REVIEWED BY BARRY GARDNER:


BRIAN FREEMANTLE – Charlie’s Apprentice. Charlie Muffin #10. St. Martins, US, hardcover, 1994. No US paperback edition. First published in the UK by Century, hardcover, 1993.

   Now that Anthony Price has retired Davis Audley, I suppose that Freemantle and his scruffy agent Charlie Muffin, are my favorites in the espionage line.

   The old director of Charlie’s Department has died, and Charlie really doesn’t know what to expect from his lady Deputy Director either. He’s more than a bit apprehensive when they finally call him in, but glad that they’ve quit ignoring him anyway. His relief is short-lived, though — he’s taken off the active agent rolls and assigned as a trainer.

   His first trainee is from the sort of semi-aristocratic background that he detests, but Charlie sets about to make the best of it for the moment. Concurrently, in China an agent in place is the last Jesuit establishment is beginning a process that will land him in very deep rice. And Charlie’s masters are up to something nasty.

   Everything and everybody converge in a typically convoluted fashion, of course, though we and Charlie are kep guessing until the end. Freemantle tells the story from multiple viewpoints, adding a piece at a time, and does so quite effectively.

   Charlie is still Charlie: the Eternal Prole, scruffy, resentful, watchful, a step ahead of everybody, and determined not to be the loser whatever the game. His old Russian lover, Natalia, has a role to play, too. Freemantle is one of the best of what he does, and for me, at least, Charlie Muffin is a character for the ages.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #14, August 1994.


      The Charlie Muffin series

1. Charlie Muffin (1977) aka Charlie M
2. Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie (1978) aka Here Comes Charlie M
3. The Inscrutable Charlie Muffin (1979)
4. Charlie Muffin’s Uncle Sam (1980) aka Charlie Muffin U.S.A.
5. Madrigal for Charlie Muffin (1981)
6. Charlie Muffin and Russian Rose (1985) aka The Blind Run
7. Charlie Muffin San (1987) aka See Charlie Run
8. The Run Around (1988)
9. Comrade Charlie (1989)
10. Charlie’s Apprentice (1993)
11. Charlie’s Chance (1996) aka Bomb Grade
12. Dead Men Living (2000)
13. Kings of Many Castles (2001)
14. Red Star Rising (2010)
15. Red Star Burning (2012)
16. Red Star Falling (2013)