THE SATAN SAMPLER by Victor Canning
Kirkus Star


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Following the pattern established in Birdcage (1979), Canning again neatly counterpoints a likable hero's efforts with the invisible strings that are pulling him--strings pulled by the internal politics and manipulations of a ruthless British intelligence unit. The hero here is Richard Seyton, a cosmopolitan millionaire widower who--when his older, poorer brother is killed in a car accident--returns home to the Seyton estate determined to reclaim and restore the entire ancient family manse. But needy brother Punch had long-term-leased Seyton Hall to the Felbeck Foundation for the Preservation of the Christian Heritage, and the stodgy Foundation now refuses to budge, no matter what sums Richard offers; so, picking up clues that his dead brother left in secret passages and such, Richard begins to sleuth about for evidence of wrongdoing by the Foundation. So far? A minor mystery plot. But, meanwhile, on Canning's second plot level, deskman Quint and agent Kerslake of ""Birdcage"" (whom Birdcage readers will remember with dread) have been ordered, for unspecified reasons, to monitor Richard's efforts. And to do this efficiently, Quint engages the services of gorgeous artist Georgy Collet, who (to help her dad get out of prison) agrees to gain Richard's confidence via seduction. She falls in love for real, of course, while Quint and Kerslake begin to suspect the motives of their superiors. And this time--after a nco-fascist sex/blackmail plot is revealed--dour, pitiable Kerslake disobeys an order and kills the right villain. A happier ending than with Birdcage, then, but not nearly as much distinctive characterization or narrative invention. Still, though quick-producer Canning is always capable of lines like ""there could be no true fruiting of their love,"" this is smoothly atmospheric and tightly reined (if a trifle slow-paced) suspense--a thoroughly professional diversion-with-heart from an old pro working in nearly his very best vein.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1980
Publisher: Morrow