Generally, I follow the good ol’ 50-page rule for books, but something told me that this book could be good if I just gave it a few more, and sure enough, I was totally invested around page 75. So don’t give up on this little book!
It’s 1930s England, and Nicky Marlow’s just been laid off from his engineering job. It takes him longer to find a job than he’d expected (boy, do I understand that feeling! I need employment!), so he ends up taking a job in Italy as a business manager for a firm that sells machines that make weapons. From the start, the Milan job is a bit dodgy — odd people in the office, even more odd people striking up conversations with him, his passport being “mislaid” by the government. When one of his odd acquaintances tells Nicky that he’ll be getting an interesting proposition from another, Nicky discovers a whole new side to engineering.
I really liked this book once I got into it. Because of the way the book is written, you know that Nicky’s going to be mostly all right in the end, but Ambler still makes it interesting to find out just how he gets out of the scrapes he makes his way into. And in proper thriller fashion, there are some good chase and deception scenes. I’m rather surprised that this was never made into a movie, though other Ambler works have been. I’ll have to check those out.
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