Book name: Gimlet Comes Home
Author: Captain WE Johns
Publisher: University of London Press
Genre: Vintage children’s fiction
Publication Date: 1946
Star Rating: 5/5
One of Captain WE Johns’ popular series of action adventures for boys featured Captain Lorrington King, known as Gimlet.
During and after World War Two, Gimlet featured in ten books. These were published between 1943 and 1954. He also appears in a short story and Gimlet’s regulars also feature in a Biggles book.
When Gimlet Comes Home begins, it’s after the war, and he is supposed to meet former members of his Commando unit for a reunion at the Ritz. The lads all turn up, but Gimlet is nowhere to be seen.
Concerned by Gimlet’s no show, the lads decide to take the train to Devon and call at Gimlet’s home.
The snooty butler refuses to say where Gimlet has gone, but the gardener fills them in.
Gimlet has gone to Scotland to visit some land he has just inherited. There’s a shooting lodge and thousands of acres of moorland.
The lads piece together the timeline and work out that Gimlet should have been able to return to London in time for their dinner together. But he has simply disappeared.
The lads head to Scotland, prepared to camp out and more concerned than ever that Gimlet didn’t make their reunion.
Cub, Copper and Trapper all served in Gimlet’s Commando unit during the war. Copper has also been a policeman. Trapper is from Canada and has excellent tracking skills.
All of them know how to manage in hostile terrain on limited supplies. They also have a strong sense of loyalty towards their commanding officer.
At the small station in Tomnarrow, the lads ask after Gimlet and a local man tells them that Gimlet has arrived.
The Strathcarglas estate is seventeen miles walk away. On the way, they see a post office and an inn.
They stop at the inn to ask whether they have seen Gimlet, but are turned away on the grounds that it is full. None of them believe this, but the reasons for the hostility aren’t clear.
On the inn floor, however, Cub finds a match in the join between the linoleum. It has ’The Ritz’ printed on it. Gimlet has been there, even though the innkeeper denied it.
The lads head on up towards the lodge, expecting to find Gimlet at any moment. On the way, however, they spot an old mine.
At the bottom of the mineshaft, unconscious and almost dead, they find Gimlet.
He has been thrown down there after being hit on the back of the head by the men from the inn. He recovers and is able to tell the lads what happened.
From then on, it’s a question of finding out who the men are, what they are doing in the Highlands of Scotland and (eventually) involving the police.
Gimlet’s men are all former Commandos, so they are at ease around weapons and the lodge soon provides a store to supplement the guns they brought with them.
The story was full of action throughout. The premise of the lads’ concern for Gimlet, who in normal circumstances ought to have been able to look after himself, was carefully laid out at the beginning of the story.
Once that was done, the lads’ loyalty and ethos that ‘No man is left behind’ was the driver of their actions. Gimlet would have died but for their willingness to trust their instincts.
There was plenty of physical danger. Sometimes this came from the rough terrain and often inclement weather. At other times, it was supplied by the gang of thugs who have taken over the inn. But what are they up to in such a remote place, and why is it valuable enough for them to try to murder Gimlet when he innocently gets in the way?
I loved this story. Each of the four characters was very different, but their teamwork and loyalty to each other held them together. The threat posed by the gang was real and immediate, and the courage required to apprehend them made Gimlet Comes Home compelling right to the end.
Thank you for reading my review.
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