Allen J. Hubin

ERIC AMBLER The Dark Frontier

ERIC AMBLER – The Dark Frontier. Hodder & Stoughton, UK, hardcover, 1936. Mysterious Press, US, hardcover, 1990; reprint paperback, 1991.

   Eric Ambler’s first novel, The Dark Frontier from 1936, has taken until now to find a publisher in this country: Mysterious Press. Ambler argues fervently in his contemporary introduction that this is parody, and in truth it was hard for me for much of the narrative to regard it as anything else, till at last the story drew me in.

   But I wonder if a youthful Ambler thought at the time it was parody he was writing. In any event, a tiny Balkan kingdom, Ixania, is full of starving peasants and little else — except a brilliant scientist who has invented something that might be used for great good or evil, something that sounds a good bit like atomic energy.

   An earnest academic, Professor Barstow, is somehow transformed into the intrepid agent Conway Carruthers, who is determined to save an unready mankind by obliterating all record of the invention. Others, of course, have rather different things in mind for it.

   This story is not persuasive for the first half and not particularly memorable of character or plot throughout, but it’s a pleasant enough diversion and good to have to complete the Ambler oeuvre in the U.S.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 13, No. 1, Winter 1991.