Originally published in 1962 under the pseudonym Ian Stuart, The Satan Bug is a real treat for fans of classic adventure fiction. As I’ve stated elsewhere on this blog, Alistair MacLean has long been a personal favorite. Many of his books are being reprinted by Sterling Books and are available through Barnes & Noble booksellers everywhere. For my money, MacLean is one of those unique writers who could craft a nifty plot and add large doses of action scenes combined with strong characters and make it work, even if the plot was at times implausible. In the case of The Satan Bug the plot is so good it could make today’s headlines. Private Detective Pierre Cavell has been asked to assist in a search for several missing vials of a paralyzing toxin along with a state-of-the-art bio-weapon called The Satan Bug, which is, naturally, capable of destroying life on earth. Techno-thrillers such as this really didn’t become a staple among writers until the late sixties and so MacLean was at the forefront of a now commonplace genre. This type of plot would be put to good use by Michael Crichton and others. The writing is spot-on and there are elements here of the old “drawing room detective” plots where the principals gather in a room and discuss the various knowledge they’ve accumulated about the matter at hand. MacLean adds plenty of action so that these scenes never slow down the narrative. Stylistically, MacLean belongs in the same class as Eric Ambler and Ian Fleming, two other writers that I hold in the highest regard. The Satan Bug offers more plot twists than I thought possible. There are deceptions cleverly disguised as deceptions and some truly suspenseful action scenes that hold it all together. The Satan Bug is not only vintage MacLean but a top notch techno-thriller.
I’ll be reviewing additional Alistair MacLean titles as I acquire the new editions from Sterling. Meanwhile here is a link to a fantastic site devoted to MacLean just click HERE!