I seem to be in the mood for cloak-and-dagger type fiction these days, as I seem to be on a MacInnes kick!
This book moved faster than the others I have read (so far) by this author (in fact, I read “The Venetian Affair” in two days).
Bill Fenner is a journalist sent to Paris to review and write some articles on French theater and the arts.
“The man across the aisle seemed adept at air travel, after all. He was already secure in his safety belt, and was setting his watch forward. He certainly wasn’t going to be caught unawares by a sunrise only a few hours away. He will eat a large dinner, Fenner surmised, go soundly to sleep, wake up looking efficient, while the rest of us, having had a nightcap or two, and read, and talked, will be just about thinking of bed by the time we arrive. With that he dismissed the man in the brown suit, a pretty dull and harmless fellow, and began to look through a copy of ‘Realites’ to get some French phrases rolling on his tongue again.”
However, all is not as it seems. When the plane lands, the man in the brown suit suffers a heart attack and Bill’s raincoat is mistakenly switched for his. Back at his hotel, Bill finds an envelope inside the raincoat that contains ten ten thousand dollar bills.
And so the plot unravels, as Bill finds himself caught up in this espionage story that reveals an assassination plot (to be cleverly pinned on America) and in the process, Bill becomes involved in rescuing a damsel in distress who is not as helpless as she seems. From France to Venice, the reader is caught up in hoping that the plot will be uncovered in time.
“I am not a labor-saving device. I’m not just a lucky opportunity, either, to help someone get a promotion. And here is something for you to know: I may do this job, but not for you or your department; not even for your whole organization. I may do it because I just like Americans to be able to go on living their own kind of life. That’s why I’m listening to you.”
A mix of suspense, romance, and political intrigue, I enjoyed this novel and was rooting for the ‘good guys’ all the way, hoping for a good ending with the assassination attempt foiled and the ‘bad guys’ in custody. I particularly enjoyed reading parts of the story when the Italian, French, British and American police worked together. It made me wonder if that type of international cooperation still exists today, and if it is as successful as it was in this book.
As with her other spy stories, there is never a complete happy ending for all the characters but that is partly what makes MacInnes’ writing so realistic and believable (the consequences of risk).