Tuesday, 10 October 2000

Helen MacInnes: The Snare of the Hunter (1974)

Edition: William Collins, 1975
Review number: 650

The Snare of the Hunter is a competent Cold War thriller with minor literary aspirations (one of the characters, at the centre of the plot even if he never appears on stage, is an amalgamation of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Vaclav Havel). Successful American music critic David Mennery is on the point of packing to travel to the Salzburg festival when an acquaintance turns up whom he hasn't seen for a few years, with a strange request. As a student, David had travelled to Prage, where he had got to know Irina, daughter of dissident novelist Jaromir Kusak. In the intervening years, she has married a senior secret policeman, but now she has fled from Czechoslovakia, wanting to see her father again. (He is living in hiding somewhere in Western Europe.)

Because of her connection with the Czech secret police, she is considered too dangerous for any of the Western secret agencies to aid her, and so it has fallen to a group of amateurs to try to get her out of the flat in Vienna where she is hiding. This leads to a chase across Austria, Czech agents only just behind David and Irina, and it soon becomes clear that one of those supposedly trying to help her is in fact betraying their movements to her husband.

It's quite a complicated plot, but the main interest is the chase, and that is straightforward. More could have been made of character - resuming a relationship that had been abruptly terminated by the Russian invasion of 1968 could be far more interesting than it is here - but The Snare of the Hunter achieves suspense and excitement, precisely what a thriller is meant to do.

No comments: