The Council of Seven

by J. C. Snaith. New York: D, Appleton & Co. 1921. 8vo, vi+346 pp. $2.00.
IN one of Stephen Leacock’s literary satires, published in 1920, there is an amusing skit entitled Who do you think did it? which might have been written as a good-natured burlesque on The Council of Seven, by J. C. Snaith, save that the skit apparently preceded the novel by a year. To find the burlesque antedating the story it travesties, almost makes one accept Oscar Wilde’s theory that nature imitates art when creating an incredible sunset. Both in Mr, Leacock’s satire and in Mr. Snaith’s novel, the hero is the manager of a huge newspaper syndicate, and in both cases The Planet is the name of a journal controlled by the great chief. But it is Mr. Snaith, and not Mr. Leacock, who christens him ‘The Colossus, and who casually refers to his ‘ smile famous upon five continents.’
Mr. Snaith has brought the methods of the detective story to the telling of an up-to-date tale of Peace and War, and various other timely topics discussed by everyone to-day. The struggle between the principle of Evil as personified in Saul Hartz, ’the Colossus,’ and the Council of Seven as representing a belief in Universal Peace even to the extent of committing murders in order to attain it, makes a story which is entirely readable in spite of palpable exaggerations; yet it is one which does seem to fall between the stools of fantasy and fact.
The adventures of Sherlock Holmes are hardly more preposterous than those which befall John Endor and Saul Hartz, but they are more enthralling. Stevenson in The New Arabian Nights is scarcely more fantastic than Mr. Snaith in his weaving of the web of good and evil motives; but in one case we are transported by the touch of a magician to a land of mystery, in which we believe; in the other, we find ourselves living in modern England and facing contemporary problems, yet not believing in the realities around us. We do not believe in the astounding group of international supermen who compose the Council of Seven, nor in the greatest Uebermensch of all, the Colossus,’ whose fortunes we nevertheless follow with incredulous interest, till the driver of aspeeding van, in the character of a ileus ex—or perhaps more truly inmachina, runs over him, and thereby saves the heroine from the necessity of committing murder from the very highest motives.
This timely removal of the villain does not convince us as being an inevitable stroke of fate, but it does convince the real hero of the book (a possible future prime minister) that ‘there is a God after all.’
Will this strange mingling of fantastic fact and realistic fancy help the reputation of Mr. Snaith, who presumably wishes to do more than make a railroad journey seem shorter to the reader of his latest book? The words with which the heroine —more skeptical than her husband — brings the book to a close, answer tbe question: ‘ I wonder— I wonder.’
A. L. GRANT.