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The Necklace of Skulls

Novel by Ivor Drummond 1977.

Lady Jennifer Norrington, together with her usual companions, Colly and Sandro, visit India to uncover a drug-theft operation plaguing a relative of Colly's. But this escalates into much more when Jenny gets kidnapped by members of a rejuvenated thuggee cult. Colly and Sandro can't get the police to believe that such a thing has existed since the British wiped it out in 1829, so can rely only on a former government agent and advocate of British rule, called Ishur Ghose, who is sympathetic to their cause.

Basically this part of a crime series (seventh in his Jennifer Norrington series, begun by The Man with the Tiny Head), but when the subject matter is the murderous worship of the twelve-armed Kali the Destroyer, the Mother of Sorrows and the Drinker of Blood, it tends to also fall into the horror genre. And there are other common horror devices here like sorcery and superstition. What makes it different from other thuggee novels like Peter Saxon's The Darkest Night, is its detailed research and its emphasis on the techniques that Colly and Sandro employ in their search for Jenny. It scores brownie points, for instance, for including a factual explanation of the Kali legend, which shows why the thuggees do the things they do, and why they don't see it as wrong. Ivor Drummond has been described in The Times as 'James Bond's true current heir', and while this doesn't approach that sort of height, it's certainly a well-written, enjoyable and worthwhile book. Where it falls down is its quick and unsatisfying ending, and the telegraphing of some of the characters and events. Those who enjoy crime as well as horror could do a lot worse than this.


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