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The Killing Bone

Novel by Peter Saxon 1968.

W Howard Baker invented the 'Peter Saxon' house name, used for thirteen published horror novels and a further two that remain unpublished, Gordon Sowman's Floodgates of Hell and Martin Thomas' Immortal Vendetta. Baker plotted seven of these, but only wrote two. This was the first of the pair, also fifth in the the Guardians series begun by Dark Ways to Death (1968).

Father John Dyball, former priest and now member of the Guardians, discovers, seemingly by accident on a routine visit to St Botolph's Hospital, an amnesiac case undergoing almost unbelievable psychic torture. His quest to discover the cause of the man's torment (and a hopeful solution) leads him to becoming partially amnesiac himself, possessed and directed by the man he is seeking. The final battleground comes deep inside Aborigine land in Australia's Northern Territory where Father John must face the most powerful adversary he has yet encountered, and all his fellow Guardians are desperately needed to help.

Just as Steven Kane got pretty much his own book in The Vampires of Finistere, Father John gets his own book here. There isn't too much insight into the man's past, which is a pity because he is one of the most interesting members of the Guardians (certainly more so than Steven Kane), but the novel itself doesn't suffer too much for it.

This book is a contrast to the other more formulaic Guardians books (notably Wilfred McNeilly's) in a few ways. Normally the Guardians know who their opponents are and have a rough idea of how to deal with them; whereas here the plot is more of a whodunnit, where the team have to work from scratch (and against an adversary who happens to know exactly who he is facing and isn't afraid to get a few shots in quick). Normally at the beginning of a Guardians novel, the team seem to be doing nothing important at all and are therefore free to take on whatever the plot requires, but here in the whodunnit plot, the former private eye Lionel Marks is off on another case and therefore unobtainable. And normally the Guardians' enigmatic leader Gideon Cross takes a pretty much back-seat role, leaving the actual work to his employees, but here he is forced into an active and vitally important role on the astral plane and thus we get some rare insight into how he works. Not as good as its predecessor Through the Dark Curtain or the aforementioned The Vampires of Finistere, it is nevertheless in a different class from the other Guardians books.

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