George Latimer, a mild-mannered crime novelist, is on holiday in Istanbul when he is introduced to the mysterious Colonel Haki, a ‘government official’ rumoured to be the head of the secret police. He tells Latimer about Dimitrios, a murderer, gangster and spy, long wanted by the authorities, whose corpse has just been dragged out of the Bosphorus. Latimer finds himself compelled to trace Dimitrios’s history to find out who killed him and why. But what begins as an exercise in amateur detection soon turns into a perilous chase, from which Latimer will be lucky to escape alive.
Bound in buckram.
Set in Photina.
Frontispiece and 7 colour illustrations.
Book Size: 9" x 6¼".
'The best of its kind'
‘Not le Carré, not Deighton, not Ludlum have surpassed the intelligence, authenticity or engrossing storytelling that established The Mask of Dimitrios as the best of its kind’ THE TIMES
First published in 1939, The Mask of Dimitrios evokes the murky and dangerous atmosphere of Central Europe between the wars. From Smyrna and Athens to Sofia, Belgrade and finally Paris, Latimer enters a world of refugees and émigrés, petty criminals and gang leaders, amoral spies and corrupt police – the survivors and veterans of little-known wars.
‘Unquestionably our best thriller writer’ GRAHAM GREENE
Eric Ambler was born in 1909 in south London, the child of music-hall entertainers, and was
the author of 20 thrillers. Graham Greene, John le Carré and Alfred Hitchcock have all acknowledged a debt to his work. This edition is introduced by author and Ambler expert
Simon Winder, who observes how the book ‘preserves in amber a whole range of political
issues, outrages and concerns which were about to be swept away by the German invasion of
Poland’. Paul Blow’s cinematic illustrations form a colourful interpretation of this atmospheric
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 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.
"This is an interesting thriller written just before the second world war and to me, most of its interest came from the insight into how the European continent was portrayed. The story is about Charles..." [read more]
"This is an interesting thriller written just before the second world war and to me, most of its interest came from the insight into how the European continent was portrayed. The story is about Charles Latimer is a British University professor who has retired once he discovered that he can make a better living writing detective stories. The novel starts with Latimer on holiday in Istanbul, where he makes the acquaintance of a Turkish police inspector, Colonel Haki, who is an admirer of Latimer's work. Latimer is invited to Haki's office and whilst there is invited to join the officer in viewing the body of a master criminal, Dimitrios, who has just been fished out of the Bosphorus. Latimer, fascinated by the few lurid details of Dimitrios criminal career that Haki relates, decides to trace Dimitrios’ steps in the hopes that he will obtain new material for a future detective story.
Latimer travels from Turkey to Greece, Bulgaria, Switzerland and France in search of background information and it is the description of these places that is of most interest. It was also interesting to realise that drugs and the sex trade would be mentioned in a book of this age – I haven’t come across what feels like relatively contemporary topics in a book of this age before.
There is mention of historical and political events of which I was only partly aware, like the Great Fire of Smyrna, which may require a little background reading. However, as others have mentioned, there is little real mention of the threat of the second world war (other than that hopefully one character will be able to get in winter skiing before the war breaks out!), which is interesting given its publication date.
I read a beautiful Folio Society edition of the novel, with some atmospheric illustrations by Paul Blow that added to my enjoyment and the cover is really fitting for the novel.
Overall, the novel does feel dated and its plot is relatively predictable, but it was an enjoyable read." [hide full review]