In Dark Ways to Death the Guardians meet their most fateful and perilous challenge in a nightmaremaze beneath the city streets - where the Dark God meets his worshippers and lures the Guardians to a doom beyond death!
This is written by McNeilly, and the plot is as straightforward as possible. After a short introduction of Father Dyball and P.I. Lionel Marks sleazy journalist Negley Prescott gets to interview Kane in the house in Half Moon Street where the reader gets his backstory. But the story gets killed because the competition has a Black Magic headline. Poor Prescott.
A short time later the Guardians get the assignment from rich industrialist Sir Bartley Squires to protect his wild junkie daughter Caroline from the clutches of of evil Dr. Obadiah Duval. Seemingly a pillar of the black community in truth he is an agent of the Left Hand Path. And he challenges the Guardians to a magic fight when he kidnaps the Guardians cat Bubastis, which sends Anne Archer into a frenzy.
Caroline is in love with black Jack Johnson, who seeks help with the Guardians but is losing his nerve and flees. Duval wants to sacrifice him to Baron Samedi. As the story gets ever more fragmented, Anne Ashby gets caught by Duval´s henchmen, when she enters his store, and freed by Kane. Caroline gets raped by said henchman and Johnson gets his arms and legs broken so he can´t escape from the gathering in the London Underround. Poor journalist Prescott is hot on the trail of some hard partying aristocrats who wreak havoc in a strip-club and then find their way to the Gathering because Paris is so boring and they like an orgy. And he has no camera when the Duchess of Derwentwater strips! Poor guy!
At the end Duval conjures Dambalawehdo before getting shot from behind in the head by Marks, and Anne Ashby channels the cat-godess Bubastis. Just before the cops arrive, sent by Father Dyball. All´s well that ends well.
This is a strange novel. Short, often abruptly ending chapters, a fragmented narrative with some truly WTF scenes - my personal favorite is the one when Caroline seeks help with the Guardians but can´t get in because they disabled the bell -, often played for truly unfunny laughs. "Do you think pubic hair is obscene?", ask the sergeant after sending Father Dyball off as a crank, to which the superintendent chuckles: "Not as long as it is unseen!"
And the partying and stripping Duchess of Derwentwater and her stuttering friend Lady Mabel Entworth and good old Viscount Sicon are just bizarre filler, a kind of Agatha Christe characters from hell.
Of all the Guardians novels, this seems to be really done on the fast. Wildly uneven in tone, the Guardians often came across as a bunch of nutters - just like their adversarys.
Thanks for the review Andy. I have this same copy with an obligatory coffee cup ring stain -lol - always thought the cover reminded me a bit of Hammer's The Reptile ! I'll be sure to make time to read it now.
That's a pretty astute review, as it goes. I've always considered this to be the first in the series purely because of it's bitty nature. It's large chunks of an SBL (Come Dark Come Evil) that was a MacNeilly with extras added. I suspect these may have been Bill Baker or George Mann putting this together for a potential publisher to seal the sale of the series as they do jar a little... The jokes are more Baker, as MacNeilly didn't put much humour - even that of end-of-the-pier-pointlessness - in to his work, really.
The Duchess of Derwentwater and her idiot husband were recurring late fourth and fifth series Blake characters and in some writers hands she can be quite gutsy in a way that Paula Dane or Marion Lang never are.
Despite it's slightly fractured nature, I love this little piece of rubbish!