A mystery writer gets involved in a conversation with a Turkish official about crime fiction and crime fact. The writer gets himself taken to the local morgue to view the body of a man described as a petty criminal, one Dimitrios Makropoulos. The Turkish official calls Dimitrios "a dirty type, common, cowardly, scum. Murder, espionage, drugs – that is the history. There were also two affairs of assassination."
But the writer becomes obsessed with learning more about Dimitrios - and winds up finding himself in the middle of a large and dangerous conspiracy.
If it sounds like a classic plot for a thriller, that's exactly what it is. The book, now 75 years old, is A Coffin for Dimitrios, by Eric Ambler, and it is considered one of the foundation stones upon which many of today's thrillers are built. A Coffin for Dimitrios is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
The deeper he gets into his search for facts about Dimitrios, Charles Latimer learns more and more disturbing things about him. Latimer is no professional spy or secret police agent - he is very much an ordinary man, swept up in a world of intrigue. Latimer suddenly finds himself in the midst of a very dangerous game involving political assassinations, illicit drugs, the sex trade, spies, blackmail, murder and – everywhere -treachery. It is a world totally unfamiliar to Latimer, a world in which the easiest way to tell if someone is lying to you is by watching to see if their lips move.
The book was turned into a classic movie in 1944, under the original British title, The Mask of Dimitrios. Readers of this blog know that I don't do very much with modern "noir" thrillers - they simply aren't the kind of mysteries I usually prefer. But A Coffin For Dimitrios proves to be an exciting read, even now, 75 years after its first publication in 1939. I highly recommend it.
As part of my continuing commitment to the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge under way at the My Reader's Block blog, I am submitting this to cover the Bingo square calling for one book outside my comfort zone. For details about the challenge, and what I'm doing for it, please click here.