Synopsis: This is the second mission in a row where someone tries to use Mac's organization, and Helm in particular, for their own nefarious purposes (the third, if you want to count Herbie's attempted hostile takeover). In this case, Hank Priest, an old and trusted friend of Mac's, seeks revenge against a major oil company. Eric, knowing of the friendship between Priest and Mac, must decide what Mac really means when Mac tells him to "take care of" Hank Priest.

The Players:
  • Evelyn Benson, alias Madeleine Barth, one of Priest's recruits. She is killed by Bjorn.
  • Diana Lawrence, another of Priest's people, assumes the role of Madeleine. Helm is supposed to escort her through several rendezvous picking up information about the "Sigmund Syphon." She survives.
  • Greta Elfenbein, daughter of Adolph Elfenbein. She was supposed to be the one to replace Madeleine after her father's goon, Bjorn, killed her. Later on she succeeds in the replacement, but it doesn't matter by then. She also survives.
  • Adolph Elfenbein, alias "Ivory," a crooked geologist who is also interested in the "Sigmund Syphon." He gets his hand cut up some by Helm, but escapes and lives to go on to other crooked deals.
  • Paul Denison, known as "Luke" when he was part of Mac's group. A Helm trainee, he sold out for money and in this novel we find him working as a security chief for an oil magnate, L. A. Kotko. Although Helm has orders to kill Denison under certain circumstances, those circumstances do not happen and Denison survives.
  • L. A. Kotko, oil tycoon, and the object of Hank Priest's revenge. Helm saves Kotko from Priest, but Denison later kills Kotko as part of a tacit deal with Helm.
  • Hank Priest, retired Navy captain and former Congressman. After his wife drowns, Priest blames her death on L. A. Kotko and sets out for Norway to kill him. Helm spoils Priest's plans and ultimately kills him.

Scorecard:
Amorous conquests: Evelyn Benson calls him "darling" in a letter, and then calls him "darling" a few pages later; she's just pretending, though, since their cover stories call for them to be lovers. A few pages later Evelyn is killed. Jan Morrow, Kotko's girl friend, calls Greta "darling," and later calls Matt "darling" but, as with Evelyn, she is just pretending and no love interest develops. Diana Lawrence, however, does develop a romantic interest in our hero, and calls him "darling," of course.

Dead: Six (Madeleine, killed by Bjorn; Kotko, killed by Denison; Robert Wetherill, killed by Priest; Norman Yale, killed by Elfenbine; and Bjorn and Priest, killed by Helm)

Injuries to Matt Helm: Matt finishes the book in a hospital bed after taking three bullets in the shoulder fired by one of Priest's men who was a little upset by the fact that Matt has just killed Priest.

Quote: "Here are some extra cartridges for the gun I lent you," I said. "Keep them handy. And remember, a firearm is not a magic wand, and you're not anybody's fairy godmother. I think I mentioned that before."
     "Mention it again," she said. "Let me see if I remember."
     "You've got to shoot the thing to accomplish anything significant," I said. "Just waving it around chanting ancient incantations like ‘Put your hands up,' or ‘Drop that gun,' or ‘Don't come any closer or I'll pull the trigger,' won't buy you a thing. Yank it out and fire it or leave it alone. And if you shoot it, do a good job. Use both hands like I showed you, hold steady, keep firing, and really perforate that target. Never mind the Cossacks attacking from the left flank and the Apaches galloping in from the right, whooping and hollering. Get that guy in front of you and get him good. You'll be surprised how discouraging one thoroughly dead gent can be to a lot of people."

Conclusion: Matt has spent a lot of time on boats in this and the previous two novels. Someone decides it is time to get him back to dry land in . . .
         

Matt Helm ™ is the property of Donald Hamilton.
and is a Trademark of Integute AB
This independent reference to, and appreciation of, the Matt Helm book series
is copyright © 1998-2012 - Don Winans
Originally posted in June 1998 - Last Modified 22 July 2000
Send comments/criticisms/fan mail to MacBorden@aol.com