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When Eight Bells Toll
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When Eight Bells Toll

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  4,381 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Millions of pounds in gold bullion are being pirated in the Irish Sea--and investigations by the British Secret Service, and a sixth sense, have brought Philip Calvert to a bleak, lonely bay in the Western Highlands. But the sleepy atmosphere of Torbay is deceptive: many mysterious disappearances have occurred there, and even the unimaginative Highland Police Sergeant seem ...more
Paperback, 223 pages
Published 1970 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 1966)
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Jul 20, 2011 Checkman rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.But 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 - with the exception of watching the ocassional movie based on their novels.Most notably the movie ...more
Dennis Wales
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.
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
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
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
Achtung Englander
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
Gwen Burrow
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.
Seema Dubey
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
It was ok, not too good but not too bad either
Sara F.
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
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
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
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
Cherry Williams
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.
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.
Ed Williams
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
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.
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
This was a good read with a twist at the end, I liked this book, but a bit slow in places.
I enjoyed it. Think the others are better. Reading all of his books as I enjoy his style.
Wilde Sky
A secret service agent, Phillip Calvert, looks into the disappearance of a ship laden with gold bullion around the Western Isles. Is it related to the disappearances of numerous other vessels, some carrying valuable cargoes, some simply working / pleasure vessels?

The beginning of the book starts with Calvert deeply involved the plot and it takes a hundred odd pages to understand what is happening. The story proceeds at a cracking pace and it’s an engrossing read.

I would recommend it to anyone w
Doc Brown
Love Alistair Maclean books and this is one of the best
One of the best thrillers read recently
Huw Collingbourne
Not one of his best. A bit of a pot-boiler, frankly.
Mar 23, 2008 William rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Thriller fans
Recommended to William by: My dad
Shelves: thrillers
This is my favorite of all of MacLean's thrillers, and not just because it is set in my native Scotland.

MacLean's books often rely of a big twist near the end. In many of the lesser books, Bear Island for example, you can see it coming from far away. But in WEBT, he keeps things taut, and the action moves so fast and furiously it doesn't give you time to think.

The other great thing about this one is the beginning. It starts right in with a great suspense scene, and just ranks up the tension from
Electric Landlady
You have to give Alistair MacLean credit. He was really, really good at what he did. Despite reams of infodump provided by at least 2 characters on 2 separate occasions and an unfortunate habit of "if I had only listened to X" foreshadowing, this book is pretty darn gripping. Our hero & narrator is a bit like James Bond if James Bond had a self-deprecating sense of humour, more things went wrong for him, and he wasn't such a tomcat.

Worth picking up if you like MacLean and/or thrillers set in
Good MacLean, but not great MacLean, subsequently made into a mediocre Anthony Hopkins movie, back when he was drinking heavily (and when Hollywood was looking to miscast him an action hero). Overall, you're better off with his war books -- Where Eagles Dare, Guns of Navarone, Force Ten, or the classic HMS Ulysses -- or his more famous spy novels like Ice Station Zebra, (which still hold up very well, and was made into a much better movie with a "Secret Agent"-era Patrick McGoohan).
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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 Hono ...more
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Where Eagles Dare The Guns of Navarone Ice Station Zebra Force 10 from Navarone HMS Ulysses

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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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