This is the 5th book in the Mr. Moto series, and the one I have liked the least so far (one to go). It's not a bad story and moves along pretty well and keeps one's interest. But, something just feels "off". I'm not sure how else to say it. It seemed a bit stiff and awkward. In part, some of the characterizations are meant to be awkward, but the intended awkwardness doesn't ring true, so to speak.
The story takes place around 1940. Before the bombing of Pearl Harbor for sure. Bob Bolle, quit the Navy because he was passed over for promotion, in part because he had a bit of a difficult personality from the perspective of some folks. He buys a schooner, modifies it so it can be sailed by only two people—he and his "boy", Tom—and has pretty much turned into a drunken bum cruising the Caribbean. He is about to be tossed out of Kingston, Jamaica, when a bartender gets the idea of hooking him up with a "couple" who just want to sail around to lonely places, Mr. and Mrs Kingman. So he agrees to go off with them, along with Tom, and the Kingman's "Swedish vallet", Oscar. Before he goes off, he runs into Mr. Moto, who is pretending to be the proprietor of a clothing store. Then, while shopping for travel clothes, Mrs. Kingman has a run-in with some "boys" in the store and Mr. Moto appears to calm things down. Then, it's off to sea in Bolle's schooner.
The Kingman's are an odd couple. They claim to be from New York. At times Mrs. K. appears to be afraid of Mr. K. At times Mrs. K. comes on to Bolle. Mr. K. tries mightily to speak with idiomatic American expressions, but there is always a hesitancy in his speech, and an occasional slip. Well, anyway, the Kingman's induce Bob Bolle to sail to an abandoned island, Mercator Island, where they think a French plane has been secreted, a plane with some magical new invention that might change the course of the war. Needless to say, Mr. Moto shows up on the island, Bob is in danger for his life, Mrs. K. continues to hit on him occasionally and so forth.
As I said, it's decent enough escapist literature, but feels slightly artificial. I'll be interested to see if the 6th Mr. Moto book returns to the quality of the first four, or if Marquand had shot his wad, so to speak, after finishing the 4th in the series.