Thursday, July 10, 2008

Book note: Death of an Ambassador, by Manning Coles

Manning Coles wrote some of my favorite spy novels (along with a few less worthy ones, such as Without Lawful Authority, which I wouldn't recommend even though it has its moments).

Recently, somebody traded in one I hadn't seen before: Death of an Ambassador, copyright 1957. So of course I read it before setting it out for sale. I rank it toward the top of the Tommy Hambledon novels. My husband, who read it after I did, ranks it near the middle, but on the bottom end. But we both enjoyed it overall.

Much of the action takes place in Paris, with Hambledon trying to keep up with the energetic Letord of the Sûreté, and vice versa (the two of them make quite a team). There is action aplenty, and the inventive plot twists for which Coles is famous, but what I really enjoyed were the sly observations of life in the thinly veneered world of diplomacy, and commentary on international relations and on society and human beings in general. Like many of the early books - particularly the World War II books - in the Hambledon series, I thought this one hoped to leave the reader perhaps slightly less gullible, as well as entertained. But mostly it's a rollicking adventure story.

Manning Coles is a pseudonym for the team of Adelaide Frances Oke Manning (1891-1959) and Cyril Henry Coles (1899-1965). Death of an Ambassador came out about the same time they were turning out ghost story novels under the Francis Gaite pseudonym which are also long on observations about life and society. The ghost novels have also been published under the Manning Coles byline.

Previous related post: Good Book: No Entry, by Manning Coles

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