Friday, 3 November 2000

Gavin Lyall: Midnight Plus One (1965)

Edition: Hodder & Stoughton, 1965
Review number: 671

Lewis Cane was once a hero; under the nickname Caneton he was an SOE operative in the French resistance. After the war, he hasn't really found what he wants to do, until an expensive lawyer hires him to transport a businessman across France. Magonhard can't just travel in the usual manner; not only are his enemies seeking to stop him, but then have also arranged a false accusation of rape to ensure that the police will also be looking for him. He needs to arrive in Liechtenstein as soon as possible, to save a business that the death of one of his partners seems set to destroy.

The journey is partly about Caneton showing that he is still competent in this kind of work, but more interestingly also about him coming to terms not just with his own history but with the realisation that the past is past and that this is no longer what he does. It makes the novel more than a run of the mill thriller, as Lyall examines a side of "the hero" not so commonly part of the genre - what happens when the time for heroism is past. Cane is a contrast to the other man accompanying the party across France: an alcoholic bodyguard unable to cope psychologically with the work that he is supremely gifted in - another interesting character.

An excellent thriller, well worth reading.

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