THE ODD JOB MAN by N. J. Crisp


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A tiny, tidy, hour-length London thriller (Crisp works primarily in British TV)--padded out into a patchwork novel that never quite seems worth the trouble. The ""odd job man"" is middle-aging roughneck George Griffin, who supplements his income as an encyclopedia salesman with strongarm stuff--like tracking down a Soviet agent, who has disappeared in London, for the CIA. But when George comes face to face with this missing agent and wounds him badly in a scuffle, he can't deliver the fellow in good condition on time--and that's when it becomes clear that George's employers aren't from the CIA but from some even more ruthless outfit. These employers become brutally threatening, and George realizes that he'll be expendable once they get their hands on the missing agent (who's being nursed back to consciousness by George's ex-girlfriend). Chases and sneak-arounds ensue, climaxing in a shoot-out at the ex-girlfriend's house--with a last-minute arrival by British Intelligence. Fair enough. But Crisp fills out this short-form plot with flashbacks to the previous 40 years of George's life--stepfather brutality, blundering early marriage, scruffy military service, revolving girls; none of this is thoroughly dull, but neither is it genuine character-in-depth material, and it kills the thriller pace while George remains just another, not very appealing, incarnation of the wry, boozing, lonely British tough guy. Some acerbic dialogue and considerable vivid violence--but Crisp (The London Deal, 1979) doesn't seem to be a novelist by nature, despite the surly bravura of his auspicious debut, The Gotland Deal (1976).

Pub Date: June 15th, 1979
Publisher: St. Martin's