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 rating||3.67 (163 votes)
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