Doc Savage: Death in Silver on Fear Cay (#SFWApro)

Other than the return of Pat Savage, Fear Cay is a very unremarkable book.
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The novel opens with the bad guys trying to take out Doc, rather than eliminating his latest client. This fails (surprise!) and it’s also pointless: If they’d just kidnapped Kel Avery when she got off the plane, Doc would never have known (instead Pat steps in and replaces the girl)
It’s not hard to figure what a group named Fountain of Youth, Inc. is after, particularly when they’re at war with Dan Thunden, a man who claims to be 130 years old. Nevertheless, it’s treated as a baffling mystery—was Dent just having an off day, or was the legend less well-known then than it is now?
Thunden is the best thing in the book. He’s cunning enough to outmaneuver both Doc and the bad guys to keep control of the miracle McGuffin (life-prolonging herbs) and can hold his own with Doc in a fight. When everyone finally arrives on his Caribbean island, it turns out to be riddled with traps. Unfortunately he doesn’t redeem the book.
Series wise, Dent seems confident enough in his audience now that he’s cutting back on the exposition. I believe it’s the first book not to detail how Monk and Ham got their nicknames (it dates back to pranks played on each other during the Great War).
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Death in Silver is a much better book, the first to be set entirely in New York. The title villains are a mob of thieves and killers clad in bullet-proof silver outfits with hoods resembling skulls (the Bama cover doesn’t do them justice). Their field leader, Ull, is a criminal scientist who not only invented their hoods but came up with other gadgets such as a contact poison he uses to take out nuisances. The Silver Death’s Heads are the series’ first costumed super-villains, unless you count The Squeaking Goblin.
The book opens very strongly. We’re introduced to Paine Winthrop, an odious businessman whom Dent tells us “would have kept a retinue of slaves and beaten them often” if he’d been born in an earlier time. After a nervous conversation on the phone, his office blows up.
As in Squeaking Goblin, there’s no reference to Doc & Co. until the second chapter. And for once their involvement is coincidence: Monk has a lab in the same building as Winthrop’s office. When he and Ham check things out, they spot one of the Death’s Heads eliminating a possible witness. The hunt is on!
In addition to the villains, the book also has some good supporting characters (the ultra-nervous “Rapid” Pace), the return of Doc’s submarine, Helldiver (last seen in The Phantom City), now heavily equipped with high-tech (which doesn’t stop it losing to Ull’s own undersea tech) and a very good scheme (SPOILERS HERE). It turns out the Death’s Heads crime rampage is just to distract the city from certain deaths and sabotage acts that have caused various businesses to fold. The mastermind has bought up the businesses, pumped up the stock price and sold when it was at the peak. The result is a billion-dollar haul, which is way above the usual pulp villain (I’m used to millionaires and multi’s but not billions).
This is the first not to use the full team, Monk and Ham being the only ones around (Johnny’s trip to England will lead into the next book, The Sea Magician). It also introduces Doc’s version of the utility belt, a special vest containing pockets for all his gadgets.
Apparently TNT was still a bit of a novelty as Doc has to explain what it is to a cop.
And I was much amused that after the initial explosion, a newspaper gets out an Extra! edition while Monk and Ham are still investigating. Given how much we talk about the importance of a 24-hour news cycle in journalism, it reminds me that once upon a time, putting out print special editions or afternoon papers wasn’t at all unusual.
And that’s it for this month’s installments.
(Covers by James Bama, rights with current holder)

8 Comments

Filed under Doc Savage, Reading

8 responses to “Doc Savage: Death in Silver on Fear Cay (#SFWApro)

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