A revisit and a determined vow to accept the book on its own genre and era terms did not move the opinion needle much.
Brainy 12-year old Bert Hale is excited to test his motorized toy boat, an assembled and upgraded recent invention, in the round pond of Kensington Gardens. A larger drama unfolds in the park, however, and a man dying from a sudden stab wound grabs the boat and conceals a hastily scrawled message on a piece of paper in its hull. Because of this, Bert and his friend Foxy are soon drawn into a conspiracy. The man's killers, fearing that the paper might carry an incriminating clue to a future crime, set out to retrieve the message and silence Bert before their plans are exposed.
The set-up is a familiar one to most readers of crime fiction, a variation of the innocent man who knows too much plotline. There is also little mystery about the direction in which the syndicate's criminal plans might lie; Blake maps out the intersection of boyish enthusiasm and adult international espionage right from the book's first page.
A newspaper sheet wrapped itself round Bert's leg. He rubbed his eyes, into which the wind had puffed some dust, and stamping the newspaper flat, read the headlines: SOVIET DELEGATION HERE TOMORROW - IS IT PEACE?
The Whisper in the Gloom is also the book where readers are introduced to sculptor artist Claire Massenger, Nigel Strangeways' attractive new girlfriend. One interesting detail is that Nigel chooses not to reveal to Claire his penchant for detection and relationship with Superintendent Blount, although these secrets prove impossible to keep after he is coshed on the head. Other than being the recipient of a physical attack, Strangeways isn't given much to do here, as most of the orchestrations originate from the police, the criminals, or the boys Bert and Foxy. There is a neat turn with the dying message – for why would the man write Bert Hale's name and age on the paper? – and a well-staged burning house rescue that precedes and betters the familiar find-and-stop-the-assassin climax of the final chapter.