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Dark Ways to Death

Novel by Peter Saxon (Scotland) 1966.

First in The Guardians series conjured up by W Howard Baker, this was written by Wilfred McNeilly, and was followed by another five, also written under the 'Peter Saxon' house name: Through the Dark Curtain (1967, Ross Richards), The Curse of Rathlaw (1968, Martin Thomas), The Vampires of Finist�re (1968, Rex Dolphin) The Killing Bone (1968, W. Howard Baker himself) and The Haunting of Alan Mais (1969, also Wilfred McNeilly). Just to confuse matters, Baker also wrote a novel entitled The Guardians, though this is unconnected to this series.

The Guardians are a group dedicated to the fight against supernatural evil in all its forms. They become aware of a man calling himself Dr Obadiah Duval, Obeah Man: through the involvement in the occult of Caroline Squires, daughter of the concerned Sir Bartley Squires, a man who knows the dangers of such involvement; and through the problems of a terrified young West Indian who has been summoned as a sacrifice. As the Guardians investigate, they gradually uncover a complete racial group, in supposedly civilised London, living in fear of the powers of voodoo.

When compared to later novels featuring the Guardians, such as The Vampires of Finist�re, this book is a bit too short, suffering from cliches and stereotypes, and not doing much more than scratch the surface of its subject matter. If you read it first, however, you will find it a snappy, fast-paced, somewhat enjoyable pulp adventure into the occult. The decadent aristocracy and the fearful London immigrant population do tend towards stereotypes a bit too much, perhaps in a similarly unfortunate way to the Indian population in The Darkest Night, another 'Peter Saxon' novel, and there isn't much room for characterisation to develop, but this is pulp fiction and who cares when it's fun? Don't expect too much, but even if you find it too insubstantial, don't avoid the rest of the series on the merits of this one, as Wilfred McNeilly is easily the worst writer to use the name of 'Peter Saxon'. Unfortunately he wrote five books under that name, two of them featuring the Guardians, whereas, of the other five authors on the payroll, only Stephen D Frances notched up three to his credit.

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