Jory Sherman | New English Library | 1978 | 159 pages
A bloody bull carcass drained of blood, with entrails exploded across the pen, alerts ranch owner Sam Hinton that a supernatural presence is prowling his land. Assuming the death of his bull is the latest episode in a series of unsolved cattle mutilations plaguing the West, Sam calls for the assistance of psychic investigator Dr. Russell V. “Chill” Chillders. During the phone call, the sound of screams and scuffling interrupt the conversation, and Mrs. Hinton picks up the receiver to report shocking news; the body of their fourteen-year old son Jimmy was just discovered, killed in the same grotesque manner as Hinton’s prize bull.
Chill immediately travels to meet the Hintons at their California ranch, along with his partner, Laura Littlefawn, a half-Sioux beauty with a fondness for jade and silver jewelry. Laura is a “sensitive”, whose telepathic powers are summoned from a self-induced trace-like state. But she doesn’t need her psychic abilities to recognize the cool reception from some of the guests at the ranch; the belligerent foreman Tony Stubbs, nervous ranch hand Ralph Loman and his young assistant Earl Dickens, Sam’s strangely detached daughter Donna, and fellow mourner Peggy Owensmouth. The severed calf head Laura discovers staring up at her from her toilet also provides a corporeal clue to their unwelcome presence.
Chill’s investigation leads him to a suspected ritual site in a nearby cave, and to a bloodstone magic circle inscribed in the floorboards of a ramshackle cabin on the ranch. Other evidence left behind, including candles and a hazel wood wand, suggests the site was used for a satanic incantation. Meanwhile, a poltergeist torments Donna, trashing her room at the ranch. The destructive spirit interrupted her while she was reading a book on the occult borrowed from Mrs. Owensmouth—one of many from her large library of titles on witchcraft and demonology. Convinced that someone on the estate has made an infernal pact with Satan, Chill and Laura hold a séance to contact the spirit of Jimmy Hinton.
After the séance fails to reveal the killer, more gruesome murders occur at the Hinton ranch. Realizing the escalating violence will continue, Chill contacts an old friend and arranges for an exorcism to purge the demon he suspects inhabits one of the suspects, who are gathered together at the cabin for a final confrontation. Of course, since the devil is suspected to be bisexual, any one of them could have summoned him through the prescribed pact of blood and intercourse.
Satan’s Seed, the first book in a series featuring the psychic detective at work, quickly establishes the appeal of Chill and Laura Littlefawn, teasing out their romantic tension without becoming too formulaic. Although the investigation ultimately is a foregone conclusion—BAM! It’s Satan—the characters are engaging enough to propel them through a narrative featuring exploding livestock, ghosts of nineteenth-century miners, a Jesuit exorcist with an interest in Satanism, and a conventional human murder mystery involving apple seeds.
Plus, the sesame-stick-nibbling “vegetarian” Chill expounds on the virtue of eating the wild game he shoots himself.