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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A taut and inventive thriller, 16 Nov 2001
Eric Ambler's name is so often invoked that I had to find out what the fuss was about. The titles currently available offer a guarantee of a good read and it is now possible for me to pronounce on them on the basis of some familiarity. Ambler's plots generally follow the fortunes of a lone male, drawn into criminal enterprise or espionage and struggling to survive. Passage of Arms (the arms in question being those uncovered in a Communist guerilla cache in Malaya) is more complexly plotted than other works but there is no loss of tension. The Far Eastern setting also differentiates it from other works and adds to the atmosphere of strangeness. The strands of the plot are skilfully interwoven and the result is the most satisfying that I have read. Ambler creates credible characters and plausible scenarios in a real page-turner of a book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, 20 Sep 2006
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
And by opposing end them.

In many respects, Eric Ambler was to the modern British suspense novel what Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett were to the American detective novel. Ambler transformed the suspense novel from a simplistic black and white world of perfect good guys versus nefarious bad guys into a far more realistic world where sometimes the difference between good and evil is not all that great. In a series of books written before World War II Ambler would typically take an unassuming, unsuspecting civilian and immerse him in a world of mystery and intrigue in pre-war Europe. In those books the `hero' would find himself facing danger at the hands of the German or Italian villains.

Once the war ended Ambler's plots reflected a change in the world's political situation. The typical Ambler protagonist now found themselves at odd with other totalitarian forces such as the Soviet bloc such as in his "Judgment at Deltchev". In addition, Ambler broadened his geographic horizons and set some of his books in post-war Asia. In these instances the plot usually found itself centered on the intrigue that settled around the newly emerging nations of Asia as the old Europe ended its lingering colonial presence. "Passage at Arms" takes the reader on a "mystery tour" of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Written in 1959, "Passage at Arms" is a fine example of Ambler's work.

The unassuming naif in this case is Greg Nilsen. Greg is a quintessential American tourist circa 1960. He is a solidly middle class businessman, the owner of a small manufacturing concern, who has managed to save up enough time and money to go on a lengthy cruise (on a cargo ship) with his wife Dorothy. Through a curious series of events, set up admirably by Ambler, Greg volunteers to act as a front man for the transportation and sale of a shipment of arms from Malaysia to Indonesia via the free trade zone of Singapore. As one expects in any Ambler book things do not quite go according to plan.

The book can be broken down into three distinct parts. In the opening third of the book, Ambler sets the scene. He introduces us to most of the characters (apart from the Nilsen's), introduces the reader to the book's locales, and traces the provenance of the arms that form the basis of the plot. In the second third, we see how Greg Nilsen is baited into taking part in the transaction. Finally, the last third of the book takes Nilsen to a rebel camp in Indonesia where he hopes to receive his payment. It is here that the plot boils over and events race to a typically (for Ambler) provocative conclusion.

Two of Ambler's strong points are his ability to set a scene and the strength of his characterizations. For example, Ambler's portrayal of the Indian plantation clerk, Girija Krishnan, living in Malaysia is excellent. Krishnan is the person who `finds' the arms in question. For Krishnan, the ability to sell the arms will facilitate his dream of buying a bus and starting a transport company. Ambler's character portrayals all `rang true' to me.

I have now read and reviewed ten (10) of Ambler's books so it was no surprise to me that I enjoyed Passage at Arms. Ambler's work has held up remarkably well in my opinion and the story lines still seem fresh even though these books were all written between 50 and 70 years ago. I have very much enjoyed reading Ambler and have no hesitation in recommending Passage at Arms to any reader. Fans of Deighton, Furst, or LeCarre would, I think, be delighted with his books.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars passage of arms eric ambler, 1 Nov 2003
This review is from: Passage of Arms (Paperback)
I must have first read Passage of Arms when published, having
always stated that "thrillers" did not interest me. I didn't
care who did it or why it was done. I ate my hat!
I felt the story was compelling and it was so well written that
it was worth reading sentences again.
Since passing it to a friend. Where is it now? I have often thought about the
book over the years.
One is transported to a different Continent and into the
feelings of an interesting person.
Eric Ambler is tops, Have others read this unforgetable book?
Five star.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite Ambler 'thriller', 12 Feb 2013
Henk Beentje "Henk Beentje" (Kew, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Passage of arms (Hardcover)
The plot (without spoilers): in Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia) in the 1950s an arms dump of communist guerillas is discovered by a plantation worker; he decides to make some money on it by offering it to a businessman. This person has an idea who he might make a profit from, but needs a 'patsy' to try and make the arms semi-legit; this is where an American tourist comes in the picture. In the picture, and of course, in trouble as well...

The author: Eric Ambler (1909-1998) was n English writer of books and screenplays (he got an Academy Award nomination for 'the Cruel Sea'). He wrote eighteen thrillers and 'spy novels' between 1936 (the Dark Frontier) and 1981 (the Care of Time).

My opinion: I like all of Ambler's books (well, except those "co-written with Charles Rodda") as they are intelligent, realistic, with a streak of irony and a knowledge of the underbelly of the World; plus a healthy respect for people from all walks of life (and races, for that matter). This one is particularly close to my heart because of the (almost sub-)story of the Indian clerk, a man with a dream; coupled to a very atmospheric and all too possible story, set in a great location of Malaysia and Indonesia in the mid-50s. Also, maybe, because the 'Captain Lukey' character is later reprised in Ambler's next book, The Light of Day, as that rogue Arthur Abdel Simpson - a kind of Flashman of the real world!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passage of arms (Vintage Crime book), 25 Jun 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am told this is a very good book by the person it was bought for as it also was a very fair price and free P&P I will award 5 stars
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Passage of Arms
Passage of Arms by Eric Ambler (Paperback - 31 May 1992)
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