27 December 2007

Book Review: Decision at Delphi by Helen MacInnes

Decision at Delphi Artist Kenneth Strang is dispatched by his publisher to the Mediterranean, to sketch various ruins as they would have appeared when intact. Before he even gets past Gibraltar, odd circumstances begin to mount up. A fellow passenger on the ship behaves strangely, his photographer Stephanos Kladas is mistaken for someone else, then Kladas disappears. Strang soon decides to combine work with investigation - and flirtation, thanks to the arrival of replacement photographer Cecilia Hillard. They both wind up uncovering a political plot connected to the activities of a group of mountain fighters during the Second World War fifteen years earlier. Will they both survive?

There was more to the plot than that; I’m sure of it, even if I can’t remember the specifics. Partly because it’s weeks since I read it, and partly because I didn’t have a complete grasp of them even at the time. On several occasions a new development left me completely puzzled and flipping back through the previous chapters in search of enlightenment. Maybe I needed to be more focussed and better acquainted with Greek history of the 1940s and 50s; or maybe the plot needed to be less confusing. It was also much duller than you’d expect from a thriller: lots of circumstantial evidence, talking, and history; not a lot of action. Things perked up when Cecilia got (of course) kidnapped, and revealed a good quantity of intelligence, then slumped again for a rather anti-climatic ending. There were moments of cleverness, from both the heroes and the villains (I particularly like Cecilia’s method for dealing with intrusive alley cats) but the plot couldn’t be entirely redeemed by a bright heroine.

Rating: C-

2 comments:

Carl V. said...

I can't tell, but the cover art looks familar. Does it say who the artist is?

CoversGirl said...

I'm afraid I have no idea; this is the only edition for which Amazon had a picture, rather than the edition I actually read. Scanned images never work as well, so I cheated!

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776