Victor Jones – Monument Of Terror (Nel, Jan. 1971: originally Lyle Stuart, 1968)
Suddenly Stephen Cooper, dedicated scientist and upright British citizen, was a man on the run, fleeing through the Black Forest with a woman he scarcely knew, seeking a mysterious sanctuary the peasants called “The Monument Of Terror”.
There was a time when nothing much ever happened to him. But then he discovered that dead body in his kitchen. Immediately, Detective-Inspector Tregoran was after him for murder, and Stephen became the target of a chilling, sinister plot that threatened worse than murder.
Author Victor Jones has written a first-rate espionage thriller that spins new webs of intimacy and intrigue, intertwining the latest methods of murder and mind-control with the old, haunting monuments of post-war Europe.
It’s the phrase “espionage thriller” that troubles me. I hope this isn’t gonna be one of those novels that dresses itself up in horror trappings only to be revealed as a spy versus spy yarn. Not much has happened as yet, although London has had a good look in with namechecks for Victoria Station, Earls Court and … Ruislip, where he’s employed at the National Institute Of Bacteriology. He’s being aggressively head-hunted by a German company but he’s turned them down because he’s never forgiven the Nazi’s over his mum’s death. His boss, Oscar Grossfield lost his entire family at Auschwitz but he advises Stephen not to let sentiment get in the way of a huge career opportunity. He does seem suspiciously keen for him to accept the position. Also, his girlfriend Ingrid (a German!) has failed to return from a routine visit to her guardian in Mainz (Germany again!). I think it’s safe to predict that Stephen will be hauling his ass out to the GDR sooner rather than later.
As is obvious from the first, somebody is trying to set Stephen Cooper up. Tregoran gloatingly informs him that the mutilated body of a woman who may or may not be Ingrid has been dredged from the Thames and when the aforementioned Johnnie is strangled in their kitchen, Cooper, by now a wanted man, decides to confide in his boss and father figure Grossfield. Grossfield has the answer. His prodigy should accept the job with NBUAG in Germany! You get the impression that this would have been his advice if Stephen had approached him about a veruca. Anyhow, Grossfield smooths the way with the Germans, gives him a forged passport and smuggles him out of the country. In France he teams up with Lore Strich, the presumed dead Ingrid’s flatmate, and the pair sneak across the border into her homeland. Germany!
Schloss Hohenstein is hidden away in the Black Forest. Among local villagers it has an evil reputation on account of some cruel medieval baron who their ancestors ate. Known locally as “Schreckendenkmal” (‘The Monument Of Terror’) the old castle is the ideal location for the NBUAG research centre where Cooper is given his own laboratory. It doesn’t take him long to figure that General Direktor Grober and the boys are Nazi’s and their business is germ warfare. When Cooper confronts the Direktor, he is given a choice: to carry on working for them, or be turned over to the police. Cooper goes on the run instead. Captured, the extent of the conspiracy is made brutally apparent, and now the Nazi’s realise he will never help them, they resort to plan B: Brain transplant fun!
If you want a speed read, this will do the job just so, but I have a few reservations about recommending it as a MUST HAVE. The conspirator in chief might just as well be wearing a sandwich board with “IT’S ME” written front and back and I could double-guess everything that was going to happen ten pages before they did. A brainier person probably wouldn’t even need to read any of it and still write you a plot synopsis. Also, the thing is light on gory deaths. Vic proves he can do it when he has a mind, and I’d like to have seen him make more of this admirable talent.
See also: Vault’s Monument Of Terror thread