Thursday, June 20, 2019
The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler
The novel is the story of Charles Latimer, an English writer of detective stories, who while visiting Istanbul, meets Colonel Haki of the secret police. Haki tells Latimer about a murdered criminal called Dimitrios found floating in the sea. This man, who went by many names, was himself a murderer with a sketchy, shadowy past that intrigues Latimer.
Curious about the missing parts of Dimitrios’ life, and wanting a taste of actual detective work, Latimer sets off to trace the movements of the dead criminal.
The trail begins in Smyrna (the old name of the Turkish city of Izmir), then on to Athens, Sofia, Geneva, and Paris, revealing Dimitrios’ involvement in international espionage, attempted assassinations, the slave trade and drug trafficking. It also puts Latimer in contact with, and in the crosshairs of, some unsavory characters.
About four-fifths of the way through the book, after digging up a lot dirt on Dimitrios, Latimer worries he may have put his own life in danger. On that score, readers will be way ahead of Latimer.
Earlier, I said The Mask of Dimitrios is a puzzling thriller. While it is a fascinating page turner, most of those pages have other people telling Latimer stories about the many misdeeds of Dimitrios. Little action actually happens in the present, but the stories are fascinating. By the final pages, there is plenty of action, and the ending is gripping.
The Mask of Dimitrios (which was published as A Coffin for Dimitrios in the U.S.) is a fine book and Ambler (1909-1998), through Latimer’s investigation and internal musings, provides a good deal of history and insight into Europe during the years between the world wars.
(If you enjoy crime stories, please check out my book, Lyme Depot. Thanks.)
Posted by Elgin Bleecker at 11:31 PM
Labels: Eric Ambler, The Mask of Dimitrios
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I believe I might have seen the movie long long ago, but doubt I read Ambler's novel. I just checked, tho, and with Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet in the 1944 film version, how can I resist? And if there's a Kindle version of Ambler's book, I'll get that, too! Thanks for the retrospective!ReplyDelete
Mathew – This one is well worth reading. Thanks for stopping by.Delete
Another author I have been meaning to read at some point.ReplyDelete
Col – Ambler’s work is good stuff. I have a couple of his later novels I never got around to, but first, I am going to re-read JOURNEY INTO FEAR.Delete
I'd forgotten about the COFFIN FOR DIMITRIOS aka...thanks for that reminder, and for the review...ReplyDelete