by Frederick Forsyth ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 1, 1982
From the ever-readable author of four best-selling thrillers: ten old-fashioned tales--some grim, some more blandly ironic--that rely, usually to masterful effect, on twist-endings. Forsyth, as you might expect, is best when there's killing to be done: the title story (which appeared in the Best Detective Stories of 1974) offers a hired assassination that neatly backfires; ""There Are No Snakes in Ireland"" does a lovely, creepy double-twist when a young Indian laborer in Ireland attempts revenge-by-viper on his sadistic, bigoted foreman; in ""Money with Menaces,"" an apparently harmless clerk, blackmailed after his one foray into middle-aged adultery, responds with a bit of bombing expertise; and ""Used in Evidence"" offers a sly variation on the old one about the long-dead body that's found in the chimney when a building is demolished. In less grisly situations--a libel victim's tit-for-tat vengeance, mix-ups with smuggled brandy and guns, a dying tycoon's plan to disinherit (and infuriate) unpleasant relatives--the endings are somewhat less satisfying. Two pieces, in fact, are thoroughly predictable: ""Sharp Practice,"" a mildly comical turn on a familiar con-artists' scam; and ""The Emperor,"" in which a hen-pecked milquetoast implausibly dumps both wife and civilization after a heroic day of vacation fishing. (The fishing action is, however, superb.) And, as Forsyth himself notes, ""Duty"" is ""out of character with the others in this collection"": it's merely the fictionalization of a supposedly true coincidence. (An Irish woman meets, in France, an old Englishman who was in the firing squad that, years ago, killed her uncle.) Still, even when the storylines here are thin, Forsyth is a first-class narrator--instantly sketching in characters, tossing off perfect dialogue, creating mood and atmosphere in the leanest prose imaginable. And readers who like their suspense short and ironic will find this a crisp, solid treat--especially considering the low level of quality in most mystery-story anthologies these days.
Pub Date: May 1, 1982
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1982
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