I have rather lost my taste for John Le Carré's books lately, so I am glad to find another author of espionage and suspense. I knew Helen MacInnes's name, but I thought she wrote neo-Gothics along the lines of Victoria Holt. It was vicki who set me straight. I found several of her books at Murder by the Book, in nice Titan Book paperbacks, and I chose this one based on the back cover summary:
William Denning is determined to leave the army and his work with the Restitution of Property division in 1953 Berlin to return home to the United States, but his terminal leave in Switzerland could turn out to be true in more than just name when he is asked to close one last file during his trip. American Intelligence has learned that the Herz diamonds, which disappeared during the war, are being smuggled out of Europe, and they want him to intercept and recover them.I won't say anything more about the plot, to avoid spoilers, except that the story also involves people being smuggled out of Europe, which was much more interesting to me than the diamonds.
Denning soon finds himself fighting for survival in a ruthless world of espionage and international conspiracy where loyalty can be bought and sold.
I enjoyed this book, particularly its Swiss setting, though I wasn't always sure exactly what was going on. I read a lot of mysteries, which I am not bright at solving, but spy stories can leave me even more confused. I have to concentrate to keep the different groups straight, let alone who is working with whom, before the alliances and the double-crosses start. At the end of this one, I still wasn't sure who the villains actually were. It was clear what they were trying to do, though, and maybe that's all that matters.
Two things surprised me, in a good way. First, most of the characters are amateurs, caught up in trying to help old friends or even new acquaintances. Though the civilians may give the professionals heart palpitations, they aren't content just to sit on the sidelines, they want to do their part. Second, I kept expecting a romantic development that never happened. There were undercurrents of attraction, and a very nice happily married couple, but I actually found the lack of romantic tension in the story refreshing. It was certainly tense enough in other ways!
I see that Helen MacInnes has a long list of books written. I was interested to learn that in writing them she undoubtedly drew on her husband's work in MI6 - which apparently continued even after they emigrated to the United States in 1937. I will be looking for more of her books after the TBR Dare ends, though I think I will be just as happy to borrow them.