Frank Lauria | Bantam Books | 1972 | 277 pages
After saving the Vice President’s daughter from occult forces in the first book of the series (Doctor Orient), paranormal investigator Dr. Owen Orient returns in Raga Six. Exhausted and feeling out of touch with the people he intended to help with his psychic research, Dr. Orient sells his mansion on Riverside Drive and gives up all his worldly possessions to follow the simpler life path his mind intuitively reveals. Encountering a telepathic potential in cowboy garb named Joker, Orient returns with him to his Lower-East Side squat, where he meets fellow wanderers Sun Girl and her young son Julian. Orient quickly settles into a new life with this countercultural family, meditating and honing his psychic skills—and assisting Joker in his low-level gambling business—until a request from Sun Girl pulls him back into the occult sphere.
Sun Girl’s friend Betsy has fallen under the spell of a strange commune, and she recruits Orient to investigate. He discovers that Gregory and Isis, the two young mediums who founded “The Circle”, are not just flirting with the trappings of occultism, but are actually possessed by the demon Astaroth. They intend to follow the left-hand path to unlock the demon’s power by ultimately sacrificing one of their order, lost girls like Betsy who have run away or dropped out of society. With the help of a sympathetic clairvoyant, Orient lures Gregory and Isis into a trap, and performs an exorcism to drive the demon out.
Astaroth is purged and Orient returns to his meditations. Against his better judgment, he breaks from his routine book-making chores to deliver a mysterious special package for Joker. Pola Gleason, the recipient of the black bag Orient drops off, dies from an uncontrollably pleasurable orgasm. Joker immediately disappears, advising Orient to leave the country by leaving him a ticket for a berth on a ship sailing to Morocco. On board, Orient encounters another telepathic potential, Pia, with whom he shares an instant psychic attraction. Pia and her friend Janice are being treated for a rare anemia by Dr. Alistar Six, an intimidating heavy-set man with a strange bearing. Accompanying Dr. Six on the voyage is his wife Raga, a magnetically attractive beauty with smooth, marble-like skin and unusual silver hair.
The base of his brain stimulated by telepathic messages of desire, Orient slips into a ménage-a-trois with Pia and Raga, but it is Raga who ultimately consumes his thoughts. After Janice’s unexpected death, Pia flees the ship with Presto Wallace, a photographer she met on board, pursued by Dr. Six, who seems to have developed a strong attraction to his patient. Orient and Raga disembark in Tangiers, where Raga expresses her fears and pleads with him to help her leave her husband. Pia and Dr. Six eventually return, and Orient discovers Presto hovering near death in an inexplicable coma-like state. A telepathic fogs surrounds Presto, and Orient senses the hand of a malignant paranormal force at work; a force similar to the one responsible for the deaths of Janice on board the ship, and Pola back in New York. Fearing that Raga and Pia are in grave danger, Orient is determined to track down and eradicate the source of the evil threatening them all.
Similar to Dr. Orient searching for new direction in his life, Raga Six meanders in a convoluted telepathic stew of characters and situations, waiting over one hundred pages before even introducing its title character. However disjointed, many of the moments along the way are compelling, such as the unexpected guilt and remorse Orient experiences at a character’s death—even a villainous one—in the physical world, particularly since he routinely engages in telepathic life and death struggles in the spiritual plane. Even an expected betrayal results in a poignant loss for Orient. The final reveal hinges on a what-important-thing-did-I-see-but-can’t-remember moment, teasing a clue that could potentially emerge on a telepathically exposed roll of film. When all the various strands are finally pulled together, a simple say-the-secret-all-powerful-magic-word conclusion undercuts the confrontation between Orient and his supernatural nemesis.