This is my third post on the black magic novels of Dennis Wheatley.
Strange Conflict was Wheatley’s second de Richleau story of the occult, following The Devil Rides Out after six years. Written and set during World War II, it has a preposterous plot which involves the Nazis in black magic and has de Richleau and his friends (almost) turned into zombies.
German destroyers are sinking British convoy ships in the Atlantic and the British Admiralty wants to know how they get hold of the plans. De Richleau gets the job of unmasking the traitor, a task he sets about without getting out of bed. Apparently, when asleep, we all wander about something called the Astral Plane, meeting friends, lovers – even the dead. Most of us remember the journey only as mixed-up dreams and nightmares but the bold Duke can control and remember his exxperiences.
His nightly trailing of the suspects leads him to the (real-world) Caribbean where he, Rex Van Ryn, Simon Aron, and Richard and Marie Lou Eaton uncover the lair of a satanic master of the undead. There de Richleau battles with the villain on the astral, only too aware that he must defeat him before the drug in his friends’ bodies – and in his own – makes them slaves forever.
Dennis Wheatley could – and did – do a lot better. Strange Conflict doesn’t measure up to the standard set by The Devil Rides Out and is, for me, nowhere near as good as The Satanist. Also, my recollection is there are much better reads among the historicals featuring the Duke de Richleau.
Maybe I’ll go and reread some of those!