Tuesday, 26 February 2013



You are a secret agent working for the British in Berlin. You are due to go home on leave, but you are being followed-by your own people, or by the enemy. A man meets you in the theater and briefs you on a plot to revive the power of Nazi Germany. You do not believe him, but you remember that one of the suspects mentioned was a senior SS officer you met with in the days when you were working as a spy in Nazi Germany. The next day you make contact with a beautiful girl who may know something. Someone tries to kill both of you.
Your name is Quiller. You are the hero of an extraordinary novel which shows how a spy works, how messages are coded and decoded, how contacts are made, how a man reacts under the influence of truth drugs-and which traces the story of a vastly complex, entertaining, convincing, and sinister plot.

In the past year or two I have tried, not very successfully, I admit to expand my reading scope to include a whole range of writers that I wouldn’t normally find nestled under the “crime fiction” umbrella. A logical off-shoot seemed to me to be thrillers or espionage books.....Robert Harris, Olen Steinhauer, Jeremy Duns, John le Carre all seemed to fit the bill.  Scratching a bit below the surface of the genre, I came across Adam Hall - a pseudonym of Elleston Trevor. Hall/Trevor wrote a series of 19 books about Quiller – a British agent; the first of which was published in 1965, the last in 1996.

This first in the series was the recipient of the prestigious Edgar Award in 1966, which was the same year a film adaptation was released starring Alec Guinness. I can’t recall seeing the film, but at least now I’ve read the book.

It’s a relatively short book at less than 200 pages, as a lot of fiction of the period seems to be. But hey, as I keep telling my wife, size isn’t everything. Within the confines of this thin book, Hall manages to paint a vivid landscape of a cold, hostile, frightening city where the future of the continent is being fought for by conflicting ideologies with disparate interests.    

Hall takes the reader inside Quiller’s head and convincingly conveys the dread and psyche of a lone agent pitted against an enemy that refuses to accept that the end of the war brought the defeat of Nazism.

Stunning, thoughtful, sympathetic, humane – just a few random adjectives that inadequately convey my thoughts on this book.

4 from 5, though a week or so on from finishing it I can’t quite put my finger on why it wasn’t a 5..........scratches head in a puzzled fashion.

I picked my copy up a year or two ago, second-hand from some forgotten online outlet.

No comments:

Post a Comment