"My name, Michael Howell, may look and sound Anglo-Saxon, but, with a Lebanese Armenian grandmother and a Cypriot mother, I am no more than fractionally English."
One faction is supporting the Palestinian Action Force, a group splintered off from the PLO, led by Salah Ghaled. Without quite realizing what he's doing, Howell gets lured into assisting Ghaled. One of Howell's initiatives in Syria is the manufacture of ceramic batteries, but his wife notes there have been some purchases by the factory that don't quite jibe with what they're supposed to be making. What's up?
The novel comes out in 1972, written before the attack at the Munich Olympics. So you can probably guess the sort of thing that's going to happen.
The novel won Ambler's second Gold Dagger from the Crime Writers Association in the UK, and I saw Alan Furst said it was one of the spy novels he most admired when setting out to write his series. But for me, while I enjoyed it, I wouldn't say I thought it one of Ambler's best: his later novels start with fifty pages of exposition (the union of Egypt and Syria in 1958, anyone? industrial engineering?--a subject Ambler knows about, but still...) that don't feel entirely useful. Once the story does get going, though, it's a good one, but you do have to plow through a bit at the beginning.
Good for a couple of challenges:
Vintage Mystery, Silver, Shadowy Figure. I'm going to call that Arab in a keffiyeh a shadowy figure. I'm not entirely sure what's supposed to be in those bottles, but they could just be the raw ingredients for batteries.
Most of the novel takes place in Syria or Lebanon and the grand finale at sea, but a couple of key scenes do take place on Cyprus.
This one sounds interesting...except for that long slow beginning!ReplyDelete
It's not Ambler's best, but he does write great spy novels.Delete
I like most of the Ambler I've read so far quite a bit, but I'm not familiar with this one. The last novel of his I read, Judgment on Deltchev, seemed a little prolix to me so I hope he kept writing good stuff after his earliest work or otherwise I'm in trouble!ReplyDelete
I haven't read them all either, but while I've enjoyed the later ones, they're just not as good as the early ones. I didn't think much of Deltchev either when I read it. Of the late ones I've read, though, The Light of Day, the basis for the movie Topkapi, was quite good. So if you haven't read that one, I recommend it. (And the pre-war ones are just great of course.)Delete
My last read of Ambler wasn't very satisfactory but after reading your review, I want to pick up another book of his.ReplyDelete
I'd say this was mid-level Ambler, good, but not as good as Light of Day or one of his pre-WWII ones.Delete