A MATTER OF CONSCIENCE by Palma Harcourt

A MATTER OF CONSCIENCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A steadily engaging, likable thriller whose soft-pedaled violence is only a bed for characterization and sheer mystery. The violence is unavoidable, given Harcourt's unusual main plot conceit, which is that a hit list of highly placed, rabid British anti-Semites to be assassinated by a team of Jewish assassins from Israel falls into the hands of British Intelligence and eventually Special Branch. Unfortunately, in doing away with the anti-Semitic British conspiracy, the Israelis also blow away a number of innocent people. The list is passed to Keith Dayton, a fairly innocent British electronics executive who acts as a sometime courier for the Foreign Office, picking up messages abroad but not doing any active spying or even running a team. Dayton is making a meet on the Autobahn with a German spy when they are attacked by two killers. The spy dies and, wounded, Dayton escapes long enough to phone his wife Irene back in London and give her the strange list of names passed to him by the dead spy (it's a long time before the list's meaning is revealed). Then the killers find him, sprinkle him with gasoline and run him over a cliff with his car aflame. But--he's thrown from the falling car and survives. Battered and unconscious for a week in a German hospital, Dayton and his list become the focus of a scandal in bloom. Has he turned? His wife Irene, a Polish ‚migr‚, sticks by him and becomes the novel's pivotal character, her warmth and anxiety almost lifting the novel out of its genre. His daughter Caroline, who is engaged to a man on the hit list, and his ex-wife Lady Mayberry, who is married to a lord on the hit list, are also keenly drawn. The three women give the novel a ripping emotional support few spy stories are blessed with. Honest storytelling, bent on human feelings rather than spy clich‚s.

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 1985
Publisher: Beaufort