Wednesday, December 05, 2018

51. Map of Mistrust by Allan MacKinnon

Dr. Cameron, I presume.
I found this one at the same garage sale on Rachel where I discovered Darkness of Slumber.  Map of Mistrust is sort of the British equivalent of Darkness of Slumber, a standard but enjoyable murder mystery in the classic mold.  This time, Anthony Carne, competent young lecturer with wartime espionage experience finds himself finishing up a fishing trip in Scotland when one of the lodgers is found dead on a mountain path.  It looks like an accident, but also may have been foul play.  As he is leaving, he gets a call from his old spy boss who wants him to investigate.  The dead man was the British voice of Nazi propaganda in WWII who was thought to have long fled England.

His first stop is to Doctor Cameron, who discovered the body and thought it wasn't accidental (though the official coroner ruled it so).  What a shock when old Dr. Cameron says it wasn't him who stumbled on the body but his attractive, redhead daughter who was outside gardening and who is also a doctor!  Somehow, because of her youth and beauty, Carne understands why the coroner couldn't have taken her diagnosis seriously.  They get off on the wrong foot, but it is soon patched as she not only demonstrates that she is a capable doctor, but also very competent in everything else, especially spycraft.  She cottons on quite quickly that he is investigating something and he is convinced against his better judgement to let her help him.

This is a pretty entertaining read, though the central mystery itself is not all that intriguing.  There is a lot more adventure and excitement as Carne ends up being suspected himself and has to go on the run.  It has a bit of The 39 Steps feel to it and there is a pretty good chase and hiding sequence in London.  I also appreciated that despite the sexism of the time, Dr. Sheila Cameron is indeed competent and is never used as a threat or risk for the protagonist. 

This was the Canadian White Circle Pocket edition from 1950 and there were quite a few typos.  I don't know how printing worked in those days.  Would it have been the same typeset that was used for all editions or did they reset them to be printed locally?

Also, the title comes from a neat little bit of writing when Carne is reading the newspapers and lamenting the state of the post-war world:
Briefly, he scanned the lesser headlines.  Anti-British demonstrations here... Anti-American demonstrations there... Formal protest to the authorities somewhere else... There was a neat little map of the world, variously shaded to illustrate an article on the suggested zoning of the planet's air routes. It might equally have served to illustrate the grouping of incompatible ideologies, of war-time friends who were friends no longer.  Map of Proposed Spheres of Control, they called it, but it was more than that.  It was a map of mistrust, of suspicion, of downright jealousy and fear.  The United States and Britain, he reflected, for all their differences and brotherly abuse, still shone like twin headlights through the international night.  But the slightest knock to either lamp might start a divergence in the beams, a divergence that would grow with every successive jolt.  And heaven knew that jolts were not far to seek...  He sighed and turned to the crossword puzzle.
Indeed!  This is the kind of stuff I like in my British spy thrillers. 

This is not the book I read, but I wish my version had that sweet map.  There are a lot of cool lochs and mountains that I would have liked to have referenced.



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