Syria, 1970. Three years after the Six-Day War. Michael Howell is utterly apolitical and genetically programmed for survival, a Levantine of mixed origin with an Italian mistress and profitable business enterprises throughout the Middle East. Life is sweet for Howell until, one night in Damascus, he discovers that his factories have become the clandestine operations base for a fanatical terrorist organization dead set on destroying Israel. Suddenly, Howell is caught in the middle, with nowhere to run.
©2012 Eric Ambler (P)2012 Audible Ltd
History, historical fiction and mysteries are my faves, but a fan of all genres.
For me it started rather confusingly and I thought I was getting it or misssing something. Maybe it was just me or I wasn't very attentive when I started it. It really gets going and is a good story that kept intrigued and making use of google maps to get my bearings.
I have followed lots of references, reviews, and recommendations in looking for new mystery novels at Audible.com. I don't know how I stumbled over Eric Ambler, but I'm glad I did.
Ambler's story-telling, plot, dialog, pace, -- well, everything that makes a great book great -- are without equal. He is a master, and I intend to audio-read everything he has in Audible.com's library.
But recommending Ambler to other readers is like recommending Graham Greene: You already know it's good, and you don't need me to tell you so.
What this book did for me was to introduce me to the narrator Tim Bentinck. Bentinck has the most versatile and believable range of accents of any narrator I have yet encountered. In this book, I thought many times that there must be multiple narrators.
With respect to just two of the accents he portrays: I could not decide if he was a Brit able to put on an uncommonly good American accent, or an American who knew how to do Brit especially well.
Bentinck's range is phenomenal. The best part is, he sounds completely natural in whichever accent he delivers. What I mean by that is, say, consider George Guidall. He is one of the finest narrators in the business. But when you listen to him narrate, you always know it is Guidall! With Bentinck, not so. He really does sound like a lot of different people.
Disclaimer: If it turns out that there really were multiple narrators used in the production of this book, then, as Roseanne Roseannadanna would say, "never mind".
I have downloaded a few other of Bentnick's Ambler narrations. I'm currently into one in which a Dane is portrayed. So far, no reason to change anything I have written. He's good.
First I do want the readers to know that overall I liked this book, it was written in an interesting fashion, very non-formulaic (if that is a real term). If you like a lot of action and heroics this book is a bit short on that front, if you like a good read developed around cultural friction, well developed characters and good old fashioned noose tightening intrigue set in an exotic location this will be your cup of tea. The narration is great, the writing solid and the plot developed in good style leading to a tense ending which is never revealed to the listener until it happens. Every once in a while it is nice to reach back and enjoy some classic literature where decorum and gentleman ethics are important concepts, and being able to develop characters is as important as the body count. This is a good book and will remind the reader of what good literature can be.
If you're fascinated by business conducted in corrupt countries and the lengths a wily man must travel to stay afloat amid political outrages leveled at him from all sides, this book might be for you.
Eric Ambler is a classic, famous in the mid 20th Century for his style, complexity and sense of geopolitical dread. A good man in an Ambler story will soon find his ground eroded. While I've enjoyed others in his line, this one was not a pleasure.
More than half a century after the writer's heyday, I feel somewhat ashamed to be a representative of a more simplistic outlook prized in thrillers of our age. I like a good fictional struggle but admit to favoring a clear resolution. Give the heavily tested hero a bit of applause, would that kill you? I guess I'm not up to Ambler's dreary outlook.
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