Like the tentacles of a gigantic and loathsome octopus the ends of that infamous international espionage ring had stretched out across the United States. Lusting for power, the fiendish leader of that ring was stripping the country of its entire armaments; butchering, in the very capital of the nation, the patriots who pleaded for adequate war-strength. Operator 5, America’s Secret Service Ace, tried to oppose that ruthless Death Master—but Jimmy Christopher fought a power that scattered his own helpers, crippled the Intelligence, and threatened invasions that would have spelled utter annihilation!
“Legions of the Death Master” is the sixteenth Operator 5 novel, originally published in July 1935.
Something is not right in the capital of the US. Top men are being murdered; new weapons are being stolen by foreign powers. At the same time, there is a difficult-to-believe agenda underway in the US to unilaterally disarm. Given all the invasions that Operator 5 and company have dispelled in the last several months including the occupation of much of the US last month by the Yellow Empire, and all the potential enemies of the US in a world arming for war, US disarmament is a telling sign of internal government insanity. So, what is the cause?
Jimmy Christopher thinks that he might have a line of investigation that would involve the Assistant Secretary of State Randolph Morten. After an international spy fails in suborning Operator 5 with a bribe of ten times his secret-service salary, Z-7 and his secret service are moved organizationally from directly reporting to the President to reporting to the Secretary of State, who immediately reduces the number of spies in the secret service by half.
Since he is now reporting to the State Department, Z-7 feels honor-bound to stop Operator 5’s investigation of the Assistant Secretary of State; he believes that the current reporting structure nullifies his organization from investigating other parts of the State Department. Jimmy feels, though, that it is important to the nation to continue the examination of Morten. Once again, as in the last novel, Operator 5 finds himself as outlaw because he refuses to back off from what he thinks is the best way to help the country.
Operator 5 sets up his own spy organization, the Hidden Hundred, utilizing many of those fired by Z-7 from the official secret service. They fight back against plot after plot aimed at killing off those who would have the US re-arm.
Much of the novel involves maneuvering between Z-7’s secret service, Operator 5’s personal exploits, the Hidden Hundred, and the international spy ring that is behind it all. By the end, Operator 5 has once again won, re-arming is underway in the US, and all is well throughout the country… at least until next month.
Note: While Operator 5 is personally exonerated at the end of the story, the Hidden Hundred continues as an outlawed clandestine organization… with Operator 5 as its secret head.
In this novel, there is no real invasion, but rather preparations for a future one by weakening the US. The plot seems viable, once all the ingredients are in place as shown in this novel. Operator 5 has huge odds against him, but he could potentially win out as he does in the story.
This tale is a purer spy story than some of the more recent tales. Corinth chose it as the first of its nine Operator 5 reprints perhaps for this reason.
Personally, I prefer plots that go beyond espionage to include global movement of armed forces or some SF-like invention. Many of these involve long and interesting footnotes, which are also missing from this novel. So, a good story and certainly another larger-than-life pulp issue, but one that does not connect fully to own tastes.