Approach the dark corner booth ...
Ten stories featuring Jericho Syn, alias The Scarecrow — lurking in The Shadows, shining law and vengeance on the city’s underbelly. Just walk to darkened corner booth …
In Harbor City there are the police, and there’s the Outfit. And in the middle is Jericho Syn. He walks the fine line between crime and the law. Known as the Scarecrow, he’s the man to see when no one else can or will help you.
Syn knows where the bodies are buried. He should — he’s put a few in the ground himself. But he’s always willing to help if the cause is just and the money is right.
So if you’re in trouble and don’t know where to turn, just step into The Shadows and look for Jericho Syn in the back booth. It’s dark there, better for him to hear your confession. But don’t expect absolution. The Scarecrow only deals in penance and he makes certain the guilty always pay.
JOHN L. FRENCH is a retired crime scene supervisor. As a break from the realities of his job, he started writing science fiction, horror, fantasy, and crime fiction. He is the author of 20 novels.
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"The Wages of Syn" is a collection of a New Pulp hero from John L. French. It is actually set in Harbor City, the location of his first novel, "The Devil of Harbor City", and it is actually set not too long after that. It’s considered another “pulp” work from French, along with that novel as well as the Gray Monk and Nightmare. But unlike those, this one came from Bold Venture Press. This volume stars Jericho Syn, alias The Scarecrow, who provides “unofficial justice” in Harbor City, in between the cops and the Outfit. Sometimes he is approached by one or the other to help them. He almost never metes out the justice himself but ensures that it occurs. His “office” is a dim booth at the back of The Shadows, a restaurant/bar. In some ways I’m reminded of Repairman Jack, but there are many differences. But don’t expect him to put on a mask or costume. He’s not that kind of character, either. Some may notice his names: “Syn” and “The Scarecrow.” We learn in the intro that he’s intended to be a descendant of Rev. Christopher Syn, who had a career as a pirate, Captain Cleeg, and later was The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh back in the 1700s. He is a character from a short series of novels in the early 1900s by Russell Thorndyke. It’s been adapted into movies and TV in the 1960s. One was a Hammer movie with Peter Cushing in the title role. The other was a Disney adaption starring Patrick McGoohan, which was featured on the Wonderful World of Disney and in a three-issue comic book. This was later edited into a movie. I recall it from my youth but have not seen it since. But we are told that he is known as The Scarecrow as it was used by his uncle, who had fought gangsters and Nazis before retiring. I don’t think we’ve had stories with him, and I’d like to see those. The volume is made up of short stories. Each is a standalone, and the only connections are within Jericho’s personal life. In each, Jericho deals with a new client and case. But I would recommend reading them in order, though. In the first story, Jericho is at The Shadows where he sees a former stripper who has changed her identity and is on a date. But someone else notices her and has exposed her identity. Later, it seems that the Outfit has caught wind and may take action against her. Can Jericho get her out of this problem and figure out who exposed her? Next, a college basketball player has a problem. He is being blackmailed to shave points due to an indiscretion that could ruin him. Jericho takes the case. Can he figure out who is blackmailing the boy, with or without the help of the Outfit? An ordinary man is gunned down. No explanation for why. His widow comes to Jericho after a cop refers him to her. Turns out the man was one of four boys who confessed to raping and killing a young girl. All were sent to juvenile and given new identities and moved away. But as Jericho looks at the case, he realizes that the boys were innocent, being forced to confess for a payout. Was the man killed because someone thought he was guilty or because he was going to reveal the truth? Can Jericho figure it out before more innocents are killed, and expose the guilty to justice? A cop gets gunned down in broad daylight by a burglar he sent to jail. It makes no sense why he would be killed. And what should have been a slam dunk case fails when witnesses say he was across town at the same time. So the killer gets off. Jericho is asked unofficially to look into things and expose the guilty. While that may seem clear in the beginning, we learn better. A man comes to Jericho to help find his “wife.” Basically, a woman who has an arrangement with him to be his wife one day a week. But she has disappeared. He just wants to be sure she’s okay. Again, what seems to be a simple case turns into murder and more by the end. And Jericho meets someone who will quickly become special in his life. In what seems another case of domestic problems, a wife comes to Jericho for help. Her husband has started to beat her over the past couple of years, and she wants it to stop. He is able to get her help, but what can he do to put an end to it? But solutions sometimes come to you. Jericho is summoned to the hospital room of a P.I. he knows, who was beaten nearly to death. He looks into his last case, which seemed pretty simple. A very rich man is dying and is looking for his missing heirs to ensure they inherit. He tracks down the niece he never knew. But after arriving in town, she is brutally murdered, her body butchered. Can Jericho work out what is really going on and ensure his friend is safe? Someone kidnaps the young son of a rich family. And they ask for the Scarecrow to handle the exchange. As part of this, they want the Scarecrow to leave them alone. This means don’t come after them or give information to the police. But when the exchange happens, another group attacks them, obviously after the money. Two of the hijackers are killed, along with two kidnappers. But Jericho and the boy are able to leave unharmed. But the boy later asks Jericho to find the hijackers. How did they know of it? Jericho starts looking into things and the whole thing unravels. How does it all end, and who was behind it all? And things start changing in his personal life. Restaurants and bars in Harbor City are being hit by a series of robberies. Then the robbers start grabbing people who never show up again. Soon Jericho finds out that the robberies are actually a way to hide the abductions, which get rid of troublesome people. Soon both the cops and the Outfit ask Jericho to look into it as neither wants this. What will he find? Finally, on the eve of his wedding, we learn the Scarecrow’s origin, how he went from Baltimore cop to what he is today. Overall, this was another enjoyable set of stories. I would like to see more. I don’t know if I’d like to see Jericho team up or encounter French’s other characters. The type of stories Jericho has doesn’t quite mesh with them. I would definitely like to see stories dealing with his uncle. We’ll see what we get.