Sunday, 13 January 2013

Cause for Alarm - Eric Ambler

"His was a curious, deceptive mind. He had a way of exploiting the standard emotional counters that was highly disconcerting.You could never be quite sure whether his acting was studied or not, and if it was, whether for emphasis or concealment"

Nicky Marlow is just an ordinary engineer that needs a job and times are tough. Without options he takes a role in Italy, far away from his soon to be wife, and with a strangely shady firm. Things seem weird, and that's before he meets the locals or learns the fate of his predecessor. Cue, shadowy espionage fuelled action which grabs you from page one and doesn't let go until the epilogue.
This was my second foray into the works of Eric Ambler and I loved it just as much, no strike that ,  more than Epitaph For A Spy. In an atmosphere of fear and distrust, the ordinary Mr Marlow is propelled into extraordinary circumstances. Who knew engineering was such a dangerous profession? Reading the book reminded me somewhat of Hitchcock's Saboteur - possibly due to the industrial setting and climate of fear. In my imagination, Nicky was a David Tennant look alike - I'm not sure how much of that was influenced by the author's depiction, and how much was due to a mild infatuation with the 10th doctor.

Upon his death in 1998, the NY Times described Ambler as
"[A] worldly Englishman, [who] is generally credited with having raised the thriller to the level of literature. He brought intellectual substance to the genre at a time when it often suffered from shortages of surprise, maturity, verisimilitude and literary skill. He did that by writing half a dozen eloquent novels that were published, and widely applauded, between 1936 and 1940."

Another gem from the 1001 novels to read before you die list, this one is 5 out of 5.

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