Michael Gilbert's short story collection Game Without Rules (1967) is the best collection of stories devoted to espionage and counter intelligence thaMichael Gilbert's short story collection Game Without Rules (1967) is the best collection of stories devoted to espionage and counter intelligence that I have ever read. I am pleased to know through Wikipedia that Anthony Boucher agreed with me. The collection features Samuel Behrens, retired schoolmaster and British Intelligence operative; Daniel Calder, interested in small arms, the cello and the history of the Peninsular War--oh, and Britishi Intelligence operative; and Rasselas, Calder's loyal Persian deer hound who makes his own contributions in the service of his country. Calder and Behrens work in the "E" (External) Branch of the Join Services Standing Intelligence Committee under Mr. Fortescue, a mild-mannered bank manager who also serves as the "controller and paymaster of a bunch of middle aged cutthroats" ("The Spoilers"). Though the two men are in their fifties, they have lost none of their edge and will most assuredly take out anyone who threatens the peace of Britain.
The most amazing thing about these stories by Gilbert is that even though they are short, they pack a heck of a wallop. Each story could have been expanded into a novel--the themes are so rich and story-worthy--but Gilbert's economy and deft descriptions make it possible to tell the essentials in an action-packed short without losing any of the important points. Straight, to the point storytelling with believable plots and characterization make for a prize-package of reading. So, economical are they, that it would be difficult to give a synopsis without giving away the essence of the story. Highly recommended.
The Fifth Passenger: Review Edward "Teddy" Young was a British graphic designer, submarine officer, and publisher. In 1935 he joined the then new publ The Fifth Passenger: Review Edward "Teddy" Young was a British graphic designer, submarine officer, and publisher. In 1935 he joined the then new publishing firm of Penguin Books and was responsible for designing the cover scheme used by Penguin for many years as well as the sketch for the original penguin logo. During World War II he served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) and became the first British RNVR officer to command a submarine. He used his wartime experience in the Royal Navy to pen the classic WWII memoir One of Our Submarines. He also puts his naval and submarine knowledge to good use in his 1963 mystery thriller, The Fifth Passenger.
In The Fifth Passenger, Peter Carrington is a London solicitor who served during the war with Captain William Howard. He owes Bill Howard his life and now Howard is calling in his favor. The book opens with Howard on the run. We don't know what he's done--if he's running because he's a traitor or because he's discovered a traitor. When Carrington receives a terse phone call asking him to meet Howard in Brixham, he doesn't know either. All Howard tells him is
I've got myself in a spot of trouble, Pedro. Can't tell you what it's about on the telephone--it's just that I've done something rather stupid and got myself involved in something that's become too big for me....Get down to Brixham as soon as you can...I'll meet you there tomorrow evening or the day after. But keep it under your hat at all costs. Don't try to find me, don't make inquiries about me, don't tell anyone you're expecting to meet me.
Carrington's loyalty to his former commander takes him immediately to the seaside town where there is no sign of Howard, but a large schooner by the name The Black Pearl waits in the harbor. The schooner is waiting on a few passengers and the weather to clear before setting sail for the West Indies. Soon, all the passengers are aboard--except for the mysterious Mr. Hitchcock, the fifth passenger. Carrington's sure that Hitchcock is Howard in disguise and settles down to wait as well. But Carrington isn't the only one waiting for Howard. Who will win the cat and mouse game? And at what cost a win? Carrington finds himself back on a submarine before he discovers the answer.
This book was Young's single foray into the espionage/mystery field. It is a pretty nifty story for a first and only fiction effort. Carrington's adventures as he tries to make contact with Howard--all while avoiding the men who are on Howard's trail (including one of Howard's oldest friends, Tony Gardner)--are played out like a chess match, particularly with Gardner. There is also a love interest for Carringtion that actually fulfills an important role in the game rather than serving as a distraction. Overall, a well-done, yet low-key espionage thriller.
Edward Logan is a stuffy, predictable, highly respectable businessman. His manservant says you can set your watch by him and he always knows what to eEdward Logan is a stuffy, predictable, highly respectable businessman. His manservant says you can set your watch by him and he always knows what to expect from Mr. Logan. But then, on the day Edward decides he's been a fool over a young woman and, on the advice of his lawyer, goes to ask for his letters back and to tell her good-bye, he becomes impulsive.
EL: I've been a fool...what are you laughing at? F: I thought you were going to say that. There is a faintly sheepish aspect about you this afternoon which is immediately recognizable to any experienced solicitor. It is almost invariable accompanied by the form of words you have just uttered. Or some equivalent synonym. (Edward Logan, Fenchurch; p. 12)
She is not at home when he arrives at her apartment, but her door is unlocked so he walks on in. He finds a note which asks someone (quite probably the suspected other man in the case) to wait as she'll be right back. As he stands looking out the window and tries to decide what to do, he sees a man walking purposefully towards the apartment. When the man comes into the building and his footsteps can be heard on the stairway, Logan is again impulsive and dashes into a closet.
His suspicions about Betty Alton's relationship to the man are put to rest when she arrives home to find her brother (!) in her apartment. But Logan has barely breathed a sigh of relief before Stephen Alton reveals that he's managed to get his hands on some top secret plans, is attempting to avoid the authorities, and wants to sell the plans back to the Russians. And then the Russians show up--demanding the plans and searching the apartment and the occupants for their precious secrets with no success. The Russian spies are quite amused to find a secret lover hidden in the closet and they appear to discard Logan as a prime player in their particular drama. They exit with Alton and Logan runs away from the scene.
He becomes convinced that it might be a practical idea to leave London for a bit...just in case the Russians don't find what they're looking for and decide that he might have it. So he arranges with Greene, his manservant, for his bags to be packed and tickets to be bought for an unexpected trip to France. He then calls his twin brother Laurence, who lives in Paris, and asks him to meet him at the Gare du Nord and put him up in a hotel for a bit.
Laurence is baffled by the odd request. Every time his brother has visited, it has been arranged long in advance, down to the last detail. His brother never does anything on the spur of the moment. Edward is very mysterious and will only tell him that it's a matter of life and death and that all will be explained when he sees Laurence. Laurence's bewilderment increases when he arrives at the station late to find an almost empty train and no sign of his brother. He heads to Edward's compartment and finds his luggage, passport, tickets, and hotel reservations laid out for custom inspection but Edward has vanished without a trace! Before he can decide what to do, the conductor comes and addresses him as Mr. Edward Logan.
Certain signs among his brother's things (items out of place, slits in the lining of the suitcases) and his brother's ominous statement cause Laurence to be a little impulsive himself. He assumes his brother's identity, determined to discover what happened to the normally unadventurous Edward...and avenge him if necessary. Laurence was a member of the French Foreign Legion and the French Resistance during the war so he has no problem with a little adventure. He just wishes he knew what it was all about.
Enter Tommy Hambleton and Inspector Bagshott. Hambleton is attached to the Foreign Office and interested in the fate of a certain German doctor, known to have been carrying secret plans for a device that could play havoc with enemy troops. Bagshott is with Scotland Yard and wants to know who had it in for Stephen Alton. He also knows that Herr Muntz disappeared overboard while on a Mr. Stephen Alton's ship and the papers may or may not have gone over the side as well.
Muntz--let's call him that--was carrying a briefcase containing papers which he said were worth vast sums to the Russians and when the British Government saw them they would dance ring-o'-roses round Nelson's Column. So said the second engineer. (Bagshott; p. 55)
Hambleton gets on the track of a trio of Russians and follows the trail to France while Bagshott investigates in England. Things really get interesting as Laurence, the Russians, and Hambleton all race to find each other and the missing plans.
This is another fun outing by Manning Coles, the neighborly writing duo of Adelaide Frances Oke Manning and Cyril Henry Coles. Spy thrillers aren't my usual fare, but this particular series is breezy, witty, and humorous. There are more coincidences and unlikely events than you can shake a stick at--but you don't care, dead bodies accumulate at an alarming rate, and there is, of course, no real mystery about who did what to whom, but it's a rollicking good yarn. The only real mystery is what did Alton do with those darn plans?
Date With Danger by Roy Vickers is lovely little bit of fluff. Bobbie Chandler, our heroine, reminds me of Saturday afternoon movies where the main chDate With Danger by Roy Vickers is lovely little bit of fluff. Bobbie Chandler, our heroine, reminds me of Saturday afternoon movies where the main character stumbles into trouble, repeatedly runs afoul of both bad and good guys alike, and yet manages to come out unscathed and with boy/girlfriend as a bonus. It all starts with blue satin slipper left behind in a taxi. Bobbie is on her way to meet her current fella when she grabs a taxi that a mysterious, smooth-voiced, movie-star-faced gentleman has just exited. As she rides towards the restaurant her foot nudges something which upon closer examination proves to be the blue satin slipper. Bobbie wonders how anyone could lose a slipper and not notice...but then she notices a message written on the bottom of the slipper in lipstick. One word: "Come." But come where? She then finds a note stuffed in the toe of the slipper that contains the address of Miss Aldringham, the society darling and daring adventuress.
When her gentleman is late to their dinner date, Bobbie sets off for Miss Aldringham's and begins an adventure of her own that will involve secret agents, double agents, the British Secret Service, mysterious plans for war-time devices, and a hunt for a dangerous killer. She also must avoid Scotland Yard--who are very anxious to talk to the beautiful red-head who was last seen exiting Miss Aldringham's apartment leaving a very dead Miss Aldringham behind.
This story is more readily a light thriller/adventure novel than a mystery. There really isn't much doubt about who is responsible for Miss Aldringham's death. The only true puzzle is finding out where the secret plans have gotten to. The spies, counter-spies, and Secret Service men are all on the hunt--even after the slipper shows up a second time with its sole split open. It's obvious that something was hidden there--but no one seems to have found the missing papers.
While I like Bobbie and her Secret Service men--they aren't as finely drawn as one might like. And the Scotland Yard men and secret agents are stock characters--smooth villains, rough henchmen, and disbelieving policemen. The best character of the bunch is Bobbie's Granny. The elder Mrs. Chandler is spunky and smart. In fact, she's the one who spots the clue that points the way to the true hiding place for the plans. The best plan for enjoying a book like this is to consider it a Saturday afternoon matinee...grab some popcorn and get comfy for a light adventure and a bit of ride. No intricate puzzles, not a lot of clues to track down--just a fun little outing with a happy ending for all (well, all but the bad guys) and Bobbie does manage to have her romance in the bargain.
On the face of it John le Carré's Call for the Dead is so not my kind of book. I'm not attracted to espionage novels as a rule. The descriptions of GeOn the face of it John le Carré's Call for the Dead is so not my kind of book. I'm not attracted to espionage novels as a rule. The descriptions of George Smiley
Short, fat, and of a quiet disposition, he appeared to spend a lot of money on really bad clothes, which hung about his squat frame like skin on a shrunken toad. Sawley, in fact, declared at the wedding that 'Sercomb was mated to a bullfrog in a sou'wester'. And Smiley, unaware of this description, had waddled down the aisle in search of the kiss that would turn him into a Prince.
don't exactly inspire great confidence or admiration in those of us whose primary connection with British espionage novels revolves around a man whose name is "Bond. James Bond." Do spies actually waddle? [And, if they do, shouldn't they be described as ducks and not toads? But I digress....]
On the other hand, this is some book. It introduces le Carré's most famous character, the quite ugly, unfashionable Smiley. Smiley is an intelligence officer who works for "the Circus," Britain's overseas intelligence agency. He had been quite good during World War II, but since the war ended he has fallen a bit from grace and works in a somewhat menial job which includes doing security clearance on civil servants. He is sent on a routine interview to check out an anonymous tip on one Samuel Fennan. Smiley thinks it just "busy work" and reassures the man that the agency has no quarrel with him and that there will be no repercussions.
He is shocked, therefore, to be told the next day that Fennan has apparently committed suicide. When Maston, Smiley's talentless boss (a civil-service bureaucrat who is the current head of service), sends him to do a quick investigation--purely to tidy the file and mark it closed, Smiley finds the situation is not as simple as Maston would like. There's the matter of the "wake-up" call arranged by Fennan, the lies Fennan's wife tells, and the letter Smiley receives from the dead man. Smiley quickly decides that Fennan has been murdered and resigns from the service when Maston orders him to drop the investigation. With the help of a retired policeman and one of his former colleagues, Smiley finds evidence of East German spies at work....and an old friend at the bottom of it all. But someone is determined to take Smiley out of the game for good. The first try misfires....will Smiley be so lucky after that?
After a beginning that had me wondering if I wanted to finish the book, le Carré reeled me in with his descriptive story-telling. A "toad"-like man may not have been my ideal spy when I began, but I was completely convinced of his abilities and his reality by the end. The picture of post-war Britain that le Carré paints is brilliantly rendered--I looked up from my book in the final chapters fully expecting to see the fog swirling round me and to hear the river traffic below the bridge. The story itself reads less like a spy-thriller to me than a more traditional mystery. Smiley is following up clues in the best Scotland Yard fashion. I absolutely will be on the look-out for copies of the other Smiley books.
It seems plain to me that I just don't get mysteries as written by Chinese authors. Previously, I had read A Pair of Jade Frogs by Ye Xin and I struggIt seems plain to me that I just don't get mysteries as written by Chinese authors. Previously, I had read A Pair of Jade Frogs by Ye Xin and I struggled with it as well. The problem for me is pacing and expectations--I realize this is absolutely my problem and no reflection on the authors at all (thus, I have not given a star rating to this novel--it wouldn't be fair). Decoded takes forever to get to the main kernel of the story--namely the problem highlighted in the first paragraph of the synopsis above. The synopsis that grabbed my attention and caused me to pick this up at the library.
The entire first half of the novel (perhaps even a bit more) is taken up in a minutely-detailed exposition of Jinzhen's ancestry--his family and all the details surrounding them and his birth and who he his and where he came from and where they lived and how they made riches from salt and how they lost their wealth and.... And--by the time we actually got around to the meat of the story I found I had no interest at all. Is there a need for an explanation of Jinzhen's background? Absolutely. Is there a need to go into such mind-numbing detail? In my opinion, absolutely not--because by the time I had made my way through the first half Mia Jia had lost this reader. And the intrigue of the thriller never brought me back.
Readers who are more capable at discarding preconceived notions about the pacing of a mystery/thriller may thoroughly enjoy this novel--and judging by the rating on Goodreads that is absolutely possible. I am sorry it wasn't possible for me.
Whatever I might have been, whatever I might become, here, today, I am a man who keeps his promises. ~Michael Suslov (p.435)
Michael Suslov is a CIA agWhatever I might have been, whatever I might become, here, today, I am a man who keeps his promises. ~Michael Suslov (p.435)
Michael Suslov is a CIA agent in Argentina. A man with slim ties to the former First Lady of Argentina, Eva Peron; he nonetheless has promises to keep and, as the saying goes, miles to go before he sleeps. And before this story is over he will be called upon to keep those promises--even at the risk of his life.
When Eva Peron dies, her body is preserved and held in trust for the Argentine people--but her body vanishes from the vault where it was kept and moved from place to place. Each time Evita's body is moved, devoted followers manage to find her and flowers are sent. After sixteen years, the Argentine people want Evita back and Suslov is called upon to transport the body safely. But there are more groups than one who want Evita's body...and moreover, they want to find the key to a Swiss bank box rumored to hold the millions that Evita reportedly stole. Some of the people on Suslov's trail are rogue CIA agents, some are former colleagues, and some are former friends--but they all want Evita and most want the money. It becomes more and more difficult for Suslov to determine who is on what side and it will be a long dangerous journey before Evita can be brought home and Michael can keep his promises.
After a somewhat slow beginning, this turns into a fast-paced thriller that keeps the reader on her toes. Lots of action and the chase in the final chapters is well worth the ride. The best of the book is in the denouement and I enjoyed Michael's interactions with Gina and Hector. And I have to chuckle when I think of the wool they pull over General Peron's eyes in those last moments. I agreed to read this as a review request because of the story of Evita--I knew very little before and was intrigued by the historical context and mysterious circumstances. It was very interesting to find out how many of the extraordinary events were factual. Overall, a very solid and interesting read. I give it three and a half stars, but if you are a thriller or espionage fan I can easily imagine it earning a higher rating.
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[Disclaimer: This book was made available to me as an advanced reader copy--there may be differences between this copy and the final published version. My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate...This review copy was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments are entirely my own honest opinion.] ...more
Chalk up another winner for Carol K. Carr and her fabulous Madame of Espionage, India Black! In India Black & the Shadows of Anarchy Carol has oncChalk up another winner for Carol K. Carr and her fabulous Madame of Espionage, India Black! In India Black & the Shadows of Anarchy Carol has once again provided an excellent Victorian-era adventure--this time taking us among the spies and anarchists intent on over-throwing (if not eradicating) the privileged establishment.
India's partner in the spying business, French, has disappeared on a top-secret mission for Dizzy, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, and it's up to India to find a way to infiltrate the Dark Legion--the latest anarchist cell to spring up in London's underbelly of spies, malcontents, and Russian/French/German ex-patriots who are seeking a way to vent their spleen on the heartless rich who keep the common man under their boot heels. It's time for the workers and the poor to throw off their shackles, blow up a few government buildings, assassinate one or two peers of the realm, and generally create chaos & make mayhem. Dizzy and Inspector Stoke recruit India to make contact with the Dark Legion and to find a way to capture the elusive leader, Grigori. Her first order of business is to steal a strumpet from Mother Edding's establishment...for rumor has it that Martine, the "lady" in question has connections to the anarchists.
Soon India finds herself committed to blowing up a bandstand full of London dignitaries and making preparations for an even more daring scheme. Before the dust settles, she and French will face an old enemy and death--all in the name of queen and country. Along the way, India takes time to follow up clues that will tell her more about her past and her mother and she continues her quest to find out French's first name and any other tidbits about his life beyond the world of espionage.
India is her usual sharp-witted, cheeky, brazen self. She easily matches wits with foreign spies, home-grown anarchists, and hired ruffians out to end her career. She holds her own in a fight, shows she can handle her Bulldog, and takes care of the wayward girls in her house that get out of line. But then she can also charm the secrets out of unsuspecting engineer and dazzle a few guards along the way.
This story has everything from explosions and roughhouse fighting to clandestine meetings and hidden bombs. There are assassination attempts and near-drownings. We learn some of India's secrets and also a few of French's....and there's even a hint of romance in the air. And it's all told with Carr's marvelous gift for witty dialogue and incredible characters. Four and a half stars!