Reply Paid

A Mystery

Gerald Heard

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ISBN: 978-1-57733-232-9, 218 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, paperback, $16.95

Also by H.F. Heard 
A Taste for Honey
The Notched Hairpin

Death by anthrax? A ring of desert monoliths resembling Stonehenge? A plan to set off an atomic chain reaction? In a plot seemingly snatched from the future, H.F. Heard livens the pace of his classic page-turner Rely Paid by marching his characters through a series of harrowing escapades, all tied together by an enigmatic code.

The tidy office of Los Angeles-based decoding expert Sydney Silchester is disrupted by an unexpected visit from veteran supermind detective Mr. Mycroft, who drags the reluctant, complaining Silchester into the hot Southern California desert in search of clues. Along the way they stumble upon corpses, uncover a corrupt psychic, follow an overly curious guide, and track an ingenious but ultimately careless murderer. Hoping to foil the villain before he can hatch his dastardly scheme, our intrepid duo race against time to stop him at all costs.

Reply Paid finds its startling climax in the barren Utah wilderness. There Mr. Mycroft reveals the chesslike motives of the players and the grand shocking design of the evil mastermind.



“Reply Paid is not a story whose plot has been repeated by other authors. It is not only unique but also a nostalgic trip back to the pre-Second World War days as well as a very enjoyable read.” Paul D. Herbert, founder of The Tankerville Club

“It is a delight to have H. F. Heard’s fine stories about ‘Mr. Mycroft’ in print again.” Peter E. Blau, editor, “Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press”


“The magnificent Mr. M. appears again.… For tastes that are Baker Street and Irregular this is as good as Mrs. Hudson’s curried kedgeree.” Christopher Morley, founder of the Baker Street Irregulars

“The author of A Taste for Honey brings us another adventure of Sidney Silchester and Mr. Mycroft.... The story is a fascinating one....” The New York Times, March 15, 1942

“Sinister, the suspense cuts down respiration 40%, and it’s a tale well and truly told.” Rex Stout, creator of legendary fiction detective, Nero Wolfe

“Here again are that vain, absurd little egotist, Mr. Sydney Silchester, and his colleague, the inscrutable Mr. Mycroft. But the scene has shifted from Sussex to Los Angeles, where Silchester’s opening of a professional decoding office sets off an improbable and intriguing chain of events. The mystery and detection are of a high order, and the swift climax on the barren Utah desert is a guaranteed shocker. Reply Paid is a sequel to A Taste for Honey. Both are classics in the detective-story field.” Cover copy from the Lancer paperback edition

“A quiet and scholarly book recommended for those who like well-constructed plots.” New Yorker, March 21, 1942

“Excellent!” Frank Gruber, prolific 20th-century pulp fiction writer

“Heard’s narrative method is closer to Conan Doyle’s that anything we’ve seen recently.” Donald Gordon Payne in The American News of Books

“That rare type of crime story which combines pure detection with pure fantasy.” Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine

Table of Contents

Foreword by Paul D. Herbert
Reply Paid: A Mystery
Introduction to The Adventure of Mr. Montalba, Obsequist
The Adventure of Mr. Montalba, Obsequist
About the Author


“Mr. Intil,” I said, “you have come to call on me without making an appointment. What exactly do you want me to do?”

“I’ve said; I’ve told you,” he replied. “Have I come to the wrong place? You are Mr. Silchester, aren’t you?” Taking my nod for enough, he rushed on: “First you wrote that little book on cross-word puzzles and their setting and solving. Then you made that study of the Roger Bacon stuff—whether there was really hidden Greek information in the twirls and twists of the tails of the letters in the actual manuscripts. And I know you’re the author of a dozen articles in The Decoder. I know your style even when you don’t sign. Yes, I know about your lot. You’re just like the chess-champions—they can look and be as dumb as a dolt till you put a board in front of them. Then they just go through it like a water-diviner following a buried drain.”

I let his compliments rest. “You want me to decode that piece of paper?”

“Of course! What have I been saying since I came here!”

“Then hand it to me.”

He hesitated, then put it carefully down on my desk in front of me. The passage which he had copied out, maybe from a press-cutting, ran as he had read it.

“It’s usual ‘agony column’ stuff,” I was remarking, when he cut in, “That’s the disguise—put your sense and your secret where only fools look for fun.”

“Mr. Intil,” I said decisively, “please sit down! As you know my work, you know my method is aboveboard as chess.”

He drew a chair and sat on the edge, watching his beloved copy.

I went on, “You know, therefore, that there are a number of basic tests to make. Anyone can work these out, but, as in chess, some people have a natural knack for eliminating at once the blind alleys.”

While I was saying this, I ran my eye through and across the lines. The born decoder, I’ve found, keeps his mind open, taking in the whole text. Then, if there is a clue, suddenly he’ll see certain letters almost as though they were of slightly different type. These letters generally give him a start on the message. None of us, I believe, ever gets the code message straight off—it glimmers through too briefly and is gone. Any strain or pull and it sinks away. But that diagnostic dip has shown if there is a message, running through and under the disguised surfacesentence—just as a chess master sees there’s a middle game and a “mate” standing out, if he can keep the path clear among all the possible other moves that lead nowhere.

Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2004

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