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I'm a huge fan of The Devil Rides Out, the Hammer adaption of Wheatley's previous Duke de Richleau novel. Reading de Richleau is a bit like the supernatural adventures of an aged James Bond. Astral travel and occult doings among British high society. I picked this up along with The Devil Rides Out. In this outing, the Duke and his chums are called upon by British Intelligence to figure out how the Nazis are gleaning covert information on British convoy deployments. The Duke eliminates all the possibilities and then assumes it must be a Nazi agent on the astral plane.

He and Marie Lou (who was a bit innocuous in the last book), herself an accomplished spiritualist, proceed to stake out a British warship and catch the Nazi spy red handed. A very cool chase ensues with the three combatants shifting into antagonistic shapes in a running pursuit across the astral plane, sort of a high speed wizards' duel (the spy for instance, shifts into a snake and plunges down a hole, the Duke dives after him, changing in mid air from a falcon to a burrowing mongoose, etc). After a rousing start however, the book sort of sags in the middle, when the Duke and friends meet up with a new ally and trace the sinister occult Nazi to Haiti.

It took me quite a while to slog through the middle part of the book. I'm not sure why I had such trouble. Maybe it was the racism, something I can usually overlook when reading period fiction. Be warned, Wheatley has a lot to say about the Black Republic and its people, as well as capitulating France (there's an odd section in the middle of the book where Rex breaks off in mid-tirade and a single disclaimer taking up a whole page reads something along the lines of the text having been removed by the author rather than offend England's allies).

However, toward the last third of the book when the admittedly predictable identity of the villain is revealed, I did find myself thrown for a loop by another very cool twist I didn't see coming. The final pages involve a penultimate astral showdown with the big bad, though more abstract than the previous stuff. All in all it turned out to be a good read though, ending in a neat forties admonishment that this had been but one battle in the greater war, and a soaring declaration that the forces of darkness would surely find the indomitable island of Great Britain a bastion of light for years to come.

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Book info

PublisherHeron Books
Release date 01.01.1972
Pages count283
File size4.8 Mb
eBook formatHardcover, (torrent)En
Book rating3.67 (163 votes)
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