Book name: The Devil Rides Out
Author: Dennis Wheatley
Format: ebook, print, audiobook
Publication Date: 1934
Star Rating: 3/5
Dennis Wheatley was a prolific writer of occult and adventure novels in the Thirties and an authority on Satanism, black magic and the practice of exorcism.
In Thirties London, American Rex van Ryn has arrived to catch up with his old friends the Duke de Richleau and Simon Aron, a financier.
However, instead of devoting a pleasant evening to fine dining and excellent vintages of wine and port, de Richleau immediately confides his concerns about Simon, who declined their invitation to dine and has been proving mysteriously elusive for months.
Rex and the Duke set off to the house in St John's Wood Simon has rented. They find him about to participate in a satanic ritual at the behest of the sinister Mocata, surrounded by other practitioners of the dark arts.
Rex is disturbed to find that he recognises a young woman called Tanith. They've never spoken before, but he has seen her in New York, Latin America and elsewhere during the past year.
When things turn nasty, the Duke and Rex rescue Simon, only for him to escape their well-meaning custody to rejoin the Satanists.
The Devil Rides Out is a slightly strange novel in that the locations and characters are excellent, and there is action in abundance all the way through, but the story is constantly being interrupted by in depth descriptions of the history and practice of Satanism.
These descriptions in The Devil Rides Out were fascinating, and at the stronger moments they were deftly weaved in with the action. However, there was quite a lot of downloading of information in huge blocks via dialogue, which notwithstanding the choice of the duke as the provider of this information did feel a little stilted at times.
I'm not sure whether Dennis Wheatley felt that his audience wasn't well informed about Satanism and black magic to dispense with a step-by-step guide, or whether his enthusiasm got the better of him and he simply couldn't resist sharing some of his extensive knowledge on the subject.
The pulp origins of this type of story were showcased here in The Devil Rides Out, and I loved all the action as Rex and the duke try to rescue Tanith and Simon. The story takes them across the Salisbury Plains to Stonehenge, to Paris and London and also north to the rural midlands at Kidderminster.
There was an ever-present sense of danger which meant that in over three hundred pages the story never felt like it dragged, and it was clear that Wheatley had given a great deal of attention to plot and pacing.
The tension kept up all the way through, but with welcome periods away from the action to give the characterisation time to shine through. Rex, the duke and Simon were all very likeable but distinctive, and the introduction of further in-depth characters partway through in the form of Richard and his wife Marie Lou did not disturb the narrative flow but helped facilitate the next step in the plot very effectively.
The Devil Rides Out was one of Dennis Wheatley's best sellers, and it was thrilling and informative in equal measure.
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