Synopsis: Matt Helm, code-named Eric, is provided with a "wife" and sent to London to seek out and dispose of a mad scientist named McRow, who has cooked up a new strain of black plague to destroy the world. His trail leads to the rugged west coast of northern Scotland. Eventually, it takes a small nuclear device to clean up the mess he leaves behind.
- Archibald McRow, scientist, who stops his experiments after Matt kills him a little.
- Leslie Crowe-Barham, British intelligence type, old friend of Matt's. He is captured by McRow's legions and imprisoned with others to be experimented on by Dr. McRow. He eventually gets the plague, but that doesn't stop him from helping Helm accomplish his mission.
- Vadya, Russian counterpart of Matt Helm, who we met first in The Ambushers. Her mission is to find and kill Basil. She, of course, double-crosses Helm, who shoots her, but she survives to help him escape the clutches of Dr. McRow and Madame Ling.
- Madame Ling, an agent of the Chinese government, protecting Dr. McRow until she is sure he has perfected his plague and the antidote serum. She is killed, a little late, by Crowe-Barham.
- Basil, a former Russian agent, now working for the Chinese. He almost makes it to safety with the information on the plague and serum, but Helm kills him and then loses the information.
- Colonel Stark, boss of Crowe-Barham. He's probably the one who recommended the use of the nuclear device, 'cause he was big on gadgets.'
Amorous conquests: Vadya, who calls him "darling," and Claire, who has set the record for the quickest "darling" [page 12].
Dead: Quite a few (Paul Buchanan, one of Mac's men, died of bubonic plague after being inoculated by McRow; Ernest Walling, genealogist, killed by Basil; Walling's partner, probably also killed by Basil; an unknown assassin and Madame Ling, killed by Crowe-Barham; a unnamed "Slavic type," killed by Vadya; and to Matt Helm's credit, there is Dr. McRow, Madame Ling's assistant, a guard and technician in McRow's lab, and Basil. Crowe-Barham killed a few more while helping Helm escape, and a lot more died when McRow's underground lab blew up. Oh, and Nancy Glenmore, who was poisoned by mistake.)
Injuries to Matt Helm: A wrenched leg when he stepped in a hole while being escorted to Madame Ling's hideout. Although he was inoculated with the plague, he was one of the lucky few who didn't get infected.
Quote: I've been in the business a reasonable length of time, and when somebody flaunts a junior-grade Fu Manchu under my nose, complete with slant eyes, furtive manner, and gleaming knife, I can't help wondering just what's supposed to hit me from elsewhere while I'm watching the Oriental menace going through the motions.
There had to be another element involved to make this a reasonable trap, and since there were only three of us present, that element had to be the gent above and behind me, however unlikely a candidate he might appear to be.
As the man below me turned, I brought my hand out of my pants pocket, flipped open my own little folding knife--which I keep in my hand whenever the situation looks doubtful--and pivoted sharply, ducking low and driving the blade up and back. If I was wrong, I was going to have some awkward explanations to make, but that decision is one I made long ago. The only death I'm not prepared to explain is my own.
I wasn't wrong. The whistling sap--I guess they call it a cosh in England--told me as much, as it missed my skull by an inch or so and glanced off my raised shoulder instead. Then my knife connected.
Conclusion: Oops, I almost forgot about Claire, one of Mac's folks, assigned to be Matt's "bride" but who spends most of the book locked in an attic. Claire is released unharmed with a message from Vadya for Eric:
"She says she bears you no hard feelings for the interrogation you put her through, since you owed her something for a similar scene in the past. She says you once let a girl go whom you should probably have killed, and now she's doing the same. She says that makes the two of you even except for a bullet in the guts. She says she'll be looking forward to paying off that score, some day."
And so, with the happy news that both of his lady friends are alive and well, Matt and Claire move on to their next assignment on the Riviera, still pretending to be man and wife. Unfortunately, Claire dies on that assignment, and Matt must face his next challenge alone in . . .
Matt Helm ™ is the property of Donald Hamilton.
and is a Trademark of Integute AB
This independent reference to, and appreciation of, the Matt Helm book series
is copyright © 1998-2012 - Don Winans
Originally posted in June 1998 - Last Modified 22 July 2000
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