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Saturday, 8 November 2014

Eric Ambler - The Mask of Dimitrios

review written by Sue Major & read live on the bookshow Nov 2014

“This is a gripping thriller, written in 1939, but still with the power to engross” …..this is it's introduction. And it's not wrong !
English crime novelist Charles Latimer is travelling to Istanbul in search of inspiration and excitement when he meets Colonel Hakim, a Turkish policeman. It is from him that Charles hears of the mysterious Dimitrios an infamous criminal whose body has just been fished out of the Bosphorus.
Being at a loose 1930s novelists travelling through Europe seemed to be....Charles decides to retrace the steps of Dimitrios and discover more of his shadowy history.  He moves from Istanbul to Sophia, to Belgrade and Paris seeking in his amateurish way to find the true history of Dimitrios. He meets  his associates, none of whom has a good word for him and in doing so comes across  the enigmatic Mr Peters who is clearly more than he seems. In the course of all this detective work , Charles is skirting round the edge of danger...and it nearly leads him to disaster.

This is an unusual book...not a spy story as we now know them,...but there's plenty of mystery and intrigue. The plot is easy to follow and very entertaining. It isn't a heavy story , but  a quite light step into 1930s pre-WW2 politics and I found it very enjoyable. It's concise and well crafted and made a great read for my long train journey . Imagine Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet as the main characters in the 1944 film  and you've got the general idea!
Incidentally, James Bond read this book on plane journey to Istanbul in”From Russia with Love”....fame indeed!

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