Above Suspicion by Helen MacInnes
|Above Suspicion by Helen MacInnes|
|Genre: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: First published during WWII it's a thriller which has stood the test of time.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: June 1941|
|Publisher: Titan Books|
In the summer of 1939 Oxford professor Richard Myles and his wife Frances were preparing for their annual European holiday when they were visited by an old friend who had a request for them. Would they start their holiday in Paris, meet a man there and then continue their holiday as he directed? There was a great deal of tension in Europe and Richard Myles was reluctant to undertake the task, mainly because he didn't want to put his wife at risk. Frances had other ideas, but not even they were above suspicion. At first they were watched but the attentions of some shadowy figures became more pressing as they realised that pre-war Germany was not a comfortable place to be.
It's some forty years since I discovered Helen MacInnes and I devoured her books as quickly as I could get hold of them over a period of months, until I discovered her 1947 novel Friends and Lovers and the love affair ended. It's always a little risky to revisit books which you enjoyed in your youth - the fact that you enjoyed them says something about you at the time and occasionally the world has moved on to the point where the books are no longer relevant. But the book had been in print for some thirty years when I first read it - it was definitely worth another look.
What struck me immediately was that the book was published in 1941 - during World War II but without knowledge of how long it would last or how it would end. It perfectly captures that feeling of imminent doom as it became more and more obvious that war was inevitable and the sense that pleasures should be enjoyed whilst they were available. There's a delightful contrast between the freedoms of Paris and the restrictions of Germany and the way that attitudes were changing in the country. Telling too was an American's attitude that England would not fight and would settle for appeasement.
It's a great story too with tension which ramps up almost without you noticing until you reach a point where you have to remind yourself that not breathing won't help Richard and Francis. There were perhaps a couple of coincidences which were not entirely credible but all in all it's a great read.
I had a few quibbles with this particular edition in that the proofreading has been inadequate. There was more than just the odd mistake which should have been corrected and regular invasions of full stops into the middle of sentences or commas where they should not have ventured. It doesn't change the story but it affects the reading experience - which was a pity.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag. We also saw a copy of Pray For A Brave Heart and reissues of other MacInnes novels are planned in 2012.
If this book appeals then we think that you might also enjoy The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst.
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