Eager to escape his complicated past, Calvin Gates boards a train bound for Inner Mongolia, where he plans to join an archaeological dig. Also en route to the Gilbreth Expedition is Sylvia Dillaway, a beautiful young artist with a fierce independent streak. The two Americans become unwitting players in a high-stakes game of international intrigue when Sylvia’s Australian guide gives her a silver inlaid cigarette case containing a coded message. With the clouds of war looming, various factions of the Japanese, Russian, and Chinese governments will stop at nothing to get their hands on the case—including murder.
Calvin and Sylvia’s only hope for survival is a fellow passenger, the charming and mysterious Mr. Moto. He is Imperial Japan’s top secret agent, and his mission is to ensure the safe delivery of the cigarette case to its rightful destination. To do so, he must protect the innocent Americans, but on a speeding train headed deep into dangerous territory, even his considerable skills might not be enough to save the day.
First serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, John P. Marquand’s popular and acclaimed Mr. Moto Novels were the inspiration for 8 films starring Peter Lorre.
About the Author
By the 1930s, Marquand was a regular contributor to the Saturday Evening Post, where he debuted the character of Mr. Moto, a Japanese secret agent. No Hero, the first in a series of bestselling spy novels featuring Mr. Moto, was published in 1935. Three years later, Marquand won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Late George Apley, a subtle lampoon of Boston’s upper classes. The novels that followed, including H.M. Pulham, Esquire (1941), So Little Time (1943), B.F.’s Daughter (1946), Point of No Return (1949), Melvin Goodwin, USA (1952), Sincerely, Willis Wayde (1955), and Women and Thomas Harrow (1959), cemented his reputation as the preeminent chronicler of contemporary New England society and one of America’s finest writers.
Read an Excerpt
Mr. Moto is So Sorry
By John P. Marquand
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1938 John P. Marquand
All rights reserved.
The police official in his shoddy gray suit of European clothes looked up from his notebook and papers with expressionless dark eyes and sucked in his breath politely. Calvin Gates had been in Japan less than a week, but it had been time enough to learn a good deal about the Japanese. They were watching, always watching, hundreds of impassive faces with their dark, bright eyes.
They were watching him now as he sat at a small table in the dining saloon of the boat which was to carry him across to Fusan in Korea. The dining room stewards were watching. Outside, near the gangway, a pair of squat muscular porters in cotton, kimonolike jumpers were watching. Two khaki-clad officers, each with heavy spectacles and a heavy saber, seated at a near-by table, were watching. He took off his hat and laid it on the table and passed his hand over his closely cropped, sandy hair. His hand seemed large and awkward, his whole body needlessly heavy. The damp, oily smell of dock-water came through an open window and with it sounds of efficient hoistings and bangings and of strange voices speaking a tongue-twisting language.
"Excuse," said the policeman. "You are an American?"
Calvin Gates agreed. His passport was on the table. He had been questioned so often that he no longer felt uneasy.
"You are thirty-two years old," the policeman said. "What does your father do?" "He's dead," said Calvin Gates.
"Oh," the policeman said, "I am so sorry for you. You are a student? What do you study, please?"
"Anthropology," said Calvin Gates. It was an inaccuracy, but it could not make much difference.
"Oh yes," the police said. "What is anthropology?"
"The science of man," said Calvin Gates.
"Oh yes," the policeman repeated, "the science of man. You do not write books? You will not write books about Japan? You are just traveling through Japan?"
The American rested his lean freckled hands on the table and they seemed to him almost barbarously strong. The policeman studied his face, which was also lean and freckled, waiting for his reply. Calvin Gates blinked his grayish eyes and sighed. Suddenly he felt tired and homesick and entirely out of place.
"I have to travel through as fast as I can," he said.
"Oh," said the policeman. "How long have you been in Japan?"
"Less than a week," Gates answered. "Just long enough to make the necessary arrangements to go to Mongolia."
Was the man being dull, Gates wondered, or was he simply being officious? He was busy scribbling notes in his book and occasionally drawing in a sibilant breath.
"You pass on to Mukden?" the policeman said. "You do not stop?"
"Only for train connections," Gates answered.
"Oh yes," said the policeman, "oh excuse."
"From Mukden to Shan-hai-kuan," the traveler continued amiably. "From there I proceed to Peiping, and from there to Kalgan."
"Oh yes," the policeman said. "What do you do in Mongolia?"
"I have explained a good many times," Gates answered wearily. "I am joining a scientific expedition."
"Oh yes," the policeman said, "a scientific expedition. Where is the scientific expedition in Mongolia?"
"Inner Mongolia," Gates repeated patiently. "I am joining what is known as the 'Gilbreth Expedition.' The other members left here two weeks ago. I shall be told where I am to find them when I reach Kalgan. You must have seen them when they went through here."
"Oh yes," said the policeman. "Please why did you not go with them?"
"Because I could not make arrangements to come earlier."
"Thank you." The policeman wrote carefully in his book. "You go to find something in Mongolia? What do you go to find?"
"Primitive man," Gates said.
"Oh," said the policeman, "primitive man. You go and catch a man?"
The American blinked his grayish eyes.
"The man we're going to catch is dead," he said.
"Oh," said the policeman, "you go to catch a dead man?"
"Yes," said Gates, "the man we hope to catch has been dead at least a million years."
The policeman wrote carefully in his book.
"Oh," he said, "dead one million years. Here are your papers, please. So sorry for you we cannot talk longer. There are two other passengers."
The policeman rose and bowed, leaving Calvin Gates to wonder, not for the first time, what it was all about. Everything he said would be in his dossier. Doubtless someone in some office would check over all his ambiguous remarks. His desire to join the Gilbreth Expedition had been explained at meticulous length, but repetition did not seem to matter. Calvin Gates rose, picked up his trench coat and turned to walk out of the little dining saloon. He was moving toward the door when a voice said: "Oh, excuse me."
A small man had risen from a corner table and was smiling and bowing. He was carefully dressed in a neatly tailored blue serge suit. His linen was stiffly starched. His jet black hair was brushed stiff like a Prussian officer's.
"Excuse me," the little man said again. He was holding out a visiting card, a simple bit of oblong card on which was printed "I. A. MOTO." The name meant absolutely nothing, but Calvin Gates was not surprised.
"Are you the police too?" he asked.
"Oh no," the other said and laughed. "But I am friends of Americans. I have been to America. Shall we sit down and have some whisky? It would be so very nice."
Calvin Gates was beyond being astonished, for other Japanese had been helpful before through no understandable motive.
"Thank you," he began. "It's getting late —"
"Oh no," said Mr. Moto, "please. Never too late for whisky in America. Ha! Ha! I admire America so much. I am so afraid that you are tired of our policemen."
Mr. Moto bowed and pulled back a chair and Calvin Gates sat down.
"So sorry," said Mr. Moto. "The policemen work so hard. Please, I have studied at college in America. I could not help but overhear. You are embarking on a scientific expedition for Mongolia? That will be very, very interesting and very, very nice. It is very lovely in Mongolia."
"Have you ever been there?" Calvin asked.
"Oh yes," Mr. Moto bobbed his head and smiled. "I have been to the region where you are going." Mr. Moto smiled again and clasped his delicate brown hands. "To Ghuru Nor."
Calvin Gates felt something jump inside him, and for the first time in many days he was uneasy. The little man was looking at him unblinkingly, still smiling.
"How do you know where I'm going?" he asked. "I never told the policeman that."
"Please," said Mr. Moto. "Excuse me, please. I have read of it in the Tokyo newspaper. I am so interested. You see — in your country I studied anthropology. You are Nordic, Mr. Gates, with a trace of Alpine. Nordics are so very nice."
Calvin Gates took off his hat. Uneasiness, and a sudden feeling of being hunted and a suspect returned to' him, although, after all, there was no reason why he should consider himself a fugitive.
"Please," said Mr. Moto. "I am so very interested. Geologically speaking the Central Asian plateau may have been the cradle for the human race so very nicely. Geologically the Himalayas are so new. Before they were thrust up, the animals and flowers of the land about the Malay Archipelago extended over Central Asia, did they not? The wooly rhinoceros was there and also the anthropoids. Then the Himalayas cut off those poor monkeys. Am I not right? To live, these creatures had to come down from the trees. It is interesting to consider that they turned to men; very, very interesting. No doubt the ancestors of the Peiping Man are there. We have heard of bones in the deposits near Ghuru Nor. I am so very, very pleased that you are going, Mr. Gates."
"You certainly know all about it," Calvin Gates said. "Are you connected with some university?"
"Oh no," said Mr. Moto, "oh no, please." He smiled in the determined engaging manner of his race, displaying a row of uneven teeth, richly inlaid with gold. "There is only one thing which is — ha ha — so very funny."
Calvin Gates was unable to appreciate Mr. Moto's sociable merriment, nor could he tell whether its purpose was to put him at ease or not.
"Something's funny, is it?" he inquired.
"Yes," said Mr. Moto gleefully, "so funny. So sorry that I startle you perhaps."
"You don't startle me," said Calvin Gates.
There was an intense beady glint in the eyes of the small man opposite him, but his voice was smooth and genial.
"So glad I do not," said Mr. Moto. "Thank you. I have learned so many very lovely jokes in America. It is so funny that the primitive man, who lived so many years ago, should have selected such an interesting place to die. It is so funny that the drift where his bones rest at Ghuru Nor should be one of the most strategic points in the area between Russia and North China. So funny for the primitive man."
Mr. Moto laughed again and rubbed his delicate hands together. He was making such an obvious effort to be agreeable that Calvin's watchfulness relaxed.
"Are you an army officer?" Calvin asked him.
The beady look returned to Mr. Moto's eyes, and for a moment his smile was unnatural and fixed.
"No," he said, "not army — please. So nice to see Americans, and it is so very nice that you are going to Mongolia. Perhaps we can have a good talk tomorrow. I should like so very much to be of help. You may be lonely on the train tomorrow going through Korea, although there is your countrywoman going also on the train. She is on the boat now. Perhaps you know her?"
"A countrywoman?" Calvin Gates repeated.
"An American young lady," said Mr. Moto. "Yes. She is traveling with a Russian, who may be a courier I think. See, the policeman is talking to them now."
Calvin Gates glanced across the room. A slight dark girl in a brown tweed traveling suit was sitting with the policeman. He could tell she was an American without knowing why. He knew it even before she spoke in a drawling voice, and it occurred to him disinterestedly that she would have been good-looking if she had paid attention to her clothes. As it was, she did not appear interested in looks. It was as though she considered them as something best concealed.
"Yes," she was saying, "Winnetka, Illinois; born in 1910. It's on the passport, isn't it? And my color's white as a rule. And my father's a manufacturer."
"Oh," said the policeman, "yes, he makes things?"
"What did you think he did," the girl asked, "walk a tightrope?"
Her voice dropped to a monotone again and Mr. Moto sighed.
"It does no good to get angry," he said. "The poor policeman works so hard. You do not know the young lady?"
"No," Calvin Gates shook his head. "There's a large population in America. I've never met them all."
"A tourist, I suppose," said Mr. Moto. "You are going to Mongolia alone?"
It might have been imagination, but it seemed that Mr. Moto was watching him with unnecessary attention.
"As far as I know," said Calvin Gates.
"Oh," said Mr. Moto. "We will have a nice talk in the morning."
Calvin Gates rose and bowed. It seemed to him that he was always bowing and smiling until his facial muscles were strained from polite grimaces. The girl's voice, with its midwestern articulation, had been the only thing in two days that had reminded him of home.
When he passed along a narrow passage toward his stateroom, a steward, a flat-faced, snub-nosed boy, bowed and hissed and opened his door and switched on the light. Calvin threw his hat and trench coat on the berth, seated himself on a small stool and took a notebook and pencil from his pocket.
"Second class to Shimonoseki," he wrote. "Mothers nursing babies. Old men taking off their clothes and scratching. Rice fields. Chatter, chatter. Rice wine. Soldiers. Clap clap of wooden shoes. Police. What does your grandfather do? Little boat. Mr. Moto, who knows anthropology. Fusan tomorrow, but must not take pictures."
He realized that his words would be unintelligible to most, but they would never be so to him. They would always bring back a hundred noises and faces and that sense of being an outlander in a train that ran through a country unbelievably like that country's pictures, with its tall blue hills, and bamboo, and tiny farms, with its concrete dams and its high tension wires and its factories, with its population half in kimonos and half in European clothes. It was a land of smiles and grimness, half toylike, half efficient.
He rose, took off his coat and glanced at his baggage. As soon as he did so he discovered that his brief case, which he had left beside his steamer trunk, had disappeared. He opened the door and shouted into the passageway.
"Boysan!" he shouted. The flat-faced room steward came running.
"Look here," Calvin Gates said, "where's the little bag, the one that was there?"
The flat brown face stared at him.
"Bag," Calvin Gates said to the boy. "Little bag, so big." The boy drew in his breath.
He spoke loudly, as one does when dealing with a foreigner, in the absurd hope that shouting might make the meaning clearer. Even while he spoke he knew that he was achieving nothing.
"Get someone who can speak English," Calvin Gates shouted. "All my notes — papers are in that bag."
At that same moment a door across the passageway opened, and Mr. Moto appeared, holding a small brown brief case in his hand, displaying his gold teeth and bowing.
"Oh," said Mr. Moto, "I am so very, very sorry. Can this be your bag? This ship boy was very stupid."
"Thanks," said Calvin Gates. "Thank you very much."
"Oh no," said Mr. Moto. "I am so glad to help. Good night until tomorrow."
"Good night," said Calvin Gates. He closed his door and sat down with his brief case across his knees. He was positive that he had seen the bag deposited in his own stateroom. He was positive that the bag had not been placed in Mr. Moto's room by mistake. Mr. Moto had been looking through his papers, but the papers were all there in the order he had left them — only a few personal letters, and nothing of any importance. He took out the last letter about Dr. Gilbreth, which had been written him by the Doctor's business representative in New York.
Dear Cal: —
You could have knocked me over with a feather when I got your letter asking how to find Gilbreth. He must have told you about the shooting in Mongolia. The office here will be in touch with him since we handle his accounts, but even a cable will take weeks sometimes to deliver. The best way to find him will be to go to the man in Kalgan who is seeing to his supplies and transportation. He is a part-German, part-Russian, who does trading in Mongolia by the name of Holtz. When you find him in Kalgan, he can probably get you out at a time when he is sending out supplies by motor.
Gilbreth has an artist going out to join him, a good-looking girl with a temper. You may meet her on the way, as she only left last week. Gilbreth was no end pleased by the check your uncle sent. It made all the difference in his being able to go, and it was like the old gentleman not to want any acknowledgment. Bella made that clear enough when she brought in the check. When you see him, be sure to thank him for us. ...
There was nothing which was important, but it was obvious that Mr. Moto had been seeking something. Now that he thought of it, all of Mr. Moto's conversation had been more adroit than any of the questions of the police. He could almost believe that Mr. Moto's gentle words had been probing into his past, that there was something odd about him which Mr. Moto had seen but which no one else had noticed. He unfolded his map of China and Japan, and stared at it as he had twenty times before, still only half convinced that he was doing what he set out to do. He could locate himself at the narrow strait which separated Japan from the mainland of Asia, and he could see the curve of the railroad which started at the port of Fusan, and wound up through the promontory of Korea, and thence through Manchuria to Mukden. It would take twenty-four hours to reach Mukden by train provided there was no delay, and that would not be half the journey. He must pass the night at Mukden and take another train westward through Manchuria to Shanhai-kuan by the Great Wall of China. There he must change and on the following morning he would arrive at Peiping, only to change trains again. Then he must travel north for another day's journey before he reached Kalgan. He had no way of telling how far he must travel after that — somewhere to the north where there was no railroad — until he could find Dr. Gilbreth to tell him what he wanted.
Excerpted from Mr. Moto is So Sorry by John P. Marquand. Copyright © 1938 John P. Marquand. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Calvin Gates is a young American traveling to Ghuru Nor in Mongolia to join a scientific expedition. While taking a boat from Japan to Korea he is befriended by Mr. Moto. On the same trip he meets an American artist named Sylvia Dillaway who is also en route to Ghuru Nor, accompanied by a Russian courier named Boris. The Russian presents Sylvia with a cigarette case as a gift. Later he tells Calvin that the cigarette case is important and it will be better if Calvin carries it instead of Sylvia. A friend will ask for the case in Ghuru Nor. Before Calvin can learn more, Boris is shot dead in front of him by an unknown assailant who escapes. When Calvin and Sylvia get to their destination, they learn that several people want the cigarette case which contains a secret code. The most aggressive of these are an Australian soldier of fortune who is working for the Prince of Ghuru Nor and a Japanese army officer who represents extreme militarists in his own country. The head of Russian intelligence in China is also making a bid for the case while Mr. Moto's job is to make sure that a war between Japan and Russia is averted. Although no film was made based on this particular book, 20th Century-Fox did produce eight Mr. Moto films before World War II starring Peter Lorre as the famous Japanese intelligence officer. The same studio made one more film in the series in 1965 with Henry Silva as Mr. Moto.
This book is an exciting thriller written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Most of the story takes place on a trip by two young Americans to Ghuru Nor in Mongolia prior to World War II.