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Lady Fancifull "Tinkerbell"

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Journey into Fear (Penguin Modern Classics)
Journey into Fear (Penguin Modern Classics)
Price: £4.35

5.0 out of 5 stars The delights of becoming further acquainted with the Turkish Secret Police, circa 1939/1940, 25 Nov 2014
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Eric Ambler represents the art of writing a good, taut, spy thriller, which also instructs beautifully about time, place, politics and character, extremely well.

Having recently re-read The Mask of Dimitrios, I thought I'd take a little saunter through some of his other books, recently republished by Penguin Modern Classics, delightfully available again.

Ambler, a writer of Left sensibilities, is wonderfully free of the bedrock of Anti-Semitism which rumbled under some other writing of the time. There was a general Zeitgeist of unconscious, received, racism, until the horrific events of Holocaust began to make some question their inherent attitudes. This is not to say that those on the left were of necessity free from this, just that Ambler is clearer about ascribing venality, brutality and shadiness to individuals, rather than to races.

He's not a writer who hangs around on description, but one who is economical and taut, whilst, it seems, fairly effortlessly describing what the reader needs to believe place, time, idea, narrative, character and relationship.

This particular book once again pits someone who is innocent of perfidy and derring-do, into the heart of a world where murder is not just local, individual, but is swept up in the fates of nations.

Graham is an engineer. His speciality in high powered long range guns, and he is in Turkey helping development of missiles in the early stages of the Second World War. Turkey at this point had neutrality, though there were certainly factions wishing for closer association with the Allied Powers.

On the eve of his departure back to Britain, someone tries to kill the rather conventional, peaceable Graham. It turns out a conspiracy is afoot (isn't there always) which he hears about when taken to meet Colonel Haki. How I cheered; the definitely sinister, even if apparently on the side of the angels, Turkish Secret Service high-up, whom everyone is rightly nervous of, also featured in The Mask Of Dimitrios.

In order to confound his known would be murderer, Haki arranges for Graham to be smuggled out of the country via a small cheap passenger ship. And, unsurprisingly what we have is an espionage orientated version of that wonderful classic - the country house murder. That is, a group of people holed up inescapably together. Wrongdoing, we know, is on the cards, there is at least one murderer, but everyone will turn out, probably, to be not quite who they seem to be, so, everyone is potentially suspect. And our hero, who has breezed through life in many ways like an innocent schoolboy, makes that journey into fear.

Where this book differs from the domestic murder mystery is of course the involvement of the wider stage - the machinery of war, all who profit by it and the nations engaged in it.

There are some almost predictable red herrings, real sharks, wolves in sheep's clothing and vice-versa, but all is done with panache, enjoyable tension, most masterfully. Our gathering of passengers on the ship is as satisfyingly memorable and eccentric a bunch as could be wished for.

This is one which should delight the aficionados of both old fashioned murder mysteries, and political/espionage thrillers alike. I shall read yet more Ambler, and sincerely hope to encounter Colonel Haki (shivers nervously) again.

4 1/2 stars, rounded up to 5 - only because I do prefer Charles Latimer, the urbane, witty central character of The Mask of Dimitrios as a more amusing quicker witted companion than the more innocent Graham

Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes Novel Book 2)
Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes Novel Book 2)
Price: £6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Initial delight soured : unbelievable gore sequence, and too much manipulation, 23 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For around three quarters of Horowitz's second `Sherlock Holmes' I was most enjoyably surrendered to this splendid `Holmesian in style but without the great man or his biographer' book, as Horowitz pairs a self-created Holmes disciple, Inspector Athelney Jones, from Scotland Yard, with a `Pinkerton's man', Frederick Chase, and the two, meeting at the Reichenbach Falls, join forces in an investigation to track down a new American master criminal, Clarence Devereux.

The Reichenbach Falls are where Holmes allegedly fell to his death, along with his arch-enemy, Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime. As the legion of fans of Conan Doyle's stories know, Doyle killed off his too successful consulting detective, but later was forced to bring him back.

Horowitz starts by pleasurably playing with the reader's sensibilities, as Chase, the American, picks holes in what happened at Reichenbach, throwing doubt on the actions of both Holmes and Watson. Something, he concludes, is not quite right. Jones, a detective who appears, bumblingly, in one of Holmes' investigations, had lionised and hero-worshipped the great detective, and has studied ferociously to develop his own abilities, and now models himself on his dead hero. Chase, a more plodding, less flamboyant character, is willing to assume the mantle of Jones' trusty Watson, as the two begin an investigation into the revelation that the mysterious American criminal Devereux was involved in joining forces with Moriarty to set up a global network of evil doing.

Horowitz is brilliant at setting time, place, and cast of believable characters. Though there is certainly more graphic depiction of violence than personally I can take in fiction, as there is a taint of the gratuitous: violence as entertainment, I went happily along for the ride, appreciating Horowitz' sly humour as he lobs Sherlockian history, characters and references into his thoroughly absorbing crime novel, steeped in the darkness of the Victorian underworld, and the valiant efforts of those who seek to fight the darkness

And then................about three quarters of the way through there is an absolute ratchet up of violence, and in a manner which is both horrible, gratuitous, and highly overdone. Reminding me of nothing so much as bad movies where the slamming and the pounding and the multiplicity of firepower and the like are of ridiculous proportions, unrealistic and in the end insulting the audience's intelligence. Credibility as well as finesse is lost. At this point, my five star rating had fallen away.

And then the author becomes very audacious indeed. Far too much so, I believed; the cardinal crime of over-manipulation of character to force plot, shattering credibility, cheap tricks.


There is a relentless and detailed exposition of what has happened, and the reader is argued into some sort of surrender. But, at least for me, the undoubted authorial cleverness has come at the cost of belief. I was left with the feeling that as the `trick' and the whole thing, is, after all, only a fiction, in the end, it doesn't much matter. WHAT doesn't much matter can't be revealed, for fear of spoilers.

This book is clearly dividing readers. I'm one of the ones who was hugely impressed by The House of Silk, and its authenticity to the style. Of course, in dispensing with Holmes and Watson, there is no need to retain the restraint, the humour, the charm of the original, but because Horowitz so firmly kept our awareness of all of that alive in the early part of the book, the fall away from that restraint, humour and charm left me only able to grudgingly say `yes, the author himself has been marvellously clever' but I had no feeling of delight in the cleverness.

3 ½ stars. Probably having just finished the book, the overwhelming feeling is of let down, making it `okay' only, maybe waiting before posting will give me more of a sense of my earlier appreciation, enough to, just, lift the book to a like.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 26, 2014 12:18 PM GMT

Some Luck
Some Luck
Price: £7.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hundred years in the Mid-West, stirred through a family saga, and blending in the wide, wide world, 21 Nov 2014
This review is from: Some Luck (Kindle Edition)
Jane Smiley's `Some Luck' is Volume 1 of a trilogy, examining a tumultuous 100 years from just after the end of the Great War to 2020. Smiley does this by taking an ordinary family from Iowa, from mixed European settler stock, and following them forward through the generations, as children grow and become parents, and those children grow, in a world which is endlessly, rapidly in change.

Like Smiley's Pulitzer prizewinning A Thousand Acres, this first volume of the trilogy shows the author as a writer with a deep connection to rural place and landscape, and to the powerful hold than `land' can exert. She effortlessly shows how a story can be both deeply and uniquely personal, familial, and how the personal is always shot through with the ripples, tugs, and in-roads which the wider world and its history makes in the lives of each unique individual, as we all come from place, and live through time.

The structure of this first (and I assume the subsequent two) of the trilogy, takes each chapter looking at a year in the life of the family, exploring what is happening to them, in their relationships with each other, and their relationship with that world of which they are part. `Some Luck' runs from 1920-1953

The central family is that of Walter Langdon, 25 in 1920, from Irish, Scottish, English settler heritage, a young farmer who had spent time in the Great War. His young wife Rosanna, from a German settler heritage has recently given birth to their first child, Frank.

The first few chapters present, stunningly, an inside into the mind of a small child, and the laying out of how personality is already clearly expressed. The relationships between parents, children, grandparents, the physical, rooted life in connection with the land, a sense of tradition, stability, and life unfolding in repeating spirals with change beginning to happen, faster and faster as the years roll by, is done with absolute assurance.

Smiley is in many ways a deceptively easy read. She tells a great story, and it's clear this is and will be a marvellously absorbing narrative, an expose of social history, changing cultural landscapes, but she does this so apparently without effort, that there is never the sense of a character being manipulated to prove a point or to make something happen.

The influx of the wider world into the Langdon world, showing the effects of the depression of the 20's, the move to war, the engagement of the second generation in that war, the rise of the Cold War, changing fashions in child care, the aspirations of modernity, a society where stability is giving way to rapid change, conservative capitalism versus consumerism, socialism, life post-Hiroshima and the shadow of the bomb, all this complexity is most beautifully revealed. Her book is as much educative social history as novel, without the history ever feeling like a information overload.

It was when I finished Some Luck, and sat down to think about what Smiley had done, and the manner of her doing it, that I realised how brilliantly the novel had been crafted. She is not a writer who stuns with her showy brilliance, but one who, when you stop and look at the piece, has crafted beautifully, properly, harmoniously. There is an integrity to her work. And I can't wait for volume 2, which will cover the 50's to the 80's, and where, I suspect, the sense of timelessness which still clung to the early part of Some Luck, will be wrenched asunder

Recommended, most highly recommended.

I received this as a digital review copy from the publishers

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem [DVD]
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ronit Elkabetz
Price: £14.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sombre Film With A Rather Old Fashioned Feel : but then, so are Rabbinical Divorce Laws, 19 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Viviane Amsalem, an Israeli woman, wants a divorce, as she and her husband are not compatible. She has lived apart from her husband for 3 years. Unfortunately for Viviane, this is Israel, and the `Get' or divorce ruling, can only happen if the husband agrees to the divorce. And Viviane's husband does not want to release her

Shot entirely in soulless official hearings rooms and waiting areas, this is a claustrophobic film, with a trio of powerful performances from, particularly from Ronit Elkabetz, as Viviane Amsalem, Simon Abkarian as her stone-faced brooding, implacable husband Elisha, and Menashe Noy as Carmel, Viviane's fiery, impassioned lawyer. Sasson Gabai is equally excitable and prickly as Elisha's advocate, brother, and upholder of traditional rabbinical values.

The divided couple, both deeply suffering, one wanting her freedom, the other savagely unable to let her go `she is my destiny', despite the fact that both leak hard suffering through their association in every glance, givw wonderfully internalised performances, electric with seething, restrained bitterness. The advocates roar and gesticulate, with fiery expression.

The film misses its final star, for me, because a few of the `star turn' witness performances are a little too much bravura character comedy `we need some laughs here'. And though we certainly do, at times that dialogue and some of those performances are a little too obviously `play this for laughs' and verging on caricature. Performances for the stage rather than film. Oppressive though the film and its subject matter is, a lighter touch on the `breathing space' moments would have better kept the integrity of what the film is about.

Though the dreadful rigidity and wrongness of the system is clear, what is well done is that the husband is not played as a pantomime villain by Abkarian - he performs the role without commenting on it. It is a truthful, restrained performance which means that Elisha makes sense to himself.

Elkabetz is a multi talented woman, as she co-directed and co-wrote, as well as starred in this.

Her powerful pressure-cooker performance eventually and agonisingly explodes as the film reaches a dreadful climax and the final images had me out of my chair with shock and disbelief. Skilfully done.

This film is Israel's entry as `Best Foreign Language Film for the 2015 Oscars.

In filmic terms, it has no whistles and bells, no fast cutting, soundtrack et al, and has nailed its submission to issue and performances.

Pinzon Egyptian Cotton 725-Gram Towel Set, White, 2 Bath
Pinzon Egyptian Cotton 725-Gram Towel Set, White, 2 Bath
Price: £16.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Soft strong and absorbent. Loss of star as the range itself includes no bath sheet, 17 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This pack of two bath towels, 140cm by 70cm which I got in a crisp white, is of pleasing weight, and barely seemed to have registered the water they absorbed after drying me from the shower. They certainly looked and felt far less damp than I would have expected.

These are good quality towels

The manufacturer states these will get softer and softer the more you wash them.

Now unfortunately because Vine items have to be reviewed within a certain timescale, and I do care enough about the environment not to be continually putting the washing machine on purely to test the claim, I can't assure potential customers of the truth of the claim. But certainly the towels did not get harder following their washing!

Possibly being a little picky, but I think it's a shame the range doesn't have the larger bath sheet size. I like having one big fluffy bath sheet to wrap myself in, and one bath towel to turban for my hair, and this is how I generally buy my towel sets - sheet, bath, hand. The Pinson range is for bath and hand only. I suspect the designer of the range is male, as men tend to happily wear a towel bare chested and wrapped round the waist like a sarong after a bath, and most women I know seem to go for the strapless frock look, which with a bath sheet keeps your legs cosily warm too, but with a bath towel only makes it to above knee length , losing the cosy fluffy ball-gown look, elegantly topped off with the second towel as a turban, all ready for an evening of pedicure and manicure, draped becomingly in fluffy Egyptian cotton!

Wolf Winter
Wolf Winter
by Cecilia Ekbäck
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.72

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A so nearly excellent read, but fell badly at a far too ambitious and implausible `wrap', 17 Nov 2014
This review is from: Wolf Winter (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For most of this roughly 400 page first novel by Cecilia Ekbäck, I was absorbed and immersed, and able to suspend my disbelief over some inconsistencies or improbabilities. However, within the final 50 pages, the author attempted a far too complicated trail of red herrings and multiple conspiracies, which rather weakened the undoubted strength of the book - the ability to capture a historical period, within an isolated sombre geography - Swedish Lapland in 1717, and a conglomeration of rather diverse, scattered communities, travellers and residents.

Without revealing spoilers, a small family, with clearly some not quite revealed `history' and cupboards which might contain the odd skeleton, leave their coastal community of Ostrobothnia in Finland, to come to the mountainous, forested settlement of Blackasen Mountain. Mother Maija, an `earthwoman' - midwife, father Paavo, previously a fisherman, and their two daughters, 14 year old Frederika and 6 year old Dorotea come to settle a homestead originally owned by Paavo's uncle, who appeared to leave the homestead in rather mysterious circumstances.

Mystery in fact is everywhere. Maija, her own grandmother and Frederika have second sight, and can commune, willingly or unwillingly with elemental forces and the dead. Paavo is prey to extreme terrors and has become landlocked, unable to engage in his watery trade.

Blackasen Mountain itself has some curious, unsettling dark past, involving people who have gone missing. The landscape (beautifully described) is harsh, secretive, unforgiving and almost alive.

The two daughters discover a slaughtered body. The scattered community are tight-lipped about what might have happened, and are inclined to try and convince themselves and each other that this is the work of a bear, or of wolves.

Meanwhile, on a wider stage, Sweden has been in conflict with Russia, the Swedish King may not be altogether the most popular and secure of monarchs, a Calvinist Church is trying to maintain and control hierarchies within society, and older, animist, shamanist beliefs are still more potent beliefs for some, than Christianity. There are also conflicts between the settled Swedish homesteaders and the nomadic community of Lapps.

The small community, with its isolated homesteads, its nomadic winter Laplander visitors, is both closed in on itself and mutually suspicious of itself.

A small cast of characters, and the probability that it is someone within the community, rather than bear or wolf who is the murderer.

Almost everyone appears to have secrets; and, because of this, almost everyone might have motive.

History, crime, thriller, and the ratchet turned up into horror with the highly plausible (given the culture of the time and place) supernatural elements, and some stunning writing which brings home the harshness and difficulty of survival, and the terrifying, brooding beauty of the land itself, kept me engaged as Maija and Frederika, driven by the strength and fierceness of their own natures, are drawn into the need to understand and investigate. Mother and daughter also have their own conflicts with each other, and with the acceptance, or otherwise of the 'gifts' they have.

Character, relationships, narrative, setting, descriptive writing are all engaging. If only the author had known when to stop, and when a conspiracy and a whole raft of red herrings are just a bunch of fish too far.

3 ½ stars for this, in the end, and on reflection the absorption of the reading experience for most of the book pulls this into `like' despite the crashing, thumping overdone complexities of the final solutions.

However......... Ekbäck is for sure a writer to watch

The Girl Next Door
The Girl Next Door
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ruth Rendell but not quite as we know and expect her to be, 13 Nov 2014
Ruth Rendell has a long and distinguished career as a crime novelist, both of a series involving an ongoing inspector (Wexford) and as a crime writer of standalone books, without and ongoing investigator, And then there is her writing using another name, Barbara Vine. The Vine books (which generally prefer) are rather darker and rather more devoted to complex subterranean psychology. It could be said they are really psychological thrillers.

Curiously, Rendell's latest `Barbara Vine' did not quite `bite' with me the way she usually does.

This latest Rendell is also not quite expected Rendell. For those expecting a crime, and an investigation to unmask the perpetrator it will come as a bit of a surprise to find the crime, and the perpetrator, and indeed the motive, are all explained in the blurb.

In the 40s, a man murders his wife and her lover, does a bit of dismemberment and buries their hands in a biscuit tin. (he saw them holding hands, when he came home unexpectedly, which alerted him to what was going on). Local children, including his son, play in the tunnels in semi-rural Loughton (as it was then) The tunnels will serve as a hiding place for the hands

Jumping forward more than 60 years the community of children have gone their ways, though some have kept in contact. Their lives begin to connect again when building development work uncovers the hands and the tin, and a half-hearted cold cases enquiry begins. Half-hearted as it is pretty obvious that whoever did the deed, and on whom, is most likely to be dead. The children who played in the tunnels are either themselves dead or in their seventies and more.

What the `crime hook' does to is to reunite a group of very different elderly people, and `the hands' are what connects their lives together again, whether they directly affected some of the major players at the time (for example the murderer's son) or later, as the various at the time mysteries begin to be remembered and picked over.

What the book is really about is the passage of time, and, particularly, a look at the loves, lives and losses of a group of elderly people.

There are some things which are clearly `devices' and don't quite work - for example, the very burial of those hands, and the comparative ease with which the murderer got away with his murders, but I did get interested in the lives of the elderly group.

The exploration of the long uncoupling of marriages, and the enduring potency of first love, and, yes, the existence of sexuality and passionate feelings in a group of people whom most of us might think are `past it' proved more absorbing than I might have supposed.

I received this as a review copy from the publishers

Premium Spiralizer - Harcas Spiral Vegetable Slicer - The Best Selling Premium Brand Courgette Noodle Maker - Highest Quality Japanese Blades - 2 Julienne Sizes - Package Includes - Cleaning Brush, The Secrets of the Chinese Chefs eBook & the Indian Chef eBook Recipes
Premium Spiralizer - Harcas Spiral Vegetable Slicer - The Best Selling Premium Brand Courgette Noodle Maker - Highest Quality Japanese Blades - 2 Julienne Sizes - Package Includes - Cleaning Brush, The Secrets of the Chinese Chefs eBook & the Indian Chef eBook Recipes

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy safe twirling spirals, 13 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Firstly, I was offered the product for free in return for posting a review.

I'm happy with this spiraliser, easily used by pushing the vegetable into one end, and turning as you push. There are two blades, of different thickness so you choose how fine you want your spiral to be

There is a guard to pierce, hold and cap the vegetable once it nears the end, to avoid julienned fingers. This will be particularly useful for vegetarian guests, knowing that no bloody fingers are in their vegetable pasta.

There is also a mini bottle brush, to help the finer detail of cleaning

I should also say that the company which has brought this product to market are very responsive and helpful in making efforts to ensure that technical details on their website (downloading of free erecipe books) are clear and workable

Loss of star due to;
1) The end of each spiralising compartment is a point - so inevitably the end of the veg gets trapped, and you do have to do some vigorous poking (with the brush) to free it. I also found that detailed cleaning was needed with that bottle brush to make sure no tiny pieces of vegetable were left in the julienne teeth. A rinse and vigorous swish in soapy water, and a half hearted scrub with the bottle brush were not sufficient to properly cleanse.

The Spring of Kasper Meier
The Spring of Kasper Meier
by Ben Fergusson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous evocation of time and place; not entirely convinced by the authenticity of character and plot, 12 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There is no doubt that Fergusson writes well, and creates a highly believable atmosphere about what it might have been like to live in Germany, immediately following the war.

Berlin (as other bombed cities) is a mass of rubble. It is also of course occupied by Allied armies, administering the individual sectors. There is poverty, there is suspicion, there is guilt. And there are those who can profit from all this, as well as the ingenuity people engage in when living space, and food are hard to find, and inflation makes money worthless.

Kasper Meier is homosexual; this is in a time when homosexuality was not only illegal, but homosexuals had also been victims of the Third Reich. Meier, like many others, has secrets which are open to blackmail. A young woman, Eva Hirsch, attempts to blackmail Meier for reasons which are not completely obvious; she is after, she says, information only about the identity of a British pilot. Meier is one of the army of those who are getting by through small black market trading; some kind of fixer, scavenger. Both goods such as cigarettes and information itself are tradable currency. So begins a relationship of distrust between the two which develops slowly into friendship, as each has their secrets to protect

Whilst the world was excellently done, Fergusson at times seemed to be manipulating the reader suspensefully too much. Various hints and hooks are dangled - mysterious, dangerous, feral twins, a woman whose identity is withheld, who is masterminding much of the criminal activity in the city, soldiers meeting violent, retributive justice, and some violent end which happened to Meier's former lover.

The constant, teasing, withheld information about Kasper's lover felt like an authorial device which was showing all its joins. Of course readers need mysteries to keep alive the page turning, but if there is no reason within the framework of character and the narrative the character move within, for this to happen, authorial intrusion is irritating. This was the case with this `teaser' in the plot - information known of course by Kasper, and endlessly alluded too and backed off from.

The denouement, the reveal of the major mysteries when they came, the who and the why were not, for me, believable, nor, sweet as it was, did I quite buy the utter neatness of the end, and the nobility of central characters which enabled this to happen. Probably because in the end I could never quite become immersed in the characters themselves.

If I compare this to the other books the publishers are making comparisons with - Fallada's Alone In Berlin, Boyd's Restless, Sansom's Dominion, I didn't really find my disbelief suspended, or my immersion as complete, to make `the joins' of what the author was doing, invisible.

Fergusson definitely a writer to watch, but I'm not sure if the accolades are yet deserved.

The Mask of Dimitrios (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Mask of Dimitrios (Penguin Modern Classics)
Price: £4.35

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterclass in how to write a spy thriller : Europe Between The Wars, 7 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Mask of Dimitrios is in many ways an old-fashioned, intelligent thriller, displaying all the craft of disciplined good writing.

The central character, Latimer, is an academic and writer. He has written books on economics, but, latterly, has become successful as a writer of popular, well written detective stories. Travelling abroad whilst he works on finding a plot for his next novel, he happens, by chance encounter, to meet a high ranking Turkish colonel, through whom he gets drawn into hearing the story of Dimitrios, a man who evaded capture across Europe, for over a decade. He was implicated in several murders, political assassination attempts, was some kind of mercenary, and ran a drug ring. In short, he was some kind of personification of the master criminal.

Latimer, almost idly, is intrigued to see, as a writer of detective stories, if he himself can do some detection into all the many gaps in Dimitrios' history.

By making his central character a writer, not a professional investigator, criminal, journalist, policier, secret service agent or political activist, Ambler has found the perfect method for instructing the reader in any background information which is needed, without the novel degenerating into a lecture on policing, the autopsy room, the drug trade, espionage and the like. Latimer, like us, is innocent of these things and will need instruction. Ambler uses an old fashioned, third person narration, which works perfectly well - the author as a cool, cerebral narrator of events. Latimer seeks out various experts along the way who can do things like translate official records written in Bulgarian, explain how spies are recruited and run, and the like. All these experts are also interesting, rounded, individualistic characters, who have unique voices; not just vehicles for information.

What did however strike me forcibly is that what is absolutely missing in the novel is `the personal' None of the characters are given any domestic background. We know nothing about husbands, wives, parents, children, siblings or friends. Everyone is engaged in the business of the central story, and the `wants' and motives are, in the main, greed, money, power. This is a deadly and cerebral crossword puzzle of detection. And utterly successful at that.

Ambler has the reader as feverishly unable to leave the story alone, and desirous of knowing `what happens next' as Latimer himself. And he does this with an incisive writing style, and what is clearly his own urbane sense of wit and humour. This is also given as one of Latimer's engaging qualities, keeping the reader closely engaged with, and rooting for, our central character

A stylish, engaging and pacey thriller, whisking the reader effortlessly through several European countries during the 20s and early 30s

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