Every now and then I like to re-read something by Alistair MacLean, even if it's not one of his best, which this one isn't. It was published in 1969, and by that time, at least for my tastes, MacLean was past his prime. I remember reading a scene in Force Ten from Navarone (1968) and thinking that MacLean was writing strictly for the movies and even putting in scenes that he thought would work well in the screenplay. I think pretty much the same thing about several of the scenes in Puppet on a Chain.
This is a drug war book. Major Paul Sherman, of Interpol, and his two beautiful assistants (who really have next to nothing to do with the plot) are in Amsterdam to put a stop to the drug traffic. Like all of MacLean's first-person narrators, Sherman is supposed to be highly competent, but he makes all kinds of blunders, which he tells us about as he makes them and which he also tells us will lead to terrible consequences. That's what happens, all right. But whereas that kind of thing worked for me in his earlier books, it just doesn't quite come off in this one. Or maybe I'm just cranky.
There's lots of derring-do and plenty of action, but it all seems to me to lack the drive of the earlier books. Again, maybe it's just me. But I felt the same way nearly 40 years ago. I thought maybe I'd feel differently this time, or I hoped I would, but I didn't. If this had been the first MacLean book I'd ever read, I might have loved it. As it is, I'd say it's middling, but not in the same league with things like The Black Shrike or The Golden Rendezvous or a number of others.