Sunday, April 08, 2007

Murderers' Row -- Donald Hamilton

Donald Hamilton's recent death prompted me to re-read a couple of his books. First up was this Matt Helm novel, grabbed at random from a stack of reading copies. In this one, Helm's about to go on a much-needed vacation when Mac sends him out on an assignment. Helm is to beat up a woman (one of Mac's agents), and make it look good to the opposition. Typically, he's being sent because the woman's partner is too squeamish to do the job. Helm, of course, isn't. But there's a problem, and to tell what it is would spoil some of the fun. So I won't tell. Let's just say that Helm's is forced to do a little more than he expected. In fact, because of further complications, Helm has to become a bit of a rogue agent, and there's some question about his psychological stability. Even Helm has his doubts, though of course the reader probably doesn't.

This is a Cold War story, but the time period and the McGuffin don't really matter. The real subject it Helm's toughness and professionalism. Helm scorns amateurs, women who wear pants, sentimentalists (not that Helm is entirely free of sentiment, however), and incompetence. Maybe not the best of the series, but a good one that packs a heck of a lot of story into its 144 pages. Check it out.


Anonymous said...

Next to DEATH OF A CITIZEN, MURDERERS ROW is my favorite Helm, a perfect little icepick of a novel. I'm less fond of the later, fatter Helm books than others seem to be.

Unknown said...

The later, fatter books aren't in the same class as the earlier, leaner novels. But they're still Matt Helm, which means they're still readable. For me, at least.