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Dark Ashram

Novel by Leo Giroux, Jr 1990.

The American Thuggee Huzoor or Lord, Kurt Leinster, has returned to spread the Kali cult further, and to seek out again Santha Wrench, the beautiful half-caste that he has chosen to be the vessel to contain his goddess. The battle is on between Leinster, his goddess, and the forces that they can summon; and Kali Santha's father Stephen, the Indian policeman, Rama Shastri, and the guru Swami Hanuman. Combining police procedure with journeys into the supernatural, they hope to finally end Leinster's thuggee revivals.

Pretty much a basic plot for such a long and complicated book; but Giroux studied India for many years, and thus his detailed background, combined with some superbly handled horror, suspense and adventure, makes it a hugely enjoyable read. This has much in common with Ivor Drummond's The Necklace of Skulls: both deal with attempts to suppress a revival of the thuggee cult, and both centre on the kidnapping of a key character by the cult leaders. And both take a serious base for their plots and include factual introductions to the Kali cult. This book even has a glossary. But whereas The Necklace of Skulls is a story based firmly in the natural world, Dark Ashram plays up the supernatural aspect, with possession, the physical manifestation of Kali, the evil eye, spatial displacement, and battles both in dreams and on the astral plane. Also, where Drummond's book has only five principal and few supporting characters, Giroux's has a large and well-shaped cast including many in support. This wide scope is where Dark Ashram scores highly; and it also succeeds in the confinement and torture section, where Giroux avoids the normal beating and gang-rape, instead concentrating on different, but no less graphic, methods. The later astral plane sequences reminded me of similar weird sections in Brian Lumley's Psychomech, but the general style of the book owes much more to Graham Masterton. Any fan of Masterton's thicker books of the mid to late '80s will thoroughly enjoy this, probably the best of the Kali worship novels.


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