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British suspense-writer Alan Knight is on his way home from research in Nigeria when anthropologist David Marlowe gives him a package, asking him to deliver it to London's Foundation for African Studies. What Alan doesn't know, however, is that the contents Of the package--an ancient metal claw--is the talisman of the cannibalistic Leopard-Man cult, with a supernatural creature following it everywhere; furthermore, whoever is exposed to the claw is driven to hate, kill, and make a cannibal/sacrifice of any little daughters in the vicinity! (Marlowe, filled with homicidal urges towards his small daughter, hasn't escaped the curse by passing on the claw--and commits suicide.) Soon, then, with the claw sitting on the mantelpiece in his Norfolk home, Alan starts getting nasty towards six-year-old daughter Anna, while wife Liz keeps seeing and hearing glimpses of a strange, snuffling human/animal creature. (Goats are killed; a local idiot-boy goes bonkers.) Then, though the claw is stolen, Alan nevertheless starts getting more violent towards Anna--so he realizes that Something Evil is at work, returning to Nigeria for some answers: with wise Yoruba guide Isaac, he searches deep into the jungle for the cult chief, now knowing that he must kill and eat the cannibal leader to break the claw's spell! Meanwhile, however, back in Norfolk, the claw's infectious vibes are spreading. Liz's unhappy friend Jane, the klepto who stole the claw, does indeed kill her baby--tearing it to pieces. And finally, in the book's most harrowing sequences, Liz herself falls totally under the claw-spell--terrorizing wee Anna with increasing cruelty and violence. Will Alan, who has accomplished his stomach-turning mission, return to Norfolk in time to destroy the cult-creature, thus releasing Liz and Anna from their escalating nightmare? That's the primary suspense here, as Ramsay (""pseudonym of an internationally-known"" horror writer) turns his old-fashioned occult premise into an overlong but steady, creepy, discomforting chiller--thanks to a subdued style, shifting viewpoints (including that of confused, terrified Anna), and richly detailed backgrounds.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's