Monday, 24 October 2016

Passenger to Frankfurt

Agatha Christie
Fontana Books

It was an unusual predicament for Sir Stafford Nye-to awaken in a stupor after being drugged, only to find his passport stolen. There was also no trace of the fascinating woman he encountered in Frankfurt who begged him to help save her life. But Sir Stafford's troubles are only just beginning. The target of two murder attempts, he now seeks the help of the stranger who so urgently sought his. If he can locate her. What he finds is a woman of numerous identities and twice as many secrets, who ushers him into the shadows of an international conspiracy that could well prove to be the death of them.

Well, what a very odd book.

I love the Agatha Christie TV adaptations, the Geraldine McEwan Marples are a particular favourite but the only thing I've ever read by her is a short horror story.  This one is one of her, very, late books published in 1970 to mark the ladies 80th birthday.  The cover art alone, by Tom Adams, was enough to get me to drag it off the shelf but a quick web search for a synopsis meant it jumped to the head of the pile.

What we have is not, as you might have guessed, a detective novel but a spy novel.  Now, I've only ever read one other spy novel in my life, the utterly brilliant 'Death will Have Your Eyes' by James Sallis, but I thought it was perhaps time for another.

At the heart of this book we have a global conspiracy to encourage armed revolt amongst disaffected teenagers by a shadowy cartel of nazi sympathisers and the plucky Brit aristos lined up against them. There are a few flashes of wit and brilliance here, Lady Matilda being a favourite and especially so when she heads off on her little spying trip, but on the whole this is a fairly uncomfortable read that seems much more of a chance for Christie to complain about the various she thinks that are wrong with the 1960s.  What kept popping into my head was how much it reminded me, in particular, of the movie adaptation of Michael Moorcock's 'The Final Programme'  (the first Jerry Cornelius novel) just with a very different mind set and purpose.

The story is sketchy and lacking in flow and the ending arrives unheralded and unexpected dragging itself out of the muddy morass of the rest of the book.  There's an interesting story in there somewhere but one that I think would have needed a few rewrites to tease into shape.

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