Hands in the Dark, 1975 ed., Maxwell Grant

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At the Not-Canada Institute of Questionable Human Studies (aka, the Natural History Museum), Dr. Robeson is discussing his intelligence studies with another doctor when he makes the mistake of disparaging the intelligence of Harry, his latest subject, while Harry is in the room, because ethics. Robeson is keeping the brain of a gorilla in a jar and has hooked it up to a computer to increase its intelligence, and is using Harry as, basically, his control subject. Robeson also shows off his newest collectible, an antique trepanator that transfers spinal fluid from one person to another to increase the recipient’s intelligence, so naturally Robeson ends up being put into it by Harry.

A month later, the gang at Curious Goods finally gets word on the current location of the trepanator, and when they get to the Museum, Jack runs into Viola, an old flame currently working there. They also meet Harry, who is now posing as “Dr. Pangborn”, the assistant to the late Dr. Robeson, who is continuing the gorilla brain research as a result of Robeson’s personality transferring to Harry/Pangborn, as well as his intelligence. Pangborn is also using the trepanator to take the intelligence of other scientists with skills useful to his gorilla brain studies. While Jack flirts with his ex, Micki and Ryan figure out that there is probably a link with the number of brain damaged scientists dying suddenly and the trepanator. Micki and Ryan break into the Museum and learn that not only is Viola working on the gorilla brain project, but that Pangborn is not a doctor but a test subject. Jack proposes to Viola that day, before Micki and Ryan can tell him what’s up, and so by the laws of narrative they arrive at the Museum too late to save Viola from Pangborn’s machine.

Jack and company break into the Museum with a brain-damaged Viola, with Jack planning to use the trepanator to reverse the process. Micki and Ryan are apprehended by security, but Jack confronts Pangborn, but is unable to overpower him, until Viola half-stumbles into the pair, setting off a chain of events that leads to Pangborn being placed in the machine and having his mind drained into the gorilla brain, killing it in the process as all the fluid drains out of the jar. And we end with everyone feeling bad.

One of the better episodes, all told. It’s briskly paced and hold together neatly, and gives Chris Wiggins a meaty subplot with his rekindled romance with Viola. The antique is interesting too. The gimmick is fairly straight-forward, but we also have another one where the inherent evil of the device is not recognized by the actual owner, again suggesting that it takes a special combination of antique and user for the curse to activate.

A Very Robey 80s

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The Wealth Seeker, 1978 ed, Maxwell Grant
So, yeah, I found a small stack of Shadow paperbacks in one of my used book hunts, lately. It was part of a big collection of “men’s adventure” type novels.

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In Not-Canada’s Chinatown, Tommy is losing badly in an illegal casino, much to the annoyance of Mr. Wong, the loanshark he owes money to. So Tommy goes to spy on the mobster that keeps winning his money and learns that the man owns a set of magical tattoo needles that allow him to win if he tattoos killer insects on another person, which then come to life and kill that person, because yeah sure why not that makes perfect sense for this show. So Tommy trails him and stabs him to death in an alley to get the needles, as you do. At home, Tommy gets into an argument with his grandfather, who runs a traditional medicine shop, about Tommy’s gambling and associating with mobsters, while his long-suffering sister, Linda, looks on. Grandfather searches Tommy’s things and discovers the tattoo needles, as well as a tag identifying them as coming from Lewis Vendredei Antiques, as well as writing that says “Great Evil” because sure.

At the shop, Micki is lamenting the hard work involved in taking inventory, which shows remarkable devotion to loss prevention, given that they’ve only been open a few months and they had to take stock of what was in the shop back in the first episode. They’re interrupted by a call from Grandfather and, sure enough, the needles are in the manifest. Tommy gets into another fight with Grandfather, hits him and storms out with the needles, taking them to an opium den because Christ, really, and drawing a spider on a woman in such a way that the camera has to focus on her panties and oh God this episode is killing me. The gang, meanwhile, figure out that Grandfather is covering for someone when he tells them that he was robbed of the needles, and quickly go about finding Tommy.

Tommy does some more tattooing, but with his loan shark deadline looming, he gets kicked out of the casino for cheating and blacklisted from all the other local games. Mr. Wong offers Tommy a chance at “the ultimate game of chance” in order to pay off his debt, kidnapping Micki, Ryan and Jack in the process because he noticed they were following him, but not Linda, who also sneaks off after him. Jack uses some fireworks to blow the door of the room they’re locked in because naturally they store huges boxes of fireworks in random buildings in Chinatown, and Tommy ends up catching Linda following him and tattooing her. Grandfather gives Jack a magical healing acupuncture needle to help Linda if she’s in danger, and Tommy learns that the game he’s agreed to play is Russian Roulette. Jack uses the needle to kill the perfectly harmless corn snake tattooed on Linda, Tommy loses his game and Micki takes the needles off his body and finally this episode is over.

This is not a good episode. The antique, while having a good gimmick with tattoos coming to life, makes no sense otherwise. Our main cast is almost entirely peripheral to the story, and the story itself skirts uncomfortably close to racism in its depiction of Chinese immigrant communities. To describe it as a mess would be charitable, but at least we know now what the low point is for the show.

A Very Robey 80s

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The Falcon: The Black Pope, 1982, Mark Ramsay
The only other book in this series I own. Yes, it’s got witches and Satanism in medieval Europe. For historical accuracy.

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