MANNING COLES – The Basle Express. Tommy Hambledon #19. Doubleday/Crime Club, hardcover, 1956. First published in the UK: Hodder & Stoughton, hardcover, 1956. Paperback reprints: Jonathan Press #93, digest-sized, ca. 1957; Berkley F892, no date stated.

   While taking the overnight train from Calais, France, to Basle, Switzerland, the man in Tommy Hambledon’s compartment is knifed to death. The fact that Hambledon works for British intelligence is both purely coincidental and inconvenient: whoever killed the journalist Edouard Bastien now thinks that Hambledon must have the stolen papers he was looking for, and he and his gang follow Tommy, intent only on a vacation, into Austria atnd the Tyrolian Alps in a continuing series of serio-comic but still deadly adventures.

   Chief among these is, along with the head of the Austrian Special Police, being asked to strip naked before they make their escape from their captors, then after finding some feed sacks to mostly cover themselves, being assumed to be fellow companions of two mental patients who have wandered off their grounds, all the while traipsing through the rocky Tyrolian mountainside.

   As far as being entertaining, The Basel Express falls into the category of “very.” One can only wish that where the missing papers have gone wasn’t so obvious. I knew at once, while Hambledon, very embarrassingly, takes half the book, unsuccessfully, only to have a dotty lady from England come across their hiding place for him. That I found very unsatisfying.