diplomat, and were born in Germany. They speak German as well as they speak English. They both also learned to fly. After the death of their father, they returned to England with their mother. Time passes and Rod is invited on a trip to the New Forest with his brother Lance. At this stage, Rod doesn't know his brother's occupation.
Lance and Rod are driving through the New Forest when they almost run over a woman who runs out in front of their car. Two men are chasing this woman, whose name is ascertained to be Julia Ashton-Harcourt. The two men are armed and dangerous. Taking Julia back to her house, Lance and Rod find out that she has suspicions about gliders silently landing in the night. On investigating her suspicions, Julia had then found herself being pursued by the two armed men. Lance's car is stolen and our heroes are forced to use Julia's car. On returning to Julia's empty cottage a bomb is discovered in her kitchen. The following day, investigations are carried out and Lance, Rod and Julia go to Garthstone Manor, where they are suspicious of Mr. Smith, the owner, particularly as he has been burning things in his back garden, such as glider parts. After a meal at a hotel, Julia returns home alone to get her belongings as she intends to move out. When she doesn't return, Lance and Rod return to her house to find her car on the drive. Julia has disappeared and our heroes fear that she has been kidnapped. Lance and Rod take the car and intend to go back to Garthstone Manor to look for Julia but they begin to feel sleepy. Lance realises just in time that an attempt is being made to try to gas them by turning the exhaust back into the car. After smashing the windscreen to get fresh air and then pretending to crash they are approached by a car containing two men. Lance and Rod overpower the men and find Julia tied up in the back of their car. Arrangements are made for a police raid on Garthstone Manor. Lance, Rod and Julia return to the Manor in advance of the raid and see a glider land and hear German being spoken. Here, in an addition to the original text, Lance, Rod and Julia get lost in a maze in the grounds and also meet the mysterious 'Hylda' - who turns out to be a chimpanzee. A shoot out occurs and the baddies escape in three cars. Lance and Rod manage to hijack a fourth car in order to pursue them. The chase leads to Conway in Wales where the Germans are planning to meet a waiting submarine. Lance has managed to organise naval support and the Navy arrives in time to ram the Germans' submarine causing it to sink. The day is saved but there is still to be a surprise in store for Julia.
Lance and Rod are sent by General Carteret to Germany to rescue a man called Doctor Luther Colburg. Colburg is a Czech inventor and a specialist in armour plating, who has been kidnapped. Parachuting into Germany, our two heroes head for Obendorf, on the Elbe. Stopping at a 'Bierhaus', Lance gets chatting with a man and persuades him to put them up for a few days. The man, Schmidt, has a son who is a fanatical Nazi. Learning that Colburg is being held in a college and that the Commandant of the college is expecting a visit from Bureau 17, Lance forms a plan. The next day, Lance and Rod travel to Hamburg and ring Commandant Wolff at the college to tell him of their proposed arrival and to have a car meet them at the station. This way, Lance and Rod are taken to the college and meet with the Commandant. They order him to bring Colburg to see them straight away. Dismissing the guards and knocking out the Commandant, Lance and Rod make a daring escape in the car belonging to the real visitors from Bureau 17, who have just arrived. Changing the car for a lorry, they make for Hamburg and the address of a secret agent that can help them. Here, they intend to hide up for a few days, until they can rendezvous with a plane that is due to meet them. Hidden in a secret room, things take a turn for the worse when the house is raided by the Germans and the occupiers are arrested (and killed). The Germans are not aware of the secret room, however. Lance and Rod have to shoot their way out of the house and they take Doctor Colburg with them. They set fire to the house so that the Germans cannot use it as a trap for unsuspecting agents. At a checkpoint, Lance sets fire to a load of straw piled high on a military lorry. This diversion enables our heroes to get through to the rendezvous. Hearing the baying of hounds, Lance realises that the Germans have got tracker dogs after them. There then follows a desperate shoot-out as our heroes wait for the aeroplane to come and pick them up. The pilot is wounded and Lance has to fly the plane home. Rod mans the rear guns to fight off enemy aircraft that try to stop them. Coming down in the North Sea, our heroes are rescued by a British patrol boat. Back in England, General Carteret enrols Rod as an active member of his staff.
Subtitle - The adventures of Lance Lovell, counter-espionage officer, told by his brother and unofficial assistant, Rodney Lovell.
Publication Details - originally published by Oxford
French Edition – note the removal of the Swastika
The original first edition dust jacket in full
The original second edition dust jacket in full
The design of the boards for the first edition
Click on the Frontispiece to enlarge it