Neither Five Nor Three by Helen MacInnes

 Three Twins at the Crater School cover

Neither Five Nor Three by Helen MacInnes was first published in 1951, but the setting is New York in 1950, and the book reflects what was then the beginning of the ‘reds under the beds’ era which was taken far too far by McCarthy.

It begins with Paul Haydn on an aeroplane travelling home. He had stayed in the army after WW2 but now intended to get back into civilian life, maybe back to his old job on Trend magazine as they said that his job would be kept open for him. He had been engaged to Rona a work colleague at the beginning of the war but she had broken it off. It turns out that she’s still working at Trend and has just got engaged again, and Scott is a jealous fiance.

Rona has worked hard at her new relationship but it all seems to be on her side, Scott seems to spend all his spare time going to ‘discussion’ parties and it has taken him ages to get around to proposing. It seems that Scott has been wooed by communists who are trying to undermine American society.

This was different from the previous books that I’ve read by MacInnes as her books often feature espionage in WW2, Nazis or post war Nazi hunting. I believe that she got a lot of the ideas for her books from her husband who worked for MI6 and they did move to the US where he took up a post at Columbia University, while still working at MI6, so basically he was a spy.

This was a good read which probably reflected the atmosphere of the US at the time, in common with the UK it seems that people were expecting another war to come along soon. It was interesting that at one point Rona says ‘we don’t execute traitors any more’. Well she was wrong about that and it seems that the authorities ended up executing people who weren’t really traitors at all, such as the Rosenbergs.

Breath of Suspicion by Elizabeth Ferrars

 Breath of Suspicion cover

Breath of Suspicion by Elizabeth Ferrars was first published in 1972. The setting is London and later on Madeira.

Richard Hedon is in partnership with his brother, they own a bookshop which deals with rare books. Richard’s sister-in-law is always trying to pair him up with possible wives, she believes he has an aversion to commitment.

When Richard meets Hazel Clyro at a party he falls into a sort of relationship with her, she’s often stand-offish though. Her husband Paul had been a scientist and a few years previously he had just disappeared, so she didn’t know if he was alive or dead. One of Paul’s work colleagues had turned out to be a spy. Had he been kidnapped or murdered?

Richard decides to follow some clues which lead him to Madeira and danger.

This is an enjoyable read, it’s the sort that you can’t say too much about in a review though.

Elizabeth Ferrars is for some reason known as E.X. Ferrars in the US. She was born in Burma into a Scottish family and lived in Edinburgh in later life. So far I’ve enjoyed all of her books, not that I’ve read them all, she was quite prolific as you can see from her Fantastic Fiction page.

Voices on the Wind by Evelyn Anthony

Voices on the Wind cover

Voices on the Wind by Evelyn Anthony was first published in 1985. I read a lot of her books in the 1970s and loved them, she specialised in World War 2 espionage books.

In this one it’s forty years after the war and Katharine Alfurd is living in a small Sussex village, she’s fairly recently widowed and only has one daughter who she doesn’t get on with very well, so she leads quite a lonely life and has taken to visiting the local pub, drinking too much and telling anyone who will listen to her about her wartime exploits as an undercover British agent. As she had a French mother she could speak the language like a native.

The 1980s were a time when now and again high profile Nazis who had escaped justice popped up in the news, and that’s what happens in this book. Katharine had been involved with the Resistance in Occupied France and she had come into contact with Standartenfuhrer Christian Eilenburg. Now he is in France after having spent most of his life in Chile hiding from Nazi hunters. He’s about to stand trial and as Katharine had actually come into contact with him during the war she’s asked to travel to France to meet him.

Katharine’s wartime memories were never far away and now her thoughts go back to 1944 when along with others she was sent to France to help the Resistance and prepare for the Normandy invasions.

This was a great read, it does jump around a lot but I didn’t have a problem with that. I’ll be looking for more of her books.

Spy Sinker by Len Deighton

Spy Sinker cover

Spy Sinker by Len Deighton was first published in 1990 and I hooked it out of the overflow bookcases in the garage ages ago. I can’t understand why it took me so long after that to read this last book in the Hook, Line and Sinker trilogy. It is of course a continuation of the Bernard Samson story.

Bernard hadn’t ever really fitted perfectly into the world of British spies that he had more or less been born into. His problem is that his father had decided not to send him to the right public school back in England, so Bernard had been brought up in Berlin, and as we all know – to get on in so many British institutions you must have the correct old school tie.

As ever, I can’t say too much about the story for fear of ruining it for any subsequent readers. But I’m assuming that it’s Bernard’s lack of the right background that singled him and his wife out for special treatment that they could well have done without.

This was an absolute cracker of a read.

The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes

 The Salzburg Connection cover

The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes was first published in 1968. I remember reading some books by the author way back in the 1970s but haven’t read any since then, after reading this one I’ll have to track down as many others as I can because this was a really great read with loads of twists and turns.

It’s set some twenty-one years after the end of World War 2 but there are Nazis still around, they’ve been searching for things that had been hidden by them at the end of the war. There’s a bit of a race on to track down and recover a metal box which it’s thought has been hidden in a lake called Finstersee which is surrounded by the Austrian alps. Several such boxes have been found over the years, the Russians would also like to get their hands on this one, although what it might contain is a mystery.

This is a Cold War setting with spies and double agents galore – a great read.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge.

Helen MacInnes was born in Glasgow and went to Glasgow University where she got a degree in French and German before going on to get a diploma in librarianship at London. During her librarianship career she chose the books for libraries in Dunbartonshire, which happens to be where I worked in libraries, but she was there decades before my days there.

Her husband was a British agent for MI6 and no doubt his experiences helped to fuel her imagination for espionage. Her second book Assignment in Brittany (1942), was required reading for Allied intelligence agents who were being sent to work with the French resistance against the Nazis. Four of her books were made into films. Later in life she and her husband moved to the US.

Have you read any of her books?