Less irresistible than Memory Boy (1981) but more breezily engaging than Fall from Grace (1980), Canning's latest variation...



Less irresistible than Memory Boy (1981) but more breezily engaging than Fall from Grace (1980), Canning's latest variation on the innocent-bystander-thriller starts off with a disarming bit of nonsense straight out of II Trovatore or H.M.S. Pinafore: rakish Maurice Crillon, a 40-ish art-restorer and sometime forger, learns (when his French mother dies) that he's actually the heir to an English baronet, having been stolen as a baby from his real parents during the war! So off flies Maurice to Wiltshire--where he introduces himself (and his new-found pedigree) to his surprised, if unflappable, pater and mater: Sir Andrew Starr and Lady Starr of Avoncourt Abbey. But, though the Starrs are cordial, offering hospitality and birthrights, Maurice realizes that he can never fill the role of an English gentleman. And, after a dalliance with local secretary Margery Littleton, he returns to the continent--taking (not really stealing) one small souvenir of his highly amiable chats with his long-lost papa: a second-rate portrait of Sir Andrew by Augustus John. What Maurice doesn't know, however, is that nobly-motivated Sir A. has been blackmailing secret WW II traitors (Nazi sympathizers) with evidence hidden in the Augustus John picture-frame! So now, as Maurice visits his loyal mistresses in Germany and Italy, he's being followed by: agents (including Mafiosi) working for those now-powerful long-ago-traitors; Kerslake of British Intelligence (familiar from Canning's Birdcage novels); plus German agents, who want the WW II documents for their archives. And, while wily old Sir Andrew chortles with pride over his new-found son's spunk, Maurice manages to elude his pursuers--with help from his many adoring women. Some routine chase-action, with a slightly disappointing windup (Maurice is less vivdly transformed than other Canning heroes)--but Sir Andrew's a charmer; the ironic plotting generates a fine momentum; and Canning remains the deftest, most light-fingered manipulator of incorrigibly unlikely adventures in the old-fashioned Buchan manner.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1982