by Alan Scholefield ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 20, 1986
Instead of developing the genuine classy-thriller talents that were displayed in Point of Honour (and, to a lesser extent, in Berlin Blind and The Sea Cave), Scholefield seems increasingly content to churn out sloppy, unfocused potboilers--and this is the most disappointing entry yet: a halfhearted inquiry into a bygone scandal, followed by a few contrived spasms of present-day action in the final chapters. Daniel Wynter, a young Royal Navy veteran who can't seem to find a satisfying civilian job, is suddenly inspired to become a sleuth of sorts when he receives a jolt of family history: a never-delivered 1939 letter from Daniel's grandfather Harry (long-dead) to Daniel's father (ditto)--in which Harry, estranged from his family and living in remote Central Asia for over 20 years, swears that he wasn't guilty (as generally believed) of vile cheating in the Peking-to-London auto race of 1910! Determined to learn the truth (and hoping there might be a book or film in it), Daniel researches the 1910 scandal--and soon learns that Grandpa Harry was accused of sabotaging the fuel dump of his chief competitor in the race, General Edward Hollande (a lifelong rival). Despite opposition from the late General's vigorous, 60-ish daughter Victoria (head of a family foundation), Daniel gathers evidence in hopes of proving Harry's innocence: the middle section of the novel consists largely of the documents in the case--including Harry's diaries (crucially incomplete), letters, interview-transcripts, etc. And so the 1910 story is fleshed out--with suggestions of class-conflict, petty jealousy, and possible homosexuality as well as some scenic evocations of car-racing in the Black Gobi. Then, however, Victoria Hollande has an implausible change-of heart, agreeing to help Daniel's investigation--by funding an expedition to the desolate Tibetan valley, where Grandpa Harry lived until his quasi. mysterious demise circa 1950. So bland hero Daniel, girlfriend Julie (a writer), Victoria, and Victoria's assistant Chris all set off for India and Tibet; they discover Harry's cave-hideaway, which contains a valuable antique auto; they provoke the local Chinese military forces (for not-very-persuasive reasons). And, after a few shots and a brief chase sequence, Victoria Hollande reveals the ho-hum secrets of that 1910 scandal and its aftermath. Several intriguing notions, some scattered tidbits of charm and atmosphere, decent narration--but a poorly paced, limply plotted caper overall, from a writer who can do much, much better.
Pub Date: May 20, 1986
Page Count: -
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1986
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