Tuesday, 11 April 2000

Anthony McCandless: Leap in the Dark (1981)

Edition: Collins
Review number: 478

Turmoil in Yugoslavia is nothing new. It sparked off the First World War, and was manipulated by both sides during the Second. That manipulation (at least the British part in it) is the foundation for this thriller, which has the background of the SOE sponsorship of resistance groups. As the war approached its end, several of these partisan groups realised that by eliminating their rivals they could dominate post-war Yugoslavia; the Germans would be defeated whatever they did. It was at this point that SOE switched its support from the royalist partisans to Tito's Communists.

This book is not, as many war novels are, a glorification of the heroics of SOE. It is actually about an operation sabotaged from the start: an attempt to begin an Albanian resistance movement organised by a friend of Burgess and MacLean who wants to use it as a cover to create the potential of a Communist state there. Thus the 'patriot' who is dropped is in fact carrying thousands of pounds in gold, contrary to SOE regulations. However, incompetence leads to the man landing in Yugoslavia instead of Albania, and the gold is hidden in a cache which had been used by a banker to hide a fortune in gems before the war. This is the basic set up for the novel, which is really about this cache and its various uses during the thirty years after the war.

Leap in the Dark is a distinctly above average and unusual thriller, with excitement and comedy (mainly at the expense of SOE). Well worth looking out for.

No comments: