Of all the books I’ve written reviews about this last year, this one is by far the most… English. What I mean is, this is book is more U.K. than Dr. Who wrapped in the Union Jack and thrown into the Thames river. Recently re-published by Titan Books, Above Suspicion is Helen MacInnes very first spy novel. Here’s the synopsis:
Richard and Frances Myles are preparing for their annual European summer vacation in 1939 when they are visited at their Oxford college by old friend Peter Galt, who has a seemingly simple job for them. Galt asks if they would start their holiday in Paris, meet a man there, and then continue their journey as he directs. But in the heightened atmosphere of pre-war Europe, nobody is above suspicion, n fact the husband and wife are being carefully monitored by shadowy figures.
Soon the couple are racing across Europe and must use all their ingenuity to stay one step ahead of the enemy.
Okay, this is not a bad book. I enjoyed it very much. However, if you’re idea of a spy novel is sexy women in casinos followed by car chases – followed by kung-fu action fight scenes – followed by exploding secret layers that the spy and said sexy women escape from then to go make love on a sandy beach of some resort- then you are going to be very disappointed. Above Suspicion is very much from an era before explosions and secret agents named Bond.
Like I said, I enjoyed the story, but it took its time. Most of the book reads more like a newlyweds romantic romp through Europe. Well, a pre-World War II Europe, and these newlyweds are constantly hounded by secret agents and Nazi police as they try to connect with an secret communications network that may (or may not) have been exposed to the enemy. There’s a very polite pace to the story that I think some might find boring, but I felt was necessary when writing about an English couple traveling through 1939 Germany. Richard and Frances may not be the most exciting couple but their journey through Europe gives us a unique look at the paranoia and propaganda existing in that pre-war era. And for some damn reason, after reading it, I wanted to clean my apartment and wear more suits. I think the book makes even red blooded Americans like me feel a little more English. If you’re interested in reading this book, Above Suspicion can be purchased at Titan Books. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go boil some water for tea and watch a little Monty Python.