The second novel in the “Complete Four Just Men” collection was published three years after the first and in this time Wallace had rethought his anti-heroes. In the opening work they were pitched against the establishment in actions that looks, especially to modern eyes, like terrorism. In a bid to keep readers’ sympathies to the characters in this longer novel they are pitched against a group of anarchists, known as the Red Hundred, who begin their own campaign of terror in London. Significant amongst these is the first female character in this series. Known only as the Woman of Gretz she has established herself strongly amongst the anarchic group. She is a very welcome addition to the cast of characters but Wallace is not sure what to do with her- rabble-rouser, heartless bitch or displaying humanity, she’s all a bit of a mish-mash which doesn’t come off.
The Four Just Men on this their second outing still seem underdrawn, merging into one another but given their need for anonymity this might have been intentional. One of them, George Manfred, is established more strongly as a separate character this time around. As in the first book in the series what works best of all here is the build-up to the climax. In that book it was the projected assassination of a British minister and here it is a potential jail break which ramps up the tension extremely effectively.
I must admit that I am not yet gripped by these books from their start to finish but there is certainly enough in the first two instalments to keep me wanting to read on.
The Council Of Justice was originally published in 1908. I am reading the 2012 Wordsworth paperback compendium “The Complete Four Just Men”.