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Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I first began reading this wonderful Eric Ambler, Spy novel, I immediately thought of Camus and the two books I read by him years ago, “The Stranger”, and “The Fall”. The detailed descriptions as you look through Joseph Vadassy’s eyes at his surroundings in southern France and hear what the police, his new acquaintances and his own thoughts are telling him, will keep you moving through this very clever story as our protagonist falls prey to his own desires to solve a mystery rather than following those of his control, the shadowy Beghin.
In some respects, author Ambler also reminds one of Agatha Christi in that, if you are attentive to minute detail, keep notes on the characters, and don’t jump to hasty conclusions, you may actually be able to decipher the identity of the actual spy, prior to the final summation of the evidence.
Eric Ambler is one of those very early spy novelists who set the stage for more modern espionage works written by Le Carre, Deighton, and Ludlum, thus leading modern readers into a new world of intrigue and misdirection.
My advice is to read each chapter slowly, digest the wording and actions of each guest staying with Vadassy at the Hotel de la Reserve in St. Gatien, as well as the behaviors of the police and the hotel manager, Monsieur Koche. There are parallel stories intermingled within the author’s main tale, and it is within those that you will find clues to the lives of the French, Italian, Hungarian, British and German guests who make up the daily sessions of reparte’ in the dining room, the lounge and out on the lawns.
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