Mystery of the Seven Agate Devils

There’s a mystery going on in England. In the dead of night, someone is leaving carved stone heads at various homes and businesses with the following note: “Twinkle twinkle like a star does love blaze less from afar?” So far 12 of the heads have been reported.

It seems harmless and it’s sort of mysterious and fun, but it also reminds me of the very first Doc Savage book I ever read, The Seven Agate Devils. This is a spoiler, so if you’re thinking of reading The Seven Agate Devils, or if you’re in the middle of reading The Seven Agate Devils be sure to read on so I can save you some pain.

Doc Savage, if you’re not familiar, is a depression-era superhero who stars in several hundred thousand thin, dimestore novels (mostly) by pulp writer Lester Dent. Kenneth Robeson, often credited as author, is a pen name shared by a handful of writers including Dent. Doc Savage and his band of less-than-memorable sidekick adventurers travel the globe fighting evil. It’s all very Scooby Doo, too. If there’s a werewolf in a story, you can be pretty sure it’s a guy in a werewolf mask. Oops, spoiled another one.

Now, The Seven Agate Devils was a mystery that captivated my ten-year-old imagination completely. Someone kept murdering important people and leaving a small statue of a devil beside each body. Each red-hot stone devil bore its victim’s face. Who could be committing these impossible crimes? Who? Who?

A flying robot machine, that’s who. The machine would fly up to people, kill them and then spit out a little devil statue on the spot.

I remember that solution made me very angry, and I’m still appalled today at its cheapness. Somehow, God knows why, I went on to read about a dozen more of those Doc Savage books, never liking any of them much more than the one before it. I guess I liked the idea of Doc Savage better than the actual stories, but that was enough to keep me reading. Kids are like that.

Hell, adults are like that.