Instead of a repeat review this week from me, Barry Ergang is back with another all new review. After you read his review of THE TIGHTROPE MEN by Desmond Bagley make sure you check out Todd Mason's Sweet Freedom blog for the other suggestions today.
THE TIGHTROPE MEN (1973) by Desmond Bagley
Reviewed by Barry Ergang
When he awakens, Giles Denison from Hampstead, England has no idea what kind of dangerous adventure will unfold in his immediate future. Then, too, when he awakens and finds himself in an unfamiliar room—in a hotel in Oslo, Norway—one little shock and surprise follows another until the ultimate stunner hits him literally between the eyes.
When he looks into a bathroom mirror, the face he’s accustomed to seeing is not his own.
Fighting the madness he fears is overtaking him, he says aloud, “I am Giles Denison. I am thirty-six years old. I went to bed last night in my own home. I was a bit cut, that’s true, but not so drunk as to be incapable. I remember going to bed—it was just after midnight.”
Denison comes to realize that his face, if not his mind, belongs to one Harold Feltham Meyrick, who is at least ten years older. As matters develop, he’s pursued with apparently homicidal intent through the Spiraltoppen, a tunnel in a Norwegian mountain (see YouTube for videos—this is a real locale). When Carey and McCready from the British embassy enter the picture, Denison voluntarily becomes embroiled in a convoluted scheme to unearth buried treasures of sorts which are vital to the Cold War while working with a group of others—a group with its own potential dangers—as decoys to divert Russian agents who seek the same treasures. All the while he has to try to figure out who is truly who and what he or she really wants. Not the least of the questions he needs answers to are who Giles Denison is—or once was—how and why and by whom he’s suddenly become caught up in this perilous insanity, and what’s been done to him to cause emotional panic states and blackouts when he tries to probe his own psyche for answers.
I read and very much enjoyed quite a few of Desmond Bagley’s adventure thrillers many years ago, so it was a pleasure to finally read this one. Bagley was a contemporary of Alistair MacLean’s and, though he was successful, I’m not sure—I’m only guessing about this—that he was as well known. As much as I’ve enjoyed many a MacLean novel, my favorite among those I’ve read being Where Eagles Dare, I like Bagley’s work even more. MacLean tended to write lengthy descriptive passages that slowed his narratives, whereas Bagley always managed to integrate description with action in a manner that effectively conveyed setting without decelerating the forward movement of the story. The Tightrope Men is a case in point, a novel whose storyline is full of surprises and twists as tortuous as the Spiraltoppen’s are for Denison—and for readers. This one is easy to recommend.
© 2016 Barry Ergang