Saturday, August 07, 2010


By Eric Ambler

This is one of Eric Ambler’s best novels from his early days, back when he was an anti-Fascist idealist in the ‘30s. While that led to some odd effects in other novels, A Coffin for Dimitrios shows ideology in action, rather than telling about it. The story tells of Latimer, an English journalist, who follows the life history of Dimitrios Makropoulos, a Greek exile who is by turns a gangster, spy, and terrorist for hire. While it’s definitely not a blood-spilling shoot-‘em-up, there is plenty of tension. The novel is really a set of short stories, each telling of some phase of Dimitrios’ career while Latimer gets closer to the truth about Dimitrios’ ultimate fate. Made into a film in 1944 (as The Mask of Dimitrios), A Coffin for Dimitrios is a good old-time thriller. Don’t look for super-weapons, acrobatics, villains in underground fortresses, or heroes jumping into bed with lots of spy-chicks, just good characterization, suspense and an acute eye for the European underworld of the 1930s.

-Dave Hardy

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