|illustrations by John Richard Flanagan|
Hayes's secretary will be hypnotized and the documents Stefanson puts together from memory will also be stolen. Then Stefanson's memory will be wiped while a shadowy bat-like form haunts their dreams and follows where they go. Agents for a rival company are out to beat Hayes to the secrets and the Bey's men are also on the trail. There are mysterious doings at a hidden fortress in the desert and a bang-up finish back in the States when the wrath of the gods is visited upon those who try to apply the wisdom of the ancients without sufficient wisdom of their own.
Rohmer is so well-known for his Fu Manchu, "yellow peril" novels that one expects to be stepping into a world where racial stereotypes abound when opening a Rohmer novel. Surprisingly, there is little of that going on here--I won't say there isn't any, but prejudices are not in full flower as they have been in my previous Rohmer experiences (The Golden Scorpion and The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu). Perhaps it is because there is no super villain looking to crush our heroes. This is more of an adventure featuring a bit of (mild) industrial espionage and efforts by Bey to keep ancient wisdom out of the hands of those who aren't ready to use it.
But Rohmer does keep up his standards in the action adventure arena. He's still your man if you're looking for fast-moving, pulpy fun. And if you're into beautiful, mysterious, women who are strangely enslaved to the mysterious shadow figures, but have a fondness for our gallant heroes while alternately helping and hindering (according to the master's bidding), then he's got the goods. It makes for an exciting story with little mystery to unravel, but a good read for a lazy summer afternoon.
Just a couple of quibbles--our gallant hero in this outing, Lincoln Hayes, is not a particularly likable fellow. He's not horrible or mean. He's just kind of blah. No real personality to speak of through most of the story and he speaks in a very terse speech pattern that tends to leave out the subjects in his sentences. The speech pattern doesn't help the lack of spark. Fortunately his associates make up for his deficiencies.
Also, how many times do items have to be stolen or destroyed and shadowy figures have to be eavesdropping and/or watching before Hayes and company figure out that just maybe the important documents need to be kept locked up? It seemed like it would have been easier to just put the things on a table with a big neon arrow pointing down and words flashing "Secret Documents! Ancient, Irreplaceable Artifacts! Please Steal!" I realize that we wouldn't have as many plot "twists" without them--but I see little point in making a man have a phenomenal memory, letting him use it, and then finally wiping it clean just to ensure that the documents are irreplaceable. Just have the things stolen once and everybody have a mind like a sieve and be done with it....
Overall, a fun adventure for those willing to suspend their disbelief and go along for the ride. ★★★