Book Review: The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer

Published in 1916, The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu (also called The Devil Doctor), is set two years after the previous book, The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu. This review does make some reference to events in the previous book, so do not continue if you want to avoid reading them.

Once again, the book is narrated by Dr. Petrie and the Burmese police commissioner Denis Weyland Smith. Dr. Petrie had returned to London, having been unable to find Dr. Fu-Manchu’s slave girl, Kâramanèh, who helped Petrie and Smith in the first book. Smith himself had returned to Burma.

At the start of the book, Smith returns to England, and meets up with Dr. Petrie, to inform him that Fu-Manchu himself has also returned to England. Kâramanèh is once again working for Fu-Manchu, and seems to possess no recollection to the events in the previous book, although she once again is attracted to Dr. Petrie, still for no easily seen reason.

Dr. Fu-Manchu appears to have returned to England primarily to dispose of the duo of Smith and Petrie, although he does manage other plots along the way. The duo themselves have a tendency to blunder into his traps, a fact he taunts them for, although in true criminal mastermind style, he doesn’t kill them outright.

For all his actions, Dr. Fu-Manchu is once again a man of his word, if he gives it. Even if it would benefit him to do otherwise, he still never breaks it; an odd aspect for a character portrayed as being so evil.

The racism from The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu is, unfortunately, still present. Dr. Fu-Manchu’s genius is said to be ‘..inspired by the cool, calculated cruelty of his race, of that race which to this day disposes of hundreds, nay! thousands, of its unwanted girl-children by the simple measure of throwing them down a well specially dedicated to the purpose.’ Certainly, such an action is worthy of condemnation, but applying it to the whole race – whose definition seems to include pretty much everyone in the Far East who isn’t white – is not justified, or you could viably use it to portray any nationality as evil, by the actions of a few, none being entirely above reproach.