A Shadow of Death by :Gordon Ashe (John Creasey) (1968)
John Creasey, author of more than 500 books, published fifty-seven thrillers about Patrick Dawlish from 1939 to 1976 under the name "Gordon Ashe," one of more than twenty pseudonyms Creasey used to manage his prodigious output. Dawlish started his career as a British Military Intelligence operative, parachuting into occupied territory to both rescue allies and to sabotage German works. Following the war, Dawlish "retired" to a farm, while also acting as an unofficial private detective who specialized in lost causes. The series took another turn with 1960's The Crime Haters, in which Dawlish is recruited to join the International Crime Conference as Britain's representative, and having the title Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Crime at Scotland Yard created for him. The Conference, a far-reaching assembly of police officials from dozens of countries, was formed with the task of hunting down international criminals and had far more power than Interpol. The group was soon dubbed The Crime Haters and Dawlish rose to become one of its most important members.
Since this is a John Creasey series, the Crime Haters soon became involved in massive international criminal plots that threatened the safety of the world and at the forefront was Dawlish, a stereotypical romantic hero full of derring-do. A Shadow of Death was the ninth Crime Haters book and the fiftieth in the Dawlish series. The threat this time is science fictional and apocalyptic; with a little tweaking this could have become on of Creasey's Dr. Palfry's world-ending thrillers.
A research physicist has developed the ultimate weapon from an ingot of nuclear waste -- capable of giving off rays that can reduce men to ashes within minutes. Anyone within the the "shadow" of these rays is doomed. The rays can penetrate any material and their range is not known. The rays can only be blocked by a special container which not only holds the ingot but is able to aim it. The ingot has the capability of destroying both cities and governments.
A somebody has stolen it.
Charged by England's Minister of Defence to find the weapon before it is used by some individual, organization, or rogue government, Dawlish enlists the help of the Crime Haters. With few leads, Dawlish puts his life on the line in search of this weapon and those who threaten to use it against an innocent population.
Like all books in the series, A Shadow of Death is a fast-paced, highly readable thriller designed merely to give the reader a few hours of enjoyment. It is as unmemorable as many of Creasey's works, but while you are in the clutches of the story you are compelled to race through the pages to its expectedly happy conclusion.
Creasey's books are like peanuts, popcorn, and potato chips -- it's hard to stop at just one. I usually read four or five Creaseys in a row.