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Saturday, October 27, 2018

British Library Classic Thrillers

A spin-off from the successful British Library Crime Classics series.

The Traitor by Sydney Horler
British Library 978-0712-35614-5, September 2015, 256pp, £8.99.
‘War is coming – and that means our secret agents must get busy.’
    August 1918. On his way to the Western Front, Captain Alan Clinton spends a night in Paris with a young Frenchwoman, Marie Roget. Seduced by Marie’s charms, Clinton discloses British military secrets – with disastrous consequences.
    Seventeen years later. The central European state of Ronstadt is ruled by the ruthless dictator Kuhnreich, and Europe is inching towards another war. Clinton’s son Bobby travels to Europe as the political situation grows tenser, and seems dangerously close to repeating the sins of his father – leaving only his girlfriend to prove his innocence in a race against time.
    This thriller from 1936 is here republished for the first time in almost 70 years, with an introduction by the award-winning expert on inter-war popular fiction, Martin Edwards.
    Since Sydney Horler’s death in 1954 his work has fallen into neglect, partly because of the outmoded political opinions that are often expressed in the novels. This new edition gives contemporary readers a long overdue chance to rediscover an early thriller that is plotted with dash and verve – a book that helps to explain the author’s phenomenal popularity in his own time.

Trouble on the Thames by Victor Bridges
British Library 978-0712-35603-9, (Sep) 2015, 288pp, £8.99. Cover photo by akg-images/Imagno
‘A literary craftsman, who could spring surprises with his humour and sense of suspense.’ The Times
    Owen Bradwell is a courageous naval officer who returns to England in the 1930s. He believes that his career is over because he has become colour-blind – but with Nazi Germany an increasing menace, the authorities cannot do without Bradwell, and he is assigned a special mission.
    A former acquaintance of Bradwell’s has been trapped into betraying his country’s secrets by a Nazi agent. Bradwell is sent to spy on the spy, and travels down the Thames on a surveillance trip under cover of a fishing weekend. Things soon take an unexpected turn, and Bradwell finds himself in the company of a dead man, and a pretty young interior decorator called Sally.
    Will Bradwell triumph over the villains, and will he and Sally fall in love?
    This neglected thriller novel from 1945 is a pacy and entertaining read, rich with the classic twists of the genre: amnesia, blackmail, and a convict’s escape from Dartmoor.

The Light of Day by Eric Ambler
British Library 978-0712-35650-3, March 2016, 256pp, £8.99.
Arthur Simpson - 'British to the core', but without a passport to prove it - lives in Athens, scraping by as a driver, journalist and petty thief. When Simpson spots Harper at the airport he recognises him as a tourist new to the city and in need of a private driver. But an ill-judged attempt to relieve Harper of his traveller's cheques reveals him to be a highly sophisticated criminal, and entangles Simpson in a complex double blackmail.
    Simpson becomes an unwilling member of an armed gang in Istanbul, tasked with driving a suspicious car across the border. Soon he is an even less willing agent for the Turkish secret police, who suspect Harper of planning a coup - but his plans are far more audacious than that, and Simpson is in very deep water indeed.
    The Light of Day won the Edgar Award for best novel in 1964, and was the basis for the classic film Topkapi. Like much of Ambler's finest work, the novel focuses on an innocent man caught in a web of intrigue and deceit, and Simpson is one of the most memorable heroes in any classic thriller.

A Kind of Anger by Eric Ambler
British Library 978-0712-35645-9, March 2016, 256pp, £8.99
A car hurtles down the driveway of a luxury villa in Switzerland. The driver is a young woman, Lucia Bernardi. Inside the house, police find the body of her lover on the bedroom floor. The dead man – Ahmed Fathir Arbil – was an Iraqui refugee, who has been tortured and killed. Lucia vanishes into hiding in the South of France.
    Piet Maas, a journalist for the World Reporter, sets out on Lucia's trail, hoping for a scoop. Soon he must decide whether to publish his story – which will lead to Lucia's exposure and almost certain death – or join her in executing a perilous scheme that could net them both a fortune.

Passage of Arms by Eric Ambler
Brtish Library 978-0712-35655-8, March 2016, 256pp, £8.99
Some men take to gun-running because they have a longing for danger and adventure. Girija Krishnan, an Indian clerk, is not one of them. Deep in the Malayan jungle, Girija stumbles on a cache of arms hidden during the communist insurgency. Selling the arms will help Girija achieve his lifelong dream of founding a transport company.
    Two American tourists in the Far East find more adventure than they bargained for when they get entangled in Girija's plans. Greg and Dorothy Nilsen had wanted to go on an adventurous trip, to see some out-of-the-way places. So when Mr Tan in Hong Kong asks Greg to travel to Singapore and help with a business deal, Greg is surprisingly receptive. All he has to do is sign some papers and collect a handsome fee - but this is Greg's first step into the dangerous world of post-colonial rebellions, Chinese gun smugglers and Islamic revolutionaries.
    This classic thriller won the Crime Writers' Association gold dagger in 1959.

The End of the Web by George Sims
British Library 978-0712-35682-4, 21 September 2017, 192pp, £7.99.
Leo Selver, a middle-aged antiques dealer, is stunned when the beautiful and desirable Judy Latimer shows an interest in him. Soon they are lying in each other's arms, unaware that this embrace will be their last. Popular opinion suggests that Leo murdered the girl, a theory Leo's wife - well aware of her husband's infidelities - refuses to accept. Ed Buchanan, a former policeman who has known the Selvers since childhood, agrees to clear Leo's name. Selver and his fellow antique dealers had uncovered a secret and it is up to Ed to find the person willing to kill in order to protect it. This exhilarating and innovative thriller was first published in 1976.

The Last Best Friend by George Sims
British Library 978-0712-35684-8, 21 September 2017, 192pp, £7.99.
At 2pm on a Monday in 1966, Ned Balfour wakes in Corsica beside a beautiful woman. In the same instant, back in London, fellow art dealer and Dachau survivor Sam Weiss falls ten stories to his death. Ned refuses to believe that Sam's death was intentional, and his investigation thrusts him into the deceit and fraudulence of the art world, where he unmasks more than one respectable face. First published in 1967, this thrilling tale of vertigo, suspicion and infidelity is a long-forgotten classic with an intriguing plot twist.

(* Previously posted 3 August 2015.)

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