Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Cause for Alarm

Title: Cause for Alarm

Author: Eric Ambler

Number of pages: 272

Started: 5 November 2011

Finished: 9 November 2011

Opening words:

The man standing in the shadow of the doorway turned up the collar of his overcoat and stamped his numb feet gently on the damp stones. In the distance he could hear the sound of a train pulling out of the 'Stazione Centrale', and wished he was riding in it, lounging back in a first-class compartment on his wasy to Palermo. Perhaps after this job was done he would be able to take a holiday in the sun. That was, of course, if They would let him.

Plot summary:

Nick Marlow, the hero of Cause for Alarm is an engineer who likes to think of himself as a plain man, above politics; when he takes a sales job in Mussolini's Fascist Italy, it never occurs to him as relevant that his predecessor was killed by a hit-and-run driver or that the boring machines he sells might be used for the making of armaments. Nor does he regard the politics of his clerk as of interest, nor think of the rouged Yugoslav general Vagas as anything more than a friendly buffoon. Before he knows where he is, a web is tightening about him and the only reliable friend he has is Zaleshoff, an American businessman, oddly keen to educate him in the ways of the world

What I thought:

This was a very readable spy novel. It had characters that were perhaps caricatures, but that all added to the readability of the book. I thought it was quite an insightful book that really captured the rising tensions at the end of the 1930s as war was brewing. It was a light read that could be read by some as a manual on how not to get embroiled in the murky world of espionage.


Sarah said...

I don't think I have read any Eric Ambler. I have read quite a lot of this ilk, having been used as a kid to borrowing my parents' library books, back when you were only allowed four at a time which was never enough. My Dad was into espionage so I would probably enjoy this for pure nostalgia :)

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - this is probably his most famous book (I think). I am going to read The Riddle of the Sands soom, which is the spy novel that kicked a lot of that genre off.

I seem to be in a bit of a spy phase. Although I am reading the Costa shortlist at the moment (novels and first novels). Very mixed...