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.
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.
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 narrative.
Review by CarltonC on 5th Jun 2012
"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]