America faces certain doom as its citizens fall in screaming thousands before the noxious death vapors loosed upon them by the Green Hand. How can the Spider, harried and threatened by a hundred new and deadly perils, check the rising power of the next Dictator—and lay bare the scheming, criminal mind which seeks to enslave the nation?
“Empire of Doom” is the fifth Spider novel, published in February 1934, and the third by Norvell Page. Professor Cather, a specialist in gaseous chemistry, has been kidnapped and taken to the northlands of Michigan. He has been forced to create a deadly poison gas that bring an agonizing death, turning skin green and eating away large portions of it. There, the bad guys headed by the villain called the Green Hand kill the professor shortly before Wentworth’s arrival, and so the action is underway.
Soon, a town of 5000 people are threatened with death unless $2M of blackmail is paid; then similar blackmail for a larger city involving more money… and then again, this time for Cleveland. Along the way thousands are killed, including companies of soldiers with men wearing gas masks that are ineffective against the poison. Finally, $5 billion blackmail is set or the cities of NY, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, and several other large cities.
Wentworth knows from the start that the blackmail and death are really being used to set up a dictator in the US, by weakening the government unable to stop the gas, or by making the man who would be dictator a hero when the gas is stopped from its killing sprees.
A great ride as the Spider turns the tide to save the day once again (as always). Many of the events in the story are common to earlier stories, such as Nita being kidnapped, Wentworth accused of being the Spider, Wentworth accused of various murders, Wentworth on the run from the police; these are common themes that Page (and others) will use time after time, in nearly every Spider tale to pad the stories to get them to the needed length. While these are common elements used over and over again, the fan learns to love them, even expecting them, wondering what little twists will be added the next time that the gimmick is used.
It is a page turner as the annihilations of thousands is always potential, as Wentworth/Spider are frantically rushing about correcting the situation. Highly recommended!