Detective Book Club; hardcover reprint (3-in-1 edition), May 1979. Macdonald & Jane, UK, hc, 1979; Granada/Panther, UK, pb, 1980; Corgi, UK, pb, 1989. J. B. Lippincott, US, hc, 1979; Popular Library, US, pb, date not stated.


   It’s wrong to generalize, I know, so generally speaking, I never do. But I still think that the English write espionage thrillers better than anyone else. And while this particular novel written by British author Peter Driscoll never won any awards, it certainly offers many more high points than low.

   Driscoll is probably best known for his book, The Wilby Conspiracy (Macdonald, 1973), and basis for the movie of the same name, but back in the 70s and 80s, he wrote a number of others, all presumably spy thrillers as well. (As a measure of a small comeback, ending a six-year hiatus in 1988, three more books were added to his total.)

   This one takes place in Hong Kong, back in the post-Viet Nam era, but before the British gave up control to the Chinese. A group of would-be adventurers down on their luck plan a kidnapping that will net them ten million dollars, if they can pull it off. The victim, they know — and this is what makes him so valuable — is the undercover head of American CIA operations in the Far East.


   What they do not know is that the man, whose wife has been sleeping with one of the kidnappers, is in the midst of a delicate espionage operation involving the head of the Chinese missile program. Moro rebels in the Philippines are involved, as well as a typhoon, the Hong Kong police, the British foreign office, and of course the CIA.

   It’s obvious that Driscoll must have spent some time in Hong Kong, and some of the greatest pleasures he supplies are the sights, sounds and smells of that city as it was 20 years ago. There are double-crosses galore, as well as massive (and painful) errors of judgment, great detective work, and did I mention double-dealing?

   Not an award-winner, as I stated above — it’s just a little too predictable for that — but it still packs a pretty good punch, providing the reader several full evenings’ worth of intrigue of the sit-back fasten-the-seatbelts-on-your-armchair kind of novel.

— Jan 2002

[UPDATE] 06-14-08.    The full list of Forgotten Books submitted for this past Friday can be found on Patti Abbott’s blog, where the idea first began.

   And I have discovered some bad news. While doing some research on Peter Driscoll the author, I learned that he died in 2005, a fact not known to Al Hubin and the Revised Crime Fiction IV until now. Look for a separate posting later today on this blog for a short tribute to him.