Two dud spies and a dull Swiss school – three books I wish I didn’t bother with.

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts


These were some of my holiday reads (The Perfect Spy was an audiobook) which promised more than they delivered. Here’s some quick reasons why you needn’t bother:

Dead Letter Drop, Peter James

When a man bursts into the room British spy Max Flynn is sharing with gorgeous girlfriend Sumpy only to shoot himself Flynn is catapulted into danger, intrigue and a fast-moving mixture of chasing and being chased by enemies within and without.

The apologetic forward of this book asks readers not to judge James to harshly for this his first book, and so perhaps I shall condescend to read something else by him. Though pacy and quite gripping, the storyline was odd and unsatisfying with the resolution seeming to emerge out of nowhere. What should have been the gradual unfolding and tightening of a plot felt like random events.

A Perfect Spy, John Le Carre (BBC dramatised audio version)

British spy Magnus Pym goes missing and is suspected of terrible secrets – which he writes into a memoir while his wife and boss and friend Jack search for him.

I’m not giving a categorical judgement on this one, because it seems that radio versions of books are always awful. Why not just read out the book? Dramatised versions always seem awkward and a bit confusing; so the book is probably better.

It didn’t help that the car radio was doing funny things to the voices (for a while we could choose to hear men well or women well, and strain for the other sex) but still: the use of memoir to tell most of the action of the story meant it just felt like nothing happened as everything was in the past. And in reading wikipedia plot summary I found out things I’d not picked up on. Bad job, BBC of the 80’s.

The Finishing School, Muriel Spark

Roland and Nina run a progressive (and debt-ridden) finishing school but Roland is trying to write a novel at the same time. His jealousy of a student, the apparent prodigy Chris who is writing much better, pulls him and everything else apart.

I can’t remember much of this, other than being rather disappointed. The sentence above tells you all you need to know of the plot: there are some vaguely interesting characters around but it felt like the waste of a good set up. It felt like the cheap option of what could have been a great book. Shame!


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