The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Dennis Wheatley’s tale of a satanic plot takes place within a Cold War framework: A nuclear warhead is used to menace the world with total destruction. This novel is one of several by this author that involve satanism and anticommunist sentiments, and it is perhaps his most successful effort in crossing genre boundaries.

As the novel opens, Colonel C. B. Verney, Special Branch (a character from Wheatley’s 1953 To the Devil— A Daughter), is studying a photograph of one of his agents, Teddy Morden, found in an alley with his throat slit. Verney identifies the murder as “the devil’s work,” because Morden was crucified upside down. Morden had been attempting to infiltrate labor unions and find communist agitators bent on destroying British industry. Verney decides that Morden’s investigations had led him into a ring of satanists. He asks one of his assistants, Barney Sullivan, to pick up Morden’s investigation.

Mary Morden, Teddy’s young and beautiful widow, contacts Verney to offer her services in an attempt to avenge her husband’s murder. Verney turns down her offer as too risky and too unorthodox, but she vows to go ahead. She disguises herself and starts to attend the same course of lectures and séances that Teddy had.

The third strand of the complicated plot concerns twins, Otto and Lothar Kuhne, who are both scientists. During World War II, Lothar worked for the Nazis on long-range rockets. Otto is employed on research into rocket fuel in England. Otto, loyal to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), feels himself being psychically persecuted by his Moscow-based twin. The twins are capable of “overseeing” each other’s activities over long distances, and if one is injured, the other also feels pain and shows...

(The entire section is 731 words.)