Friday, 20 April 2001

Michael Innes: The Man From the Sea (1955)

Edition: Gollancz, 1984 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 800

On a beach in northern Scotland, a night time assignation is interrupted by the emergence of a fugitive from the sea. This turns out to be one-time defector John Day, who claims to have returned to the country to see his wife again before he dies (a nuclear physicist, he has been fatally careless). The young man on the beach agrees to help him and they begin to try to travel south without being caught by Soviet agents or revealing Day's identity to the British authorities.

The novel is basically a latter day John Buchan thriller, with especial closeness to The Thirty Nine Steps. Being Michael Innes, the writing is frequently tongue in cheek, and so The Man From the Sea is a knowing homage. Even for a thriller, it has an abrupt ending, and could actually be improved by expanding the last three or four chapters by twenty pages or so. Fast paced and enjoyable, it sweeps the reader along for the most part, which is good; it is only if you stop and think that it becomes clear just how silly it all is.

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