Tuesday, October 08, 2019

72. A Time to Kill by Geoffrey Household

I am not a Geoffrey Household completist by any means, but this beautiful first edition really caught my eye when I spotted it at Black Cat Books.

A Time to Kill is indeed a "tightly-plotted, fast-moving story of international intrigue" as it says on the inside flap.  So fast-moving that it only has a single chapter (or no chapters, depending on how you want to look at it).  It is conducive to being read in a single sitting and I basically finished it within 24 hours.

Taine, the protagonist, is the typical Household hero, practical, slightly sardonic and ultimately British.  His superior asks him to look in on an ex-British fascist, who was exiled and now has snuck back into England in a boat in which he lives.  Labelled "Pink", he spent the years after the war mixing with the various dregs of scattered fascists, many now part of the international Communist movement. There he discovered a plot to bring anthrax-poisoned ticks back into England to destabilize economy and society.  Though exiled, he is still ultimately a patriot.  Taine meets with him, thinking he is just crazy but soon discovers the plot is real.  Adventure ensues.

This took place almost entirely in England, including a finale around the cliffs of Dover, which was quite a neat location.  Smugglers used it for centuries and there secret caves, leading into a cliff house were part of their escape plot (with Taine's kidnapped children, natch).

The politics are a little disturbing, as a lot of semi-innocent people get killed and Pink is ultimately exonerated, with Taine helping get him back into Britain.  It's all a pat on the back for the old boy, who finally threw politics to the side and went back to being a good gentleman boater.  Household easily excuses his fascist past and his nasty anti-semitism because he is on the right side and, I suspect, a gentleman.  Yuck.  Still, a good yarn and I would not mind stumbling across the prequel "A Rough Shoot".

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