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« 175p 01/47 Target for Death - | - 155i 03/47 Danger Lies East »

column 176p 02/47 The Death Lady column
 

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Doc and the gang head for the Brazilian jungle to rescue a missing heiress, but instead of a damsel in distress they find a lovely lady with a heart of darkness.




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column Comments  column
 

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Note: Comments may contain spoilers.

Thomas Fortenberry

The Death Lady is a very interesting book. Not just because it is a "lost race" story set in the Amazon (always a favorite Doc motif of mine), but because of what occurs between Doc Savage and the lady lead. This book is unique in many ways on this front.

Mary English is a world class investigator, said to be amongst the very best detectives. Against Doc's will, Miss English is teamed with him on this mission by ancient Happy Halliday, a good friend and old associate of Long Tom's who launches this mission. Happy tells Doc the team-up is to be "...the greatest combination in the world."

But for Doc, the nightmare only gets worse by the second. The very night this assignment begins there is a startling murder in the Halliday manse, which brings them all pouring out of their rooms. We'll quote this at length so you understand what happens:

"Doc looked at her. She was wearing a silky dressing gown of some sort over her pale yellow pajamas. She had a tall, supple, distinctly appealing figure. It made him acutely aware of her presence, an uneasy awareness, for he was not accustomed to being near women as they roamed around in the middle of the night in their filmy dressing gowns."

Now, Doc is sweating and not just from danger. Or perhaps, to put it in another way, Doc is in very real danger here for the first time in his career. A very different kind of danger than he is used to for sure!

Not only are they all threatened by murderers swarming around them like flies, but things take a profound turn for the worse when they set sail for South America. They will have to hide out incognito, inventing disguises to protect themselves and the mission. It is so bad that Long Tom will not even tell Doc what deal he had to agree to before they embarked.

You see, Doc Savage and Mary English are in disguise as husband and wife! They share a stateroom and have to pretend to love each other in public!

This is a situation worthy of a Cary Grant comedy film. Doc is on the runn full time on this set. There are some darling moments and some real revelations of Doc psychology here, as he is severely put to the "female" test.

Doc doesn't appreciate it a bit, but the guys are busting out laughing at him (Doc throws a book at monk once for making a marriage joke) while simultaneously jealous and trying to make passes at the gorgeous Miss English. Monk and Ham are ready to kill each other for a chance with her and Doc is ready to kill them all.

This is a nice bit of comedy wrapped in a traditional Doc lost race tale in the jungles. However, I will say they missed the boat on the title. Instead of the noirish The Death Lady the opportunity should have been seized to play with Miss Englishs name, like "Loving the English to Death" or something.

- | - January 14, 2006 08:48 PM


   
   

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