For his first novel, Jones (The Incredible Voyage) has gone all out, dishing up a boisterously energetic plot that combines...



For his first novel, Jones (The Incredible Voyage) has gone all out, dishing up a boisterously energetic plot that combines a heist caper with a chase adventure, a survival-at-sea saga with a salute to Dunkirk -- enough action for two or three movies at least. The central enterprise is Operation Orange: British Naval Intelligence must steal the Netherlands' Royal Treasure in order to force a British-Dutch alliance (thus securing the vital East Indies). So two officers -- super-snob Canning, nice liberal Dennis -- enlist the self-serving assistance of two convicts (taciturn safecracker Mitchell, swinish explosives bloke Lynch); and, adding on a dipsomaniac sailor-assistant during the voyage over to the Hook of Holland, they sneak into Amsterdam just as the first Nazi occupiers are arriving. How to get the gems (plus key documents) out from the Palace vaults? By crawling through a slimy sewage tunnel, blasting through concrete, opening locked doors, and dragging two safes back out to be loaded into an Alvis limousine. All goes perfectly -- till the Nazi tanks above dislodge part of the tunnel roof, flattening sniffy old Canning. But the surviving four not only get out; they also blow up dozens of Nazis (and much of the palace) before escaping in a wild car chase. Then: how to get out of Nazi-occupied Holland with the loot? Assisted by refugee-smuggling expert Hannah and joined by the British ambassador's impossibly perfect butler, they leave their woodshed hideout and board a ferry; but when the boat is delayed mid-river, they commandeer it and redirect it out into the Atlantic, England-wards. And then that greedy rotter Lynch pulls an Edward G. Robinson takeover, killing Hannah and Dennis, forcing the other three to shove off in a dinghy. Lynch will get his, of course (after another frenetic car sequence); and, amid the Dunkirk evacuation, the storm-tossed dinghy will be rescued just in time to prevent all three aboard from perishing . . . Slow at the start (Jones is over-fond of italicized inner thoughts) and disjointedly over-busy throughout, this is nevertheless a restlessly inventive jaunt, old-fashionedly confident in its colorful stereotypes, its gritty slang repartee. And the multi-transport pace is so peppy that most readers will forgive (or miss) a spot of anachronistic Watergate humor that should never have gotten past the first draft. Another incredible voyage for the peripatetic Mr. Jones.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1979


Page Count: -

Publisher: Andrews & McMeel

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1979