Archive for May, 2007

A Fine Night For Dying

A Fine Night For DyingIn this post-war “thriller”, British intelligence agent Paul Chavasse is assigned a case involving a body discovered in the English channel weighted down with chains. Following a lead to a human smuggling ring (to circumvent tight immigration laws), he trives to be a customer using an Australian identity as a cover. The passage back to England becomes one of cross and double-cross, and before it’s over several more deaths go down ere Chavasse closes in on the bad guys and, together with the victim’s brother, ensures the carriage of justice.While the storyline is suspenseful, this is a pretty short novel at 180 pages set in fairly large print. The plot is quite straightforward, with just a few characters and a couple of settings, and is characterized by sustained action as opposed to intrigue or complexity. By today’s modern thriller standards, this simplistic book comes across as pretty tame — maybe that was to be expected from a book published nearly 35 years ago.

The White House Connection

The White House ConnectionThe Irish peace process is at risk because of the actions of a heartbroken mother in Higgins’s 29th thriller. American-born and married to a British lord, 60-ish Lady Helen Lang, the “nicest person you’ll ever meet,” has taken it upon herself to avenge the brutal death of her son, Peter, at the hands of the Sons of Erin, a fringe Irish-nationalist group led by a psychotic Vietnam vet and with operatives in Dublin, London and the U.S. Other members include gangster Tim Pat Ryan, IRA terrorist Jack Barry, U.S. Senator Michael Cohan and a mysterious member known only as the Connection, who is revealed to be a mole in the White House. With nothing more than an old government file, a modified computer and a .25 revolver, Lady Helen makes short work of most of these villains, managing at one point to knock off three of them in four paragraphs. Naturally, this wholesale violence attracts the attention of Higgins regulars Brigadier Charles Ferguson and Sean Dillon, who try to protect Senator Cohan during his upcoming visit to London. It’s not giving away any surprises to reveal that eventually the bad guys get theirs, but there are precious few surprises here, and a bloodless, cartoonish quality to everything from the dialogue to the killings. Higgins’s attempt at characterizations are unpersuasive at bestAto prove that she’s really a decent sort, Lady Helen passes up a chance to kill Senator Cohan in favor of shooting a couple of muggersAand as usual, Sean Dillon’s prowess as a gunman includes the ability to outshoot men who have already drawn a gun on him. As for the style, everything is fast, flat and featureless, like driving a car on cruise control in Kansas.

Eye Of The Storm

Eye Of The StormEarly in 1991, while the Gulf war is in full bloom, operatives of Saddam Hussein hire legendary terrorist Sean Dillon to take the war to the enemy. A master of disguise and subterfuge, Dillon began his career with the IRA, earning the enmity of Liam Devlin–the unforgettable antihero of The Eagle Has Landed , who makes a featured appearance here–and of Martin Brosnan, an American Special Forces hero and IRA member turned college professor. After Dillon’s attempt to assassinate former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during a visit to France fails, he decides to go after her successor, John Major, and his War Cabinet with a mortar attack on 10 Downing Street. Learning that British Intelligence is recruiting Brosnan to track him down, Dillon confronts his old enemy, a meeting that ends in tragedy and leaves Brosnan bitterly committed to revenge. Although readers can be sure that Dillon’s scheme will be foiled, fun remains in the how and why. Standard Higgins in style, plot and resolution, this is bound for bestsellerdom

Sheba

ShebaIn this slick archeological thriller, Higgins (The Eagle Has Landed) reaffirms his skill as a storyteller. In 1939, with the world on the brink of war, American Arabist Gavin Kane is hired to find a missing husband. The missing husband, John Cunningham, disappeared while on a wild goose chase through the Middle East in search of the legendary Temple of Sheba. The Temple turns out to be all too real. And, unfortunately for Kane and his friends, the Nazi’s have discovered the Temple first and are using it as headquarters to implement Hitler’s plan to destroy the Suez Canal. The mixture of archeology and Nazism, naturally brings to mind Indiana Jones and, in fact, the book is very reminiscent of those movies. This is the kind of story where all the villains have German accents, and the heroes can survive a 30-mile hike in the desert with no water. Who cares if the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes (the dashing archeologist, the mysterious beautiful woman)? This fast-paced story has enough action and adventure to make up for any such shortcomings.