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When Eight Bells Toll

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,285 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
From the acclaimed master of action and suspense. The all time classic.

Millions of pounds in gold bullion are being pirated in the Irish Sea. Investigations by the British Secret Service, and a sixth sense, have bought Philip Calvert to a bleak, lonely bay in the Western Highlands. But the sleepy atmosphere of Torbay is deceptive. The place is the focal point of many myste
Paperback, 284 pages
Published 2005 by HarperCollins (first published 1966)
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Oct 09, 2015 Checkman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of adventure novels
Back in the early eighties, between my 12th and 15th years, I read numerous Alistair MacLean novels as well as Jack Higgins, Colin Forbes, Hammond Innes, Desmond Bagley and Ian Fleming. Couldn't get enough of the British suspense novelists.Then I got older. My perspective and tastes changed and I stopped reading them. Eventually I got rid of the books and ,in many respects, forgot about them.

A few weeks ago I came across a mint copy of When Eight Bells Toll in a local thrift shop. The askin
Dennis Wales
May 06, 2013 Dennis Wales rated it really liked it
What a good story! From the first page there is action that only stops long enough to make one hold his breath. Nonstop! And besides, how refreshing to read a rugged spy novel without any profanity! I had forgotten that they exist. I'll have to read a few more from MacLean.
Soumik Ghosh
Jan 25, 2016 Soumik Ghosh rated it really liked it
My friends sometimes wonder how I know about hollow point and narrow bullets, and the first page of this book is the cause. It starts with an vivid, but accurate description of the Peacemaker Colt and what effects it should have when it's trained on a man. The pace picks up from there and doesn't stop till the end.

I was expecting what I call the "MacLean effect" to be diminished since I was re-reading this book, and I am not a teenager any more. Turns out that the old man's still got it. This ti
Oct 25, 2015 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Οι καμπάνες του θανάτου", εκδόσεις ΒΙΠΕΡ.

Ακριβώς δέκα μήνες πέρασαν από την τελευταία φορά που διάβασα Άλιστερ Μακλίν και η αλήθεια είναι ότι μου έλειψε. Το βιβλίο που μόλις τελείωσα, στο οποίο βασίζεται και η ταινία When Eight Bells Toll του 1971 με τον Άντονι Χόπκινς, είναι το δέκατο βιβλίο του συγγραφέα που διαβάζω. Μου άρεσε σε μεγάλο βαθμό, αλλά μερικά σημεία με κούρασαν λιγάκι.

Ένας πράκτορας της Μυστικής Υπηρεσίας της Βρετανίας, προσπαθεί με τα λιγοστά μέσα που διαθέτει και με ψεύτικη ταυ
Gwen Burrow
Jun 16, 2009 Gwen Burrow rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I remember liking the first scene. It had a Colt .45, after all. And the dry, understated prose was funny--for a while. Then I wanted to shrug my shoulders and be free of it. MacLean should have tried short stories. He's easier to stomach in small doses.
Jan 24, 2014 Cphe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
There is espionage on the high seas and Philippe Calvert of the British Secret Service investigates. This is an engaging and solid espionage novel. It is a little dated now but still remains an action packed read. I really enjoyed Calvert's sense of humour and there were some very amusing quips. A well presented cast of characters, good dialogue and some wonderful and fast paced action scenes.

A rollicking good yarn.
John Pringle
May 20, 2015 John Pringle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
MacLean’s previous two novels, Satan Bug (1962) and Ice Station Zebra (1963), were so breathtakingly good that expectations must have been high for his next one. Interestingly enough, the prolific author promptly stopped writing for three years to invest in restaurants in southern England. When I began reading When Eight Bells Toll I wondered if it would be noticeably different from his other books. The simple answer is no. The break from writing didn’t faze him, and I imagine he completed this ...more
Marina Finlayson
May 30, 2014 Marina Finlayson rated it it was ok
This book is so old that my copy has pictures from the movie on the cover, showing Anthony Hopkins looking young and dashing. James Bond-like, even. I didn’t realise he was ever leading man material – I’ve only seen him play old or, at best, middle-aged characters.

The story begins rather like One Shot by Lee Child, with a detailed description of a gun. The writing is more lyrical and the sentences more traditionally structured than in One Shot, but there is still a lot of gun-related information
Aaditya Thakkar
Jun 17, 2016 Aaditya Thakkar rated it it was amazing

When Eight Bells Toll

Thriller genre is something which is my cup of tea. Alistair MacLean is a magnificent storyteller, has wrote many thrillers in 20th century and the one I read first of his is, “When Eight bells toll”, thrill and suspense in the title itself.

Plot and Characters:

The whole story plot is set entirely at the sea. There are many cases of hijacking of ships and pirating of gold bullion off the western highlands of Scotland. Investigations are being made by British Secret Service.
Scott Holstad
Jun 17, 2015 Scott Holstad rated it really liked it
This book was pretty good, but not MacLean's best. It's an action/thriller set at sea featuring British Secret Service agent Peter Calvert and his boss, Admiral Sir Arthur Arnford-Jason, called Uncle Arthur for some reason. Calvert is witty, but is also a cold blooded killer. He's also a bit of a misogynist, although that may be a product of the book's publication time of the 1960s more than anything.

The opening scene is spectacular, one of the best I've read. It really leaves you breathless. Pe
Achtung Englander
Jan 20, 2015 Achtung Englander rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This one falls into the category - the film is better than the book.

That is not to say the book has some excellent qualities to it - the premise of hijackings, espionage and grand theft along the Scottish coast, with a Bond-lite skeptic secret agent is every teenage boys wet dream. Except the film does it better. Alastair MacLean style of writing is dated. All the female characters (both of them) are written as feeble creatures who need the guidance of a level headed spirited man. His scatters
Seema Dubey
Aug 31, 2014 Seema Dubey rated it really liked it
Alistaire MacLean was the standard fare during the long and hot summer months (when school/ college would be closed for 2 months). MacLean was one of the authors that the Book Library that I went to had. I would cycle to Hazratgunj practically daily to get a book, that meant reading a book a day. I read MacLean "coz they were available and 'coz everybody I knew was reading him and 'coz he did weave such fantabulous stories! Racy, full of adventure in some far off place that one could not envisag ...more
Aug 13, 2015 Shelley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, 2014, 1900s
It was ok, not too good but not too bad either
Sara F.
Sep 19, 2014 Sara F. rated it it was amazing
This was the first Alistair MacLean book I ever read - read it many years ago when I was in jr. high school, and I loved it. I've since read most of his other books and loved most of them as well. I think the reason I love this book so much (I pull it out and re-read it every now and then) is because it grabs you from the start. The tension from the first-person perspective, the beautifully-written descriptions of the Scottish coast, the sarcastic tone at times, and even some well-placed humor.. ...more
Jun 17, 2011 Ms_prue rated it liked it
No confusion over why this story got made into a movie so quickly. Guns, boats, helicopters, bad guys, death lurking around every corner. In fact, if the protagonist had been better-looking and had more of a chance to look dapper in a suit on three continents, instead of being stuck off the coast of Scotland, he might be in the running to usurp James Bond. Remember this is set in the 1960s, and it shows. Treat it as the historical novel it now is and just relax and enjoy. A lot of the key plot e ...more
Laura Verret
When I picked up this book three years ago, I promised myself that I would never read it. Now, why would I do a crazy thing like that?

Because I wanted to be able to keep it with a clean conscience. I’d never heard of the book before and had no clue what it was about. But its beautiful blue cover with gold gilding demanded that I add it to my collection, and I was not going to read it so that it could stay there. (The cover picture to the right is not the same edition as my copy.)

But then, I saw
Richard Hemingway
Aug 12, 2011 Richard Hemingway rated it it was amazing
One thing about an Alistair Maclean novel is that they are always informative. In the opening page of this novel we lean about the Peacemaker Colt. So called, I would guess, because if it’s fired at you it will blow an ugly hole in your body. Whatever anger you may have had will be gone after the bullet rearranges some of your body parts. Suddenly at the end of page one we learn that the hero has one pointed at him as he tries to calculate his changes of getting out with his body parts intact. ...more
Georgii Dziuman
May 13, 2016 Georgii Dziuman rated it it was amazing
Never read a spy thriller before and I am also not a fan of James Bond thing. A friend of mine recommended Maclean as a detective novel, and I just picked " when eight bells toll " and I enjoyed it greatly, I was amazed to find out that it was written in 60, it is very enjoyable and very realistic - compared to super heroes of today.
Cherry Williams
Jan 25, 2014 Cherry Williams rated it it was amazing
Any reader of David Morrell should consider reading the opening first paragraph of this book to see how a master does it. Don't get me wrong for I really like David Morrell and he is the closest comparison I can think of to offer. For any who saw the movie version, Anthony Hopkins had nothing to work with. This is a book you are compelled to read in one sitting on the edge of your seat one minute and smiling the next.
Oct 13, 2015 Adi rated it liked it
I was expecting a bit more from this book to be honest. The story revolves around the mysterious disappearance of a few ships. I felt that the author could have done more with a topic like this. The characters were ok, but I didn't feel strongly connected to any of them. Overall, the novel is nice, but kind of predictable and a bit boring at times.
Dec 15, 2015 Rick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best one yet

I have to admit a certain sameness to MacLean's novels, especially his mysteries. But the complex plots and the hero's self deprecating humour make for good reading. I find them to be comfortable reads similar to Agatha Christie (seriously).
Nov 11, 2014 Kent rated it really liked it
This was when MacLean was at his prime, and a very, very good book! I just saw I didn't have anything on my "Espianage" shelf, so I'm going to add several of MacLean's and several others of the genre that I read when I was in my youth, and still enjoy re-reading occasionally.
May 22, 2016 Chris rated it really liked it
This was a fun yarn, full of the typical plot twists that one comes to expect from Mr. MacLean. A lot of it stretches the bounds of believability; I am not sure so much secrecy can be maintained by the impending threat of harm to beloved hostages. I also found it annoying at times that the author was obviously withholding information from the reader in order to maintain suspense. Still, it was entertaining when taken for what it is.
David Darson
Feb 15, 2016 David Darson rated it it was amazing
My personal favorite of Alistair MacLean. Don't start it at night, you wouldn't be able to put it down. Action, Adventure, Thrill, Mystery and everything you expect from MacLean at his best.
Ed Williams
Sep 17, 2014 Ed Williams rated it really liked it
A typical hard boiled MacLean thriller. No romance and rather one dimensional characters - heroes all jolly tough and laconic, enemies degenerate and louche. Great fun.
Darren Harrison
Sep 23, 2014 Darren Harrison rated it it was amazing
I saw the 1971 movie with Anthony Hopkins so I had to read the book. It did not disappoint. A really thrilling novel of suspense set in Scotland.
May 25, 2013 David rated it really liked it
I really liked this novel; Pirates in the Irish Sea. Lots of details of Scottish Islands. I got a big kick out of this one. It was made into a pretty cool movie staring Anthony Hopkins. They considered doing a series, hoping to cash in on the James Bond audience after Sean Connery left. But when Connery returned, they dropped it. Someone posted the film on You tube so you can watch it in ten minute increments. Listen to the music. Very Bondish.

Reviewed by, David Feeney, author; Terror on the hig
Feb 18, 2015 Peter rated it liked it
Shelves: spy
This was a good read with a twist at the end, I liked this book, but a bit slow in places.
May 04, 2015 Barry rated it liked it
I enjoyed it. Think the others are better. Reading all of his books as I enjoy his style.
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Alistair Stuart MacLean (Scottish Gaelic: Alasdair MacGill-Eain), the son of a Scots Minister, was brought up in the Scottish Highlands. In 1941, at the age of eighteen, he joined the Royal Navy; two and a half years spent aboard a cruiser were to give him the background for HMS Ulysses, his first novel, the outstanding documentary novel on the war at sea. After the war he gained an English Honour ...more
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“The Peacemaker Colt has now been in production, without change in design, for a century. Buy one to-day and it would be indistinguishable from the one Wyatt Earp wore when he was the Marshal of Dodge City. It is the oldest hand-gun in the world, without question the most famous and, if efficiency in its designated task of maiming and killing be taken as criterion of its worth, then it is also probably the best hand-gun ever made. It is no light thing, it is true, to be wounded by some of the Peacemaker’s more highly esteemed competitors, such as the Luger or Mauser: but the high-velocity, narrow-calibre, steel-cased shell from either of those just goes straight through you, leaving a small neat hole in its wake and spending the bulk of its energy on the distant landscape whereas the large and unjacketed soft-nosed lead bullet from the Colt mushrooms on impact, tearing and smashing bone and muscle and tissue as it goes and expending all its energy on you.
In short when a Peacemaker’s bullet hits you in, say, the leg, you don’t curse, step into shelter, roll and light a cigarette one-handed then smartly shoot your assailant between the eyes. When a Peacemaker bullet hits your leg you fall to the ground unconscious, and if it hits the thigh-bone and you are lucky enough to survive the torn arteries and shock, then you will never walk again without crutches because a totally disintegrated femur leaves the surgeon with no option but to cut your leg off. And so I stood absolutely motionless, not breathing, for the Peacemaker Colt that had prompted this unpleasant train of thought was pointed directly at my right thigh.
Another thing about the Peacemaker: because of the very heavy and varying trigger pressure required to operate the semi-automatic mechanism, it can be wildly inaccurate unless held in a strong and steady hand. There was no such hope here. The hand that held the Colt, the hand that lay so lightly yet purposefully on the radio-operator’s table, was the steadiest hand I’ve ever seen. It was literally motionless. I could see the hand very clearly. The light in the radio cabin was very dim, the rheostat of the angled table lamp had been turned down until only a faint pool of yellow fell on the scratched metal of the table, cutting the arm off at the cuff, but the hand was very clear. Rock-steady, the gun could have lain no quieter in the marbled hand of a statue. Beyond the pool of light I could half sense, half see the dark outline of a figure leaning back against the bulkhead, head slightly tilted to one side, the white gleam of unwinking eyes under the peak of a hat. My eyes went back to the hand. The angle of the Colt hadn’t varied by a fraction of a degree. Unconsciously, almost, I braced my right leg to meet the impending shock. Defensively, this was a very good move, about as useful as holding up a sheet of newspaper in front of me. I wished to God that Colonel Sam Colt had gone in for inventing something else, something useful, like safety-pins.”
“I should have listened to Hunslett. Again I should have listened to Hunslett. And again for Hunslett's sake. But I didn't know then that Hunslett was to have time for all the sleep in the world.” 2 likes
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