The story begins as Benson's two teammates Smitty and Mac (introduced in Justice, Inc.) witness the explosive destruction of a four-story building in New York City. After determining that the culprits were after some mysterious “Mexican Bricks,” Smitty and Mac chance upon a young, diminutive woman named Nellie Gray. While the two watch, Nellie uses martial arts to overcome her captors and eventually become freed. Impressed, the two introduce Nellie to Benson.
Benson learns that Nellie's father, Professor Gray, recently led an expedition to Mexico to study Aztec ruins. Connecting the mysterious bricks to Gray's expedition plunges the team into a murder mystery. I won't ruin the shock for readers, but Nellie becomes an active member of the team to find the killer(s). In a way, this is her origin story just as the series' third volume introduces Josh and Rosable Newton.
Ernst's narrative focuses on Benson and his colleagues discovering the whereabouts of five Mexican bricks that display a treasure map when placed together. It's the 'ole “one ring to control them all” bit as the search runs through banks, bombed out buildings, warehouses and, of course, Mexico's Aztec ruins. While pulpy, it isn't an overly zany, suspicious spectacle of weird characters. The action is more of a procedural hardboiled crime mystery that asks the readers to suspend their disbelief during the obligatory hypnosis segments. Benson is still the chameleon as he changes his facial features to infiltrate criminal gangs, but at least he gets caught to prove he's a flawed hero.
The Yellow Hoard should appeal to fans of The Shadow, Doc Savage and other likable pulp heroes from this place in time. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'm anxious to learn where the team's next mission takes them. Purchase a copy of this novel HERE.
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