Friday, October 9, 2009

Finished a Couple Days Ago: "The IPCRESS FIle" by Len Deighton

Finished a Couple Days Ago: The IPCRESS File by Len Deighton, 1963 (U.S. version), LC number 63-15370 (no ISBN).

I really liked this one. I am sure I have read other Deighton books before but cannot recall what without searching a bib list of his work. Furst's espionage novels have always drawn me in so maybe I should look for more in the genre.

I am a big fan of the movies done on the Harry Palmer character with Michael Caine as Palmer. (Never mind that the novels never gave the narrator a real name.) I saw those flicks back when AMC used to show classics and before they had to start running commercials.

There is no surprise that the novel and movie differ quite a bit in plot. The bare basics remain: Narrator is a spy for the British government in 1962 (or so). Unknown is a bit of a smart-ass but good at his job. He is investigating a kidnap ring in the U.K.

Until the start of the novel Unknown had been in military intelligence until starting a civilian job with a civilian intelligence operation headed by Dalby. Dalby is a rising star and his unit's work has made Dalby a very powerful man in England's government.

Unknown is tasked with finding a kidnapped scientist. He and other unit members are able to do so but do not catch the ringleader of the kidnappers who have been nabbing scientists and selling them to the Soviet Bloc. Dalby disappears on assignment and Unknown takes over the unit. Investigation into the kidnappings continues with the help of a statistical analyst. Weird things happen. Unknown gets suspicions of his old boss - they never got along - being either a crook or turncoat.

Dalby reappears and Unknown and other unit members are detailed to a South Pacific island to observe a U.S. nuke bomb test. Unknown finds that he is suspected as a double-agent but finds evidence Dalby is the double-agent. Unknown is arrested for murder and espionage by the U.S. Army. Unknown is sent for repatriation to the UK but traded-in-turn to Hungary. Unknown is held in solitary and tortured. Unknown escapes his prison to find he is really in the UK and was in custody of the kidnapping ring and undergoing a long term brainwashing. Unknown stays underground. Unknown's friend is murdered. Unknown is wanted for the friend's murder. Unknown cracks the case against Dalby and the kidnappers. Unknown presses an Army General to find out the high government official who was in on the kidnappers with kidnapping ringleader. Ringleader ends up working for government intelligence.


1 - IPCRESS has great plotting that my short summary completely misses.
2 - There some nice twists, turns, and suspicions that make for a good espionage tale.
3 - At times Unknown's humility and self-deprecation make him seem a bumbler or novice but he isn't.
4 - There are several dated political and entertainment references and slang words.
5 - Why the hell wouldn't the kidnapping ringleader be forced to turn over the name of the government dude who was in on the plot?
6 - Sexual situations are alluded to but not described.
7 - I thought of offering this for inclusion to the Friday's Forgotten Books project but these notes are written for myself, not an audience. My punctuation and grammar would require too much self-scrutiny anyway.


Anonymous said...

Well I'm glad you changed you mind, or that Patti did it for you, because it's a fine little review and works just fine.

I've not read any of these, nor seen any of the films, just too busy with other books and films, I guess. Now I think I'll have to try one, as soon as I figure out where the series begins. Or are these all stand-alones?

Gerard Saylor said...

I think Deighton did 4 novels in his series. I'll have to look it up. I think all of them can serve as standalones.