Santa Teresa, a Caribbean island that was once a holiday hotspot, but in the midst of the second World War – 1943 – it is nothing more than an industrial port, home to oil workers, diplomats and the occasional newspaperman – one of them, Halloran, now lies dead at the bottom of the stairs to his office.
Philip Stark, a US expat, arrives in town and sees an opportunity – namely, Halloran’s job. Stark needs the money but soon discovers that he’s taken on more than he expected. Needless to say that it looks like Halloran was murdered and Stark is sure that the secret to his death lies in his final story. But as he hunts for the truth, it seems that the killer may be hunting him.
Another #1943book for Crimes Of The Century, and a new author to me in the shape of Helen McCloy. McCloy wrote about thirty novels, of which thirteen featured Basil Willing, her series sleuth. He turns up for a cameo here, but I won’t say any more than that – if you’ve read the book, you’ll know why – so I can’t really say much about him. Maybe next time.
If there is a next time, that is. This is an odd book – odd in the sense that I know that I read it, but it basically went through my eyes and out… wherever memories go to die, without leaving much of an impact at all.
Part of that is due to the spy-story nature of the tale – the espionage genre has never really clicked for me, and this didn’t do much to change it. The setting is intriguing, an island stuck in the middle of the conflict and the nature of “neutral” Spanish population (despite Franco clearer being more inclined toward the Axis powers), but I felt that McCloy was assuming that the reader of the day was more aware of the global situation than the modern day reader (well, me anyway) would be. Of course, she may have explained it perfectly and I just dozed off…
The mystery doesn’t really hold up as a mystery – while the central character of Stark, and his immediate circle, are intriguing, the suspects really aren’t, so it was hard to care who did what to who. But is it supposed to be a clued whodunit? To be honest, I’m really not sure.
Sorry about this review – not positive, not really negative, but just… not a particularly engrossing read, although I can see why some people might like it. But from me, this would be Worth A Look if you like spy tales.