Thursday, 4 January 2001

Victor Canning: The Python Project (1967)

Edition: Hamlyn, 1968
Review number: 705

The Python Project is very similar to The Whip Hand, an earlier Canning thriller; it has the same background, many of the same characters, and virtually the same plot. Rex Carver, shady private detective, is hired to investigate the theft of some jewellery by an insurance company, and swiftly finds himself involved in something very dangerous and obscure, but an affair at least agreeably full of good looking young women.

The main interest in this novel is when Carver's partner, the organised Hilda Wilkins, who disapproves of Carver's operational methods, becomes involved in the active side of the case, much to her dislike. However, the novel as a whole is far too similar to The Whip Hand to be truly successful; you can't help feeling that a private detective whose account of every case he has involves reiterating the phrase "If I'd known what I was getting into, I'd have left it alone" is not quite in the right line of work. (This is one of the more annoying, if small, similarities.) Either novel by itself would rank among Canning's best, but taken together, one of them must seem very unoriginal.

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