Friday, 11 December 1998

Dornford Yates: Red in the Morning (1946)

Edition: Dent, 1986
Review number:  179

Red in the Morning is one of the Classic Thrillers series, though not written to as high a standard as Yates' Fire Below from the same series. Red in the Morning shows its age rather more, being very much "of its period". The characters are more stereotypical and less interesting, from the villainous Gedge to the upper class heroes. There is much casual chauvinism about the French (it is set in France) in the manner of the more offensive parts of Agatha Christie.

The two heroes, the friends Richard Chandos and Jonah Mansel interrupt and foil a robbery at the house of a friend of theirs. This robbery was organised by the gang chief Gedge, with whom Mansel has already clashed. Gedge is furious, and declares a war to the death against the two of them, which commences when he abducts Chandos' wife. The remainder of the novel details the battles between Gedge and his gang, holed up in a seemingly impregnable castle, and the two men. The castle belongs to Baron Horace, victim of Gedge's blackmail since the latter discovered that his image as an aricstocratic recluse was just a front for an international counterfeiting operation, and his neice, the beautiful Mona Lelong. Much of what happens is fairly predictable; Mona falls in love with Chandos (who is of course too honourable a married man to do anything about it) and defects to the opposition; amazing feats of physical derring-do enable Chandos and Mansel to attack the castle, avoiding the inevitable booby traps.

The two faults mentioned above, the casual chauvinism and the predictability, are the reasons this novel falls below the standard of Fire Below. Red in the Morning is still a gripping thriller by a master of the genre, even if not his best.

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