The Dark Crusader

Infobox Book
name = The Dark Crusader
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Alistair MacLean
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
subject =
genre = Thriller Spy novel Novel
publisher = Doubleday & Company; paperback by Fawcett Crest
release_date = 1961
media_type =
pages =.
isbn = NA
preceded_by = Fear Is the Key
followed_by = The Golden Rendezvous

"The Dark Crusader" is a 1961 thriller novel by Scottish author Alistair MacLean. It was released in the United States under the title: "The Black Shrike" and under the pseudonym Ian Stuart; it was later republished under MacLean's own name..

Plot introduction

Bentall, a British physicist seconded for counterespionage duties, is suddenly recalled to London from a mission in Turkey involving the theft of information about British missiles. Eight top nuclear physicists have disappeared, after responding to eight advertisements that have been placed in newspapers, for top level scientists in different fields of research, all offering very attractive rates of pay, but with the precondition that all applicants to be married with no children. All eight scientists disappear either in Australia, or en route there. Bentall is paired with Marie Hopeman another agent posing as his wife. No James Bond, Bentall is much the stumbling self-deprecating fool who gets things wrong from the start, and ends up in the position that the villains want him.

Bentall and Hopeman are kidnapped at an unscheduled stop in Fiji, but escape to Island Vardu a remote coral atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Island Vardu is currently home to Professor Witherspoon, an archaeologist of some note, but with no radio transmitter or boat scheduled to arrive for three weeks. But there is something about Dr Witherspoon that Bentall find suspicious. Soon Bentall discovers that Witherspoon is the mastermind behind a plot to build a missile -- the "Black Shrike", for an unnamed foreign power. The plot becomes even more complicated when Bentall and Hopeman find themselves falling in love even as they try to unravel a plot to steal highly classified missile technology. However, typically for MacLean, neither the female agent, nor the situation is quite as they seems. The novel really has two endings, one in which Bentall must chose between saving Hopeman and preventing the theft of a missile, and a second in which Bentall finally unravels the last details of the plot with his boss. Although not a standard literary device, the double ending packs considerable emotional punch.

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