Adam Hall's super-tough, totally self-reliant lone wolf agent Quiller is on top form in The Striker Portfolio, first published in 1969. The plot revolves around the unexplained fatal crashes of the British-designed jet fighter the Striker in West Germany on the front line of the Cold War. So many Strikers are dropping out of the sky that the Luftwaffe pilots flying them have renamed it 'The Widowmaker'. Operating alone and unarmed (as usual), Quiller offers himself as a target on both sides of the Iron Curtain in order to draw out a conspiracy which extends beyond mechanical sabotage. Not for nothing does Quiller's code name carry the suffix "9" meaning "reliable under torture" and Adam Hall's expertise with machinery and technology (Hall was the pen-name of Elleston Trevor who wrote the famous thriller The Flight of the Phoenix)comes to the fore with a superbly detailed car chase on the Autobahn near the famous Neuberg Ring test circuit so beloved by fans of "Top Gear". Quiller was a unique hero in thriller fiction and an early prototype for lone protagonists such as Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher, preferring rational, cold analysis of a dangerous situation to an instant recourse to gadgets, weapons and violence. Quiller was an agent who talked the talk and fearlessly walked the walk.
This excursion for Quiller is his shortest, but still manages to pack in the action in. Fighters are falling from the sky and when London receives information predicting the next crash, Quiller is sent find out why.
We move from the claustrophobic atmosphere of a West German airbase where the latest crash occured to a chase on the autobahn to a re-education centre on the other side of the wire. The oblique narrative style makes the most of the difficulties of telling who is on who's side in a divided Germany and is there just a hint of doomed romance?
All in all a taught and effective tale, even though 40 years on the changes in the political landscape may make this seem almost like a historical novel.
This is not Adam Hall's best Quiller story, but that does not mean that it is not excellent. This too is excellent. That's just how good Adam Hall is - in my view simply the best spy thriller writher ever! In this third movie Quiller is back in West Germany, on a demanding mission. Intense and high voltage.