The Blood-Stained Check, or, Nick Carter in the Dissecting Room

The Blood-Stained Check, or, Nick Carter in the Dissecting Room

The Blood-Stained Check or Nick Carter in the Dissecting Room published June 28, 1900 by Street & Smith, appeared as a part of the Nick Carter Weekly series.


Many writers for Street and Smith wrote anonymously as did the writer of The Blood-Stained Check. Some of the authors that contributed to issues within this series are A. L. Armagnac, Frederick Russell Burton, O. P. Caylor, Weldon J. Cobb, William Wallace cook, Fredrick W. Davis, Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey, and E. C. Derby. It is important to note that the majority of issues within the New Nick Carter Weekly were written by Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey (Cox 193).


Nick Carter – Witty and lead detective

Chick – Loyal assistant of Nick Carter

Mr. Wilmot – President of Wilmot Trust Company

Edward Freeman – Book keeper; he is a suspect in the check forgery case

Hotel Clerk – Desk clerk at an Englewood hotel who helps identify a mystery suspect

Mystery Man – Could be Dr. Harlan

Mrs. Freeman – Mother of Edward.

Ms. Edith Harlan – “Sweetheart” of Edward with a cunning disposition; she attempted to kill Nick Carter through suffocation and poison in an enclosed space.

Mrs. Harlan- Deceptively presents herself as the daughter, Edith Harlan.  

Dr. Harlan – Surgeon with a dubious way of making money according to rumor; adoptive father of Edith; he is obsessed with poisonous flowers and skeletons. He is also a grave robber.  

Jasper Malloy – Ally of Dr. Harlan and possibly, the other suspect identified by hotel workers

Ira – A large man who is a servant in Dr. Harlan’s house


The dime novel is set in the United States and is centered in Chicago, Illinois. The novel moves through Chicago neighborhoods such as Maplewood and Englewood.

Plot Summary

            The dime novel opens with Nick Carter working on an important case involving signature forgery and a check made out for 80,000 dollars. The detective questions his main suspect, the book keeper, Edward Freeman and then questions Freeman’s loved ones to build information about Freeman’s guilt or innocence. Nick Carter also searches for the mysterious figures said to have held the check. The detective discovers that Dr. Harlan forged the check with the large sum. The detective believes that Dr. Harlan and Jasper Malloy conspired to frame Edward Freeman for the forgery.


            The novel gives special albeit superficial attention to the female characters and how they contribute to the intrigue of the plot. The novel presents three different stereotypes of womanhood: the long-suffering noble mother, the ingénue, and the deceiving and wicked woman. These stereotypes are used as plot devices to explain the motives and character of the women. Also, women are viewed as inferior people who only exist to support the actions of the male characters. Women are not considered intelligent unless they are lacking morals. Nick Carter deems intelligence a rare occurrence in women. Thus, this idea works to cement the detective as the most superior mind within the story.

Contextual Analysis

The polarized portrayal of women within The Blood-Stained Check illustrates the contemporary beliefs of the late nineteenth century. The assumed superiority of youthful beauty in women over aging women of middle age provides the backdrop for projecting positive character traits on the former and negative character traits on the latter. Middle-aged Bess Burdette, a key character in the dime novel described as a fading beauty, is a clever grifter with an opium addiction. The portrayal of Bess enables a common stereotype to be reinforced: aging connotes ugliness and ugliness connotes immorality. On the other hand, beauty is represented in the form of Nick Carter’s disguised male assistant, Patsy. This beauty connotes inherent goodness and innocence. The limited portrayal of female intelligence in this novel means that any cleverness in women is linked to wickedness. Clever Bess Burdette acts as a cautionary tale that reinforces disdain of female intelligence and the natural process of aging. The confining nature of women’s portrayals within popular culture via dime novels helps to maintain the status of women in society.


Aguiar, Sarah Appleton. The Bitch Is Back [Electronic Resource] : Wicked Women In Literature

/ Sarah Appleton Aguiar. n.p.: Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, c2001., 2001. University of South Florida Libraries Catalog. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.

Cox, Randolph J. Dime Novel Companion: A Source Book. Westport: Greenwood, 2000.