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Bookends: More British Mysteries for the Road February 18, 2015

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: More British Mysteries for the Road

By Dan Davidson

November 19, 2014

– 835 words –

 

On road trips it’s nice to have audio books that pretty much finish when the trip does. I’ve moved from tapes to CDs and on to digital downloads over the years. These two items, from Audible.com (affiliated with Amazon) run to around $19 each and make the drive back and forth from Dawson to Whitehorse seem shorter.

 

Inspector West Leaves TownWest Leaves town

Written by John Creasey

Narrated by Tim Bentinck

Audible Studios

6 hrs and 47 mins

 

In the second of the 43 Inspector West mysteries that John Creasey penned between 1942 and 1978, Roger West is near collapse from over work and, after being mugged and tossed into the Thames River, is sent to the country for a rest cure, along with his wife, Janet.

As he is out of service for part of the book, his amateur friend, Mark Lessing, who actually had rescued him from the river, takes up some of the slack in this odd case. Both West and Lessing have run afoul of a particularly nasty master crook who styles himself “the Count”. He is an physically and psychologically imposing individual who seems to come and go at will, his arrival and departure often signaled by a snatch of classical music played on a harmonica.

The Count appears to have co-opted a wide range of significant persons in various high places in the military and public broadcasting, and seems to have some sort of very high powered scheme going that involves the kidnapping and forcible addiction of the wives and daughters of other important people.

What seems at first to be a mystery about kidnapping and extortion turns out to be more about international espionage, spiced even more by multiple murders and a couple of climactic showdowns that keep you guessing. It’s rather prescient for a mystery written in 1943 to have a plot involving atomic scientists, but Creasey pulled it off quite well.

There are things about the story that are dated, and it’s certainly a period piece after seven decades, but you soon forget the years and Tim Bentinck does a very nice job of reading the book.

 

The DangerThe Danger

Written by Dick Francis

Narrated by Tony Britton

9 hrs and 57 mins

AudioGo

 

The Dick Francis family franchise produced dozens of books while Richard Francis was alive and has continued to since under the pen of his son, Felix. It was apparently an open secret in the publishing world that Richard came up with the stories and wrote the first drafts, while wife Mary polished them to their final form, often with research help from other family members and, in Richard’s final years, open collaborations with his son.

The Danger first appeared in 1983, about half way through Francis’ book a year writing list, and varied his usual themes a bit in that the connection with horse racing is fairly tangential and there’s not much time spent at the track.

The book is really about the pursuit and capture of a kidnapper who specializes in taking his victims from among the racing community. The protagonist and narrator is Andrew Douglas, a former military man and an employee of Liberty Market, a fairly secretive private agency, which specializes in handling kidnapping cases.

Where this is different than what the authorities might do is that Liberty Market’s primary focus is the successful recovery of the victims, by whatever means: perhaps by finding and freeing them, but certainly by negotiating and paying the ransom if that’s what it takes. Capturing the villains is way down on the agency’s priority list.

Where this begins to change, for Douglas at least, is when he finds himself facing the same adversary three times running, a deduction based on the similar patterns in all three cases. The book begins with the liberation of a young female jockey, a case that is almost bolloxed by some inept Italian police work.

Douglas goes beyond his assignment in helping Alessia Pucinelli get back her bearings and her nerve, and the two fall in love, a gradual process that takes most of the book.

In the meantime, a case in England involves a young boy and the English Jockey Club. Douglas and a colleague at the agency handle this one rather differently, with the cooperation of the local constabulary, and manage to rescue the boy, as well as arranging the apprehension of the mastermind’s henchmen.

Exposed in Europe and the United Kingdom, the leader moves his operations to America, recruits a new gang of locals (a key part of his pattern) and takes the head of the British Jockey Club, who is visiting Washington, captive. By accident, Douglas’ role in his two previous failures becomes known to him and he manages to capture the man he has come to think of as his nemesis.

Tony Britton gives an excellent reading of this book and really captures the feeling of the story.

 

-30-

 

 

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