The Cup of Thanatos

Dr Paul Holton could no longer ignore the facts: the mystery-shrouded Thanatos Society had sprung up from the smouldering ashes of the evil ‘Circle of Ra’ he had once helped to destroy. The name of the Satanic leader was different but Paul recognized the familiar Machiavellian techniques. Once again the insidious Dr. Blackton was pandering to his all-consuming lust for power and world domination.

Suddenly Paul found himself deeply involved for Sarah Wellington, a young and gentle friend, showed signs of drug addiction – and Sarah wore around her neck the distinctive symbol of the Society, named in honor of Thanatos – the ancient God of Death.

Paul had always known he and Dr Blackton would meet again. He knew, too, that one mistake could plunge them all into the Kingdom of Darkness…

Written by Charlotte Hunt (aka  Doris Marjorie Hodges). An Ace Gothic 1968.

The Cup of Thanatos is the second in Charlotte Hunt’s Dr Holton series, where our eponymous hero is once again fighting for freedom and the soul of a beautiful young girl against the villainous Dr Manfred Blackton and his mistress of ceremonies, the gorgeous I-am-so-evil-I-get-my-green-nail-varnish-specially-made-for-me-by-slaves-in-Cairo Madame Zerena.

Having narrowly escaped the clutches of Scotland Yard in the Gilded Sarcophagus, Manfred Blackton and Zerena are lying low in some North American desert, running a ‘nature cure’ sanatorium under the assumed names of Madame Olga and Dr Julius Grafton.

But it’s not long before they find bigger fish to fry when they are visited by Dr Mefferhossen, the leader of a secret satanic cult known as the Thanatos Society. By utilising mass-hypnosis techniques while channelling the ‘Lucifer Force’, they plan to create a new world order. To do this, Dr Mefferhossen needs our two mystic mercenaries to help him beg, borrow or steal the secrets of some of the greatest scientists in the world.

He sends Manfred and Zerena to England – to ‘soften up’ the famous English inventor Algernon Mannering and his psychically gifted daughter, Sarah. Algernon Mannering has invented an apparatus that, when combined with Sarah’s visionary powers, has the potential to pierce the ‘Barrier of the Cosmos’. The Thanatos Society believes this apparatus, combined with the right drugs, holds the key to taking control of the world.

But they have picked on the wrong victims as Sarah is an old friend of Dr Holton. When she gets drawn into the world of shady séances and drug taking rituals, Dr Holton becomes increasingly concerned for her safety. His worse suspicions are confirmed when she disappears and is presumed dead. He makes it his mission to find out what’s happened to her and what follows is an adventure that takes Paul Holton across Europe, culminating in him gate-crashing a Satanic Mass in a devil haunted monastery in the Austrian Alps.

The Cup of Thanatos is another enjoyable occult thriller in the Dr Holton series. Moving away from the first person viewpoint in The Gilded Sarcophagus, I enjoyed it better as more time is given to following the exploits of Dr Manfred Blackton and Zerena – the globe trotting pseudo-Satanists who are more than happy to lend their support to whichever world dominating, fanatical cults come their way.

There’s not much more to ask for if drug-addled, devil worshipping neo-nazis exploring the outer reaches of time-space consciousness is your thing, though I was a little disappointed by the Thanatos Society – for when one of their rituals successfully conjured a genuine supernatural spectre, most of the members ran off in terror! Hmm, not very hard these Satanists. It did however make it a lot easier for Dr Paul Holton to step in and save the day.

The cover art shares the same signature as my previously reviewed Beauty That Must Die but I’ve yet to find out anything about the artist. Four out of five stars.


A Gathering of Evil

a gathering of evil“Was a noose tightening around a horrified Deborah Foster?

It was the night of evil ritual. The worshippers of the devil danced around the ruined abbey, now transformed into a temple of terror. Deborah had come there hoping to unmask her sister’s killer.

Suddenly against her will, Deborah felt herself succumbing to the unholy spell woven by the frenzied witches. Relentlessly they began to encircle her. Panic gripped her for she knew they had chosen her as their next victim.”

Written by Marilyn Ross and first published in 1966 by Paperback Library Gothic.

Marilyn Ross was one of the pseudonyms used by Canadian author William Edward Daniel Ross who is well known for his popular novels based on the Dark Shadows television series.

gatheringevilA Gathering of Evil is set in 1872 and tells the tale of a young woman called Deborah struggling to find out the circumstances of her late sister’s death. Against all advice she travels to the estate of her sister’s widower where she finds herself pitted aganst all manner of evil things, including phantoms, werewolves, hunchbacked gypsies and transmigrating souls – and she even manages to attend the odd satanic mass or two. Nothing is as it seems in this haunted mansion of dark cellars and secret passageways as friends become enemies and enemies turn out to be – well not quite as nasty as they first appeared.

This is a nice supernatural thriller choc full of gothic goings on, but the ending comes on a little sudden and I didn’t feel all the earlier spookiness was adequately accounted for. The heroine, Deborah, was actually very brave and dealt with whatever was thrown at her quite well (better than I would anyway) – though I had to question why she kept turning up at those Black Masses when she was so obviously repulsed by those pesky Satanists – that was just asking for trouble. Extra points awarded for the fantastically named leading man – Roderick Vroom. Four out of five stars.