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Journey Into Fear

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  2,103 Ratings  ·  137 Reviews
Returning to his hotel room after a late-night flirtation with a cabaret dancer at an Istanbul b™ite, Graham is surprised by an intruder with a gun. What follows is a nightmare of intrigue for the English armaments engineer as he makes his way home aboard an Italian freighter. Among the passengers are a couple of Nazi assassins intent on preventing his returning to England ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published December 3rd 2002 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1940)
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Community Reviews

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Bill  Kerwin
Oct 17, 2014 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it

In this novel set in the months before World War II, Eric Ambler uses his typical hero—a novice inadevertently caught up in the world of international intrigue—to explore the reality of fear: how it affects perceptions, alters attitudes, and undermines the will, and yet how--if embraced and acknowledged--it may lead an ordinary man to perform an extraordinary action.

Our ordinary man is Howard Graham, an English engineer from a British firm who has been assigned to a munitions project for the Tur
Aug 01, 2013 AC rated it liked it
Shelves: spy-mystery
All ratings relative to the genre, of course.

3.5 stars.

Ambler wrote a series of novels from 1936-1940, then stopped for 12 years, returning to fiction in 1952. This is the last of the early works. Though these early works are considered "Classics", I found this book a shade immature in its technique, compared (at least) to Passage of Arms, which is truly brilliant. The lead character, Graham, is foolish (in a very British way), and so not wholly believable. Because of this, the plot (which hinge
Nov 29, 2016 Connie rated it really liked it
Eric Ambler has chosen "an everyman" to be the protagonist of this suspenseful novel. Graham is a nice, quiet, intelligent armaments engineer from northern England who has just finished a long business trip advising the Turkish navy. He goes back to his hotel room in Istanbul and is surprised by a man who shoots several times before disappearing out the window. Fortunately, he is not seriously hurt. Graham thinks the intruder might be a thief, but Turkish intelligence tells him that the Nazis ar ...more
Jul 11, 2011 Daniel added it
Shelves: read-2009
As I hardly recall this book, I decided to flip through it before writing a short review. In short order, I found a few passages that capture some of the reasons why I enjoy reading Eric Ambler.

From page 7 (in the mass-market edition that I have):

Over dinner at the Pera Palace Hotel, Kopeikin gave war news. For him, the Soviets were still "the July assassins" of Nicholas the Second, and Graham heard much of Finnish victories and Russian defeats. The Germans had sunk more British ships and lost m
Nicely atmospheric thriller. The novel takes place in the months leading up to the second world war. A mild mannered engineer becomes caught up in a situation beyond his control. Really enjoyed the setting of this novel from the seedy bar/cabaret in Istanbul to the claustrophobic steamer.

The story motored along at a fast pace and the male characters were well presented. Haven't read the author before, well worth a look at for this genre.
From BBC Radio 4:
Unassuming engineer Mr Graham runs for his life across war-torn Europe. Classic 1940s thriller read by Richard Greenwood.

I also read the printed version of this book by my rating didn't change.
Apr 13, 2014 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this one up from the library because I’d read the name somewhere and heard good things about it, and I’m glad I did. It’s an extremely enjoyable genre piece, full of strong writing that’s breezy and fun, but also atmospheric and even gently philosophical. Eric Ambler was a very well regarded author of thrillers and spy novels, and it’s interesting that while he seems to have slipped quietly out of the mass market readership he has been adopted and reprinted by Penguin Modern Classics in ...more
Jan 10, 2009 Al rated it really liked it
I liked A Coffin for Demetrios, and wanted to read more Eric Ambler. All our library system seemed to have was one of those four-in-one volumes of Mr. Ambler's work, of which the first was Journey Into Fear. Having just finished that, I'm glad there are three more (well, really only two, because ACfD is also in this volume and, although I liked it a lot, I'm not ready to read it again.)
It's well known I like thirties and WW II espionage stories, and Mr. Ambler does them so well. In this case,
Oct 27, 2009 Ed rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: espionage and historical fiction fans
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I had never read an Ambler story. To many people he is the inventor of the literate espionage/spy novel.

Unfortunately, compared with Furst, Greene and LeCarre, this effort comes across as amateurish. The story is a simple one, taking place in 1940 before the German invasion of France.

In this case, a naive English armaments engineer, Mr. Graham, becomes the target of German agents who do not want his work for the Turkish government completed. After an
Scott Head
Jul 15, 2016 Scott Head rated it really liked it
A very enjoyable and suspenseful story. I have not read a novel this quickly in a long time. I was filled with elation when encountering some fine writing that could draw a visual scene in less than a sentence. Most authors struggle to set a scene in pages. Wonderfully tactile!

The characters were full-formed in my mind, I could smell them. Graham's suspenseful journey had me guessing the whole way, and while there a few rather typical cliff-hangers at the end of chapters, there were others I did
David B
May 12, 2014 David B rated it really liked it
Graham, a British engineer who specializes in munitions, becomes the target of German spies as he travels from Turkey to England in the months preceding WWII. He takes passage on a small boat, where many of his fellow passengers will reveal surprises about themselves and he will encounter both friends and foes in unexpected places.

Eric Ambler's prose is efficient and graceful as he moves his plot along smoothly. His characters are delineated well, their interactions are well-focused, and the twi
Jan 25, 2016 Donna rated it really liked it
Part of A Treasury of Great Mysteries
Had to check the background of this story. Did not realize that this was a fairly significant classic spy story. A story happening just before France falls (WW II). And a movie with Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles.... which I now have to see.

This started off well and then I began to lose interest and was confused. That's when I decided to "google" the story. Then all made sense and I finished reading. This was good and had me at the edge of my seat at the en
Rachel Stevenson
Orson Welles filmed this, although I'm surprised Hitchcock didn't acquire the rights; it's already got all the required elements - man caught up in events beyond his control, mysterious blonde, a confined space, a cast of shifty foreigners whom the protagonist must choose to trust, or not. It's very much like one of Graham Greene's entertainments in its scope and tone; indeed, I imagine he read it before creating the scenes onboard the ship in The Comedians.
Mike Jensen
Aug 29, 2016 Mike Jensen marked it as books-abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Ambler certainly has a fine writing style, which is why I read over a quarter of a book whose characters did not interest me and that offered very little story in the first 50 pages. I think I understand why Ambler has his fans, but now that I have given up on two books by him I cannot say that I am one of them.
Tom Bennett
Apr 15, 2015 Tom Bennett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cracking story, well told with extremely believable characters. I loved it.
Doug Howgate
Jun 14, 2008 Doug Howgate rated it it was amazing
One of my favorites. Great movie too.
Jun 11, 2010 Qt rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-intrigue
An easy-for-me-to-follow spy novel that moves along at a good clip; quite enjoyable!
John R. Goyer
a good and interesting story - enough twists to keep my attention though some of them weren't totally surprising. Hard to really like the character, but the story brings up a good moral question and any book that makes you think a bit, can't be all bad... enjoyed but I won't rush to find more Ambler right away.
Helen Fanick
Nov 23, 2016 Helen Fanick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent suspense.

I've liked every Eric Ambler novel I've read. This one is no exception. I recommend it highly for anyone who likes international intrigue.
Jonathan Peel
Jan 01, 2017 Jonathan Peel rated it really liked it
I am a latecomer to Ambler. This is a well crafted little Spy-thriller: Ambler dies the ordinary well, no wonder Le Carre was heavily influenced by his writing. Derring-do in 1940.
Journey into Fear is a classic novel of international intrigue set during the early months of World War II. It's my favorite type of "spy story," in which an ordinary man (or sometimes woman) gets caught up in unexpected events and discovers strengths he didn't know he had. Helen MacInnes excelled at this sort of thing, and more recently, some of Alan Furst's novels fit the same profile.

The story opens with a description of protagonist Graham's rather dull but pleasant life. He is an ordnance en
Feb 16, 2017 Heep rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Books like this can be difficult to review. The urgency and vitality are different now. That times change actually lends the book a pleasant nostalgia and even enhances the drama. The characters however are more difficult to comprehend. The naive protagonist thrust into a web of danger and deceit and the worldly femme-fatale would have originally resonated more with readers and seemed more authentic than they do today. That is not to say that this is not a very good and entertaining read. It act ...more
Gillian King
Mar 03, 2017 Gillian King rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Feb 20, 2017 Joan added it
Shelves: mystery
This is the first book by Ambler that I have read. I thought it would be dated but was very pleasantly surprised and will read all I can find by this author.
Steve Greenleaf
Feb 19, 2014 Steve Greenleaf rated it really liked it
Shelves: espionage
Between 1936 and 1940, Eric Ambler published six thrillers that changed the genre. After John Buchan’s The 39 Steps, the genre had become stale. Ambler came along and introduced clean, efficient prose, appropriately paced plots, and the theme of the common man pulled into the treacherous world of Europe in the shadow of war. Journey into Fear (1940) is one of these six novels.

Graham is a British engineer on assignment in Turkey helping with Turkish armaments. At a nightclub, a lady of the house
This is an enjoyable and quick WWII thriller with a likeable protagonist, European locations, and a fun, fast moving plot. There are two things that made this, for me, better than expected: first, there was a great introduction by historian Norman Stone, which gave the story, and Ambler, quite a bit of interesting context. Second, the majority of the book takes place on a ship that is traveling from Istanbul to Genoa, Italy, and I do love books that are confined to boats, trains, or planes. Ther ...more
May 14, 2013 TinHouseBooks rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-we-love
Lance Cleland (Murder Mystery Dinner Detective): An ordinary man who found himself embroiled in extraordinary circumstances. This is all I want said of my life. As such, I find myself constantly dipping back into the pool of spy novels I loved as a young reader. The first leisurely sunny day spent at the park will always find me with a paperback in hand, chasing German submarines, double-crossing the voluptuous, and trying like hell not to get my drink spiked in an underground Prague bar.

Eric Am
Rob Kitchin
Oct 08, 2016 Rob Kitchin rated it liked it
1940 and the phoney war is unfolding in Europe. In Turkey, a British arms engineer has completed his assessment of overhauling the Turkish naval fleet. On his final night in Istanbul before heading back to England three shots are fired at him as he enters his hotel room. He sustains a wound to his hand, but otherwise is unharmed. Abandoning his travel plans, Turkish military intelligence smuggle him onto a small ship sailing to Genoa. His fellow passengers include a German archaeologist, an Ital ...more
Dec 04, 2015 Tom rated it it was amazing
Just finished this fine "espionage" suspense novel ... espionage in quotes, because it's main character is caught up unintentionally in international intrigue at the outbreak of WW2. Beginning in Turkey, ending in Italy on a train, much of the story takes place shipboard, with an intriguing cast of characters - one of whom we soon learn is out to kill our protagonist.

I often felt my own anxieties rising as I read. What would I do in a similar situation? Ambler drew me in ...

One of the characte
Sep 17, 2013 Curtiss rated it really liked it
This is the story of a naval ordinance engineer abroad in Turkey during the early days of WWII who is targeted for assassination so as to delay the rearming of Turkish naval vessels. The Turkish secret police slip him aboard a tramp steamer for safety, only he learns that not all of his fellow passengers are whom the seem and he is in even greater jeopardy than ever. A good suspense thriller in which the hero's reactions are not those of a trained agent, but rather those to be expected from a ma ...more
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Eric Ambler began his writing career in the early 1930s, and quickly established a reputation as a thriller writer of extraordinary depth and originality. He is often credited as the inventor of the modern political thriller and John Le Carre once described him as 'the source on which we all draw.'

Ambler began his working life at an engineering firm, then as a copywriter at an advertising agency,
More about Eric Ambler...

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“We can learn only in the expectation of life. Europe is too preoccupied with its destruction to concern itself with such things. A condemned man is interested only in himself, the passage of hours and such intimations of immortality as he can conjure from the recesses of his mind.” 1 likes
“He says that it was people who were safe and well fed who invented good and evil so that they would not have to worry about the people who were hungry and unsafe. What a man does depends on what he needs. It is simple. You are not a murderer. You say that murder is evil. José would say that you are as much a murderer as Landru or Weidmann and that it is just that fortune has not made it necessary for you to murder anyone. Someone once told him that there was a German proverb which said that a man is an ape in velvet. He always likes to repeat it.” 1 likes
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