Title: The IPCRESS File
(Secret File #1)
Author: Len Deighton
Genre: Espionage Thriller
Rating: 3.5 of 5
I prefer the realistic-if-depressing John LeCarré flavor of spy thriller to the uber-macho Ian Fleming variety. The blurb at the start of this book said that the press used it to “beat Ian Fleming about the head” when it came out at the same time as the first James Bond movie, so I decided to give it a shot.
Unlike most of the other spy fiction I have read, this was narrated in the first person by a somewhat shady member of British intelligence (Deighton has no illusions about how nasty the spy business is). This gave it a similar feeling to a lot of the old hard-boiled detective stories, complete with a lot of jargon and slang that took a little while to get used to but added good color to the story. I was also impressed by the appendices in the back that gave some back-story at appropriate points, increasing the impression that this actually happened.
The plot seemed a bit all over the place, and it was hard to figure out how things connected and if there was some kind of overriding plot that our hero was supposed to be foiling. Sometimes this works in spy novels as everything ties together in the end, but I wasn’t very pleased with the resolution on this one. It turns out that our narrator has been holding back information and knew more-or-less what was going on a lot of the time but didn’t bother to let us in on any of it until the end. It was a bit too Hercule Poirot for my taste. Aside from that, it was well-written enough that I’ll probably be giving Deighton another try sometime soon.
2 thoughts on “A Bit Too Hercule Poirot”
Thanks for this review and comparing it to le Carre, Fleming, and Christie. I have been wondering about Deighton and where he fits in with the spy genre. It sounds, tho, like I will be sticking with le Carre for a bit longer, before trying one of his.
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I don’t mind a well-written unreliable narrator, but a know-it-all who hoards his information so he can astound everyone at the end is just a prig
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