by James Aldridge ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 23, 1949
This has the makings of a significant book, but its values are smothered in slow-motion trivialities, repetitive expression, and an awkward style. The kernel of the story has innate drama and originality. Lord Essex, England's leading diplomat without portfolio, is sent on a special mission to Moscow to tackle the explosive issue of the Iranian problem, specifically the Azerbaijan revolution for which the Soviet was blamed. Assigned as his aide is a taciturn young Scot, a scientist who has spent most of his life, up to the war, in Iran, Ivre MacGregor. MacGregor disagrees violently with the mission, the peripheral purposes (to help Britain mend her Imperial fences), the inaccurate information supplied; and at intervals his lack of training as a diplomat and his prickly personality combine to produce eruptions of various kinds. He gets off on the wrong foot in Moscow at the Embassy- but manages to persuade the Russians of the advisability of an investigatory visit to Iran. In Teheran he antagonizes the powers-that-be -- he sees through the artificialties of the itinerary -- he balks at some of the things he, as a scientist observer, is supposed to investigate. This section of the story develops pace and excitement, as the side exrsion into the land of the Kurds results in an abortive intervention where a local governor is besieged, a kidnapping, and so on. But with the return to England, Essex and MacGregor come into headlong collision, and when MacGregor's too honest report is pigeonholed and Essex' doctored evasions used to implement the British demands, MacGregor goes to the press, crucifies his own future, and saves his honor. (And incidentally wins the girl, who has been a catalytic agent throughout.) There's originality here and an underlying irony in the implications of the title, the portrait of modern diplomacy in action. A few of the characters emerge as life size. But the basic values of the story are muted. The publishers are pushing it as a big book -- so watch it.
Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1949
Page Count: -
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1949
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