Friday, 17 January 2020

Forgotten Book - Vulture in the Sun

John Bingham began his career as a novelist with books featuring relentless police investigations, starting with My Name is Michael Sibley. In real life, he worked in intelligence rather than in the police, and perhaps the requirement for official secrecy deterred him, at first, from tackling the world of espionage with which he was familiar. But things changed with The Double Agent, and my Forgotten Book for today is another of his spy thrillers, written in 1971.

The setting of Vulture in the Sun is Cyprus, a beautiful island. I visited the Greek side of the island many years ago for a very enjoyable holiday, and thought then how sad it was that such a delightful place should be divided, with so much tension between the two communities. This novel is set a generation earlier, when tensions were at their height.

Our hero is Tom Carter, an agent who is sent out to the island by a ruthless boss called Ducane. We know from the start that Carter is going to become involved with a beautiful and mysterious woman, which was pretty much compulsory for the protagonists of spy novels in that era. Carter is sent out to provide short term back-up for a local agent called Frank Baker. But right from the start of his trip, things don't go to plan.

I liked the way this story cast light on the tense nature of life on Cyprus at the time, with various terrorist factions at work, sometimes cancelling each other out. Carter is rather thinly characterised, but the way that Bingham deals with antisemitism in the storyline is very interesting. It's a short, snappy thriller, and there are enough plot twists to keep one engaged after a rather quiet beginning. Well worth a look.

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