Thursday, July 24, 2014

House of Scorpions - Chill 6 - by Jory Sherman

House of Scorpions
Chill 6
by Jory Sherman
1980 Pinnacle Books

At this point I'm convinced that Sherman hates his protagonist Dr. Russell V Chillders and wants us to hate him too.  I mentioned in my review of Doctor Orient that there was a subgenre of occult investigators that rarely leave the house.  We've got that going on here in spades, with Chill being too lazy to pick up his own damn phone most of the time.

We start with Laura Littlefawn, Chill's half-Indian psychic assistant and not-quite love interest.  It's implied that they hook up now and again, but she doesn't let him know where she lives or what she does for her regular job, which is running a chain of Indian crafts like that episode of South Park.  I think they're supposed to have one of those undefined casual things those California people have.

Littlefawn has nightmares about scorpions and gets some scorpion charm sent to her, so she goes to Chill for help, who helps her by doing absolutely nothing for almost the entire book.  I think he mentions something about the astrological sign Scorpio, which is the sum total of occult investigating he does this time out.

We then meet our villain, a rather pathetic failed cult leader Dan Crooked Creek.  He seeks to lead his people back to the traditional ways of the Navajo and hates Littlefawn for being modern and western, the only native American to do so in 1980, evidently.  His cult now consists of one trashy teenage girl, Rowena, and he lives in a cave near her ranch house.

Chill's not going to action, so action has to come to Chill.  Crooked Creek's plot to return native Americans to their traditional ways and rise ascendant over the Western imperialists requires him to torment a half-Indian owner of a chain of gift shops.  And to do that, he must first murder the gardener of a man she sometimes hangs out with.  Super villainy 101.

Crooked Creek kills Chill's stoner gardener with scorpions, but Chill will be damned if a little thing like murder spur him into getting off his butt.  I'd say he phones it in, but he actually has his housekeeper make all the phone calls.  A man dying in front of me?  Someone should call an ambulance.  My guest house is on fire?  Can someone please open the gate for the fire department?

Not much occult going on, and even less investigating.  Instead, Chill brags about his beautiful estate, his expensive motor home, and how much he spent on his handgun.  Did you know there's this thing called vegetarianism where people don't eat meat?  You didn't?  Well, Chill will tell you all about it.

Since Chill won't look for clues, clues have to look for him.  Rowena's mother found Chill's number with Rowena's belongings that she had for some reason, and called him for no particular reason other than to move the plot along.

So Chill rushes off to help.  Well, after a good night's sleep.  And there's a little bit of admin to take care of the next day, but not much more than 24 hours after his gardener is murdered and a woman asks for help he'll start to think about doing something.

Two thirds of the way in and Chill finally leaves home.  He takes Littefawn to Rowena's family's house, which turns out to be the house she dreamt about, the one she had the premonition she was going to die in.  Well, never mind, I'm sure she'll be fine.

Rowena murders her grandmother with scorpions despite Chill's half-hearted attempt to stop her.  At last we have an action sequence, in which our rough and tumble hero gets beat up by a 17 year old girl.  He then lets himself be lured to Crooked Creek's cave to confront him.  Here, Chill finally uses the expensive gun he was bragging about.  And by use, I mean shoot at and miss an unarmed man.

Despite murdering her grandmother in front of everybody, Rowena is allowed to roam the house free.  And, why yes, I would like a cup of tea from the insane murderous cultist, thank you very much.

Rowena ties Littefawn naked to a bed in a room full of scorpions and Crooked Creek rushes into the house, Chill fast at his heels.  Rowena takes one for the team and murders Crooked Creek herself as part of a scorpion mating ritual, and to keep Chill from having to bother.

At this point, I joked to myself that he would make Littlefawn untie herself.  And he totally does.

While she does that, Chill tries to figure out a way to cross a room covered in scorpions.  And if there's one thing that's easier to walk over than bugs, it's bugs on fire.  Chill pours kerosene everywhere and sets the entire house on fire.  But at least everyone got out safely.  Except for Rowena.  And Rowena's mother.

We have an epilogue in which Chill has a moment of clarity and realizes that between his inaction and idiocy he's saved exactly negative one lives during this adventure.  They chalk it up to the will of the great Indian Jesus or whatever and call it a day.  This bit is clumsily tacked on as an afterthought, probably because either Sherman or his editor realized what a schmuck his hero had been.


  1. hahaha
    Unfortunately, I've picked up a lot of books like that. I often wonder how some of these books got published. But there are way too many out there, so we have to be cautious what we pick up. I always enjoy your posts.

  2. I knew better and still picked up like five Chill books - they were a quarter each, what could I do?