To the Devil—A Daughter Essay - Critical Essays

Dennis Wheatley


Although not as pleasing an occult thriller as Dennis Wheatley’s earlier The Devil Rides Out (1935) or as immediately sensational and realistic as the later The Satanist (1960), To the Devil—A Daughter is entertaining. It delivers on its promises of thrills, chases, and rescues, and the occult sequences are suitably ghastly. The tour of the canon’s “chamber of horrors” and the revelation of his demoniac plans are among the most effective passages in the novel. The canon, patterned upon the occult chronicler Montague Summers, is delectably wicked; the heroes are attractive, high-minded, and pleasant; and there is a suitable range of characters in between.

The novel is written according to the formula that had served Wheatley well since the success of The Devil Rides Out and can be derived easily from the plot summary above. A mysterious threat to a friend or relative of one of the principals is discovered to be occult. A specialist is called in, and the threat is found to be much greater than expected. Wheatley sincerely linked Communism and Satanism, so Communism often figured in as a major part of the threat. Battles occur over possession of the body and soul of the threatened party. Apparent success is followed quickly by apparent utter defeat. A last-minute intervention, often of seemingly divine origin, leads to a spectacular finish. Wheatley is faithful to this formula, and readers who like one of his...

(The entire section is 480 words.)