Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mount TBR #59

I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2015. The challenge is to read books that you already own.

The High Wire – William Haggard

Elated by his divorce and an unexpected vacation, our protagonist Rex talks too much about Project A, of which he is the project manager, to three urbane strangers he meets at an Italian ski resort. Series hero Col. Charles Russell of British counter-intelligence is made aware of Rex’s possible indiscretion about a new Cold War weapon. Russell’s radar really starts to buzz when one of the urbane strangers is killed in suspicious hit and run.

This spy thriller does have car chases, gunfights, and attempted kidnappings with helicopters. But Haggard’s gift is imparting the feeling to the reader than anything can happen. Tension and suspense add to the intricate plot and unique incidents. But what’s realistic is that everyman Rex, a war veteran not easily beaten, is way out of his depth dealing with both the gentleman spy and the thug spymaster. Haggard, a conservative that calls to mind John Bingham, assumes that authority must keep the spears sharpened against malevolence and evil.

Mystery critic Robin Winks, in Detective Fiction: A Collection of Critical Essays (1988), notes: “What has given Haggard his readership is his unwillingness to shed blood unnecessarily, his sympathy and insight into all of his figures, who are seen less in the traditional roles of villain and hero than as actors in a stylish drama in which all are motivated by a reasonable self-interest, and his subtle, ironic, detached voice. His books are not for the impatient.”

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