Epitaph for a Spy

Eric Ambler

Introduced by Stella Rimington
Illustrated by Paul Blow

In this masterly 1938 thriller, a hapless teacher is plunged into a perilous yet believable mission.

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Epitaph for a Spy

Josef Vadassy, a hungarian refugee and language teacher, has saved up enough money to take a short holiday, his first in five years, at a small hotel on the Côte d’Azur. When he brings his photographs to be developed by a local chemist, he finds himself arrested on suspicion of being a spy, accused of photographing a secret naval base. The discovery that his camera has been switched is no guarantee of freedom; in order to escape imprisonment, he must find out which of his fellow guests at the Hôtel de la Réserve is the true spy.

Production Details

Epitaph for a Spy book
  • Bound in cloth.
  • Blocked with a design by Paul Blow.
  • Set in Photina.
  • 240 pages.
  • Frontispiece and 7 colour illustrations.
  • 9" x 6¼".

A powerful psychological thriller

‘A genuine classic’

In this masterly 1938 novel, Eric Ambler takes a hapless everyman and plunges him into a mission that is both understated and believable. There are no car chases, bombs or gunfights, yet Ambler is capable of building scenes to a point of almost unbearable tension, as when Vadassy breaks into a suspect’s bedroom. A casualty of the upheavals of the 20th century, Vadassy is a refugee who lives in fear of being deported. Though Ambler believed that casting his hero as a refugee made the book less popular, it was nonetheless filmed in 1944 as Hotel Reserve with James Mason as Vadassy. Today it remains a powerful psychological thriller.

‘Ambler is the greatest spy novelist of all time’

About Eric Ambler

Eric Ambler (1909–98) was born in London and trained as an engineer before turning to writing full-time. He enjoyed immense popularity in the late 1930s that resulted in several novels being adapted for the screen. During his career he was awarded two Gold Daggers, a Silver Dagger and a Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain, as well as becoming a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers Association of America. His most famous titles include The Dark Frontier (1936), Uncommon Danger (1937), Cause for Alarm (1938) and The Mask of Dimitrios (1939).

About Stella Rimington

Stella Rimington is an author and former Director General of MI5. Between 1969 and 1990 she worked in counter espionage, counter subversion and counter terrorism, before being made Director General in 1992 until her retirement from the Service in 1996. Her novels include At Risk (2004), Secret Asset (2006) and The Geneva Trap (2012). She was also chair of judges for the 2011 Man Booker Prize.

About Paul Blow

Paul Blow is a Dorset-based illustrator who, over the past fifteen years, has worked on numerous commissions for a wide variety of clients including The Guardian, New Scientist, The Independent, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Penguin Books, Random House and The Folio Society. His bold conceptual illustrations mix contemporary themes with touches of humour and a healthy sense of the absurd.


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