Jory Sherman | Pinnacle Books | 1978 | 244 pages
“The door opened, and a tall man stepped out into the morning sunshine. He wore aviator-type sunglasses to keep the glare from his eyes. He was trim and muscled in a short-sleeved light blue tennis shirt and dark blue double-knit slacks. His shoes were white-textured leather Florsheim loafers.”
Fashionable psychic investigator Russel V. “Chill” Childers (“Satan’s Seed”) returns to solve a mysterious case involving a girl seemingly trapped in a state of suspended animation. After moving into an old Louisiana mansion she inherited from a great-uncle she hardly knew, Patty Brunswick begins to have strange attacks of dizziness. Whenever she looks at her new house, her vision swims and the ground underneath her seems to waiver. She discovers that her condition is not unique; her husband Tom, a Hollywood documentary producer and Chill’s old friend, is also suffering from these bizarre episodes. While questioning the estate’s long-time groundskeeper Moses Petitjean, the couple is shocked when he points an accusing finger at their 15-year old daughter Joan as the source of the trouble. Joan immediately faints as a shudder runs through the house, and is unable to be revived.
Chill arrives on the scene and instantly squares off against Stan Morgan, the skeptical family doctor who cannot medically explain Joan’s condition; she cannot be awakened from what appears to be a deep and peaceful sleep. Chill suspects Joan is being held in a trance-like state, perhaps under the external control of some unseen force. But when creeping vines climb up the side of the house and attempt to invade her bloodstream through the intravenous drip in her arm, even Dr. Morgan’s rationalism is challenged.
Chill and his assistants, half-Sioux psychic Laura Littlefawn and university professor/occult-specialist Harold Strong, research the house and its history, suspecting that a clue to Joan’s present state exists in the details surrounding the unexpected inheritance and family lineage. They ultimately discover Joan’s ancestor, a nun in 17th-century France named Joan of Angels, was found to be possessed by Iscaaron, demon of lust, leading to an inquisition and its resulting tortures in the monastery. Laura conducts a séance to contact one of the nun’s spirits, and confirms Chill’s belief that the reincarnations of the players in the original possession are reenacting their occult drama in the present, with Joan as the point of demonic entry.
Beyond hacking and slashing the vines growing towards the sleeping Joan, Chill doesn’t really spring into action until the final face-off with the possessing demon. Even then, he is mostly unaware of the danger that surrounds him; Laura Littlefawn, with her sensitive psychic impressions, later relates to him the demonic forces she witnessed him battling. Perhaps intended to echo the influence of the lust demon on the assembled party at the estate, the greatest suspense comes from whether or not Chill will score with Tom’s beautiful blonde administrative assistant, Kim Michaels.
***Spoiler*** Their “dance of tongues” is interrupted by a phone call from Laura, just as Kim is “reaching for his manhood.” ***End Spoiler***
A subplot involving Ozzie and Clare Branson, the other (somewhat unwanted) guests at the estate, also underscores the influence of Iscaaron, as their 19-year old daughter Ginger attempts to seduce Tom Brunswick. An incestuous foundation for her behavior adds a little yuck-factor to the proceedings. But since Joan spends most of the story unmoving in her sick bed, Ginger becomes the stand-in as the girl-in-peril for some related mischief.
Through it all, Chill nibbles on his trademark sesame sticks and reflects upon the special nature of his relationship with Laura Littlefawn.