DONALD HAMILTON – The Ravagers. Matt Helm #8. Gold Medal paperback original, 1964.

   Like many other people I avoided the Matt Helm series for years because of the awful Dean Martin movies. Last year, while trying several paperback series, I read Death of a Citizen (1960), the first Helm book, and was very pleasantly surprised to see what I’d been missing. The Ravagers confirms for me that Hamilton is a fine writer and that this is one of the best series around.

   Matt Helm did undercover work for a special unit under a man named Mac during the war. Afterward he left the organization and settled own as a western writer and a photographer in Santa Fe with his wife and (ultimately) three children. This life comes apart with the sudden reappearance of a former colleague in Death of a Citizen. By the end of the book Matt is back working for Mac, and his wife is divorcing him.

   In The Ravagers Helm is involved in a complicated plot which has him protecting a woman, her lover (a Russian agent), and her fifteen year old daughter from other American agents who want to stop her from passing documents to the Russians. Only Helm’s group knows that the documents are a plant, and Matt must see that they get through at whatever cost.

   The ensuing cross-Canada car trip has plenty of action and surprises, with a big surprise coming at the end. Matt must let the documents get through without letting on that this is just what he is doing, which makes for a lot of complications. I’ve looking forward to reading more of Helm’s adventures.

–Reprinted with permission from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 1, No. 2, March 1977.