Friday, January 13, 2017

John Gardner, The Liquidator

John Gardner, The Liquidator
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform © 1964; reprinted 2014
ISBN-10: 1523297522
ISBN-13: 978-1523297528

Meet Brian Ian (Boysie) Oakes, the assassin for a very secret British intelligence organization.  He has 25 kills to his credit, and not a hint that any of them was even a murder, let alone a murder committed by a government agency.  While on a weekend getaway with the lovely Iris (who works for the same agency), Oakes is pulled into his highest-stakes job yet—the faux assassination of a member of the British royalty, set up as a test of the security systems.  Maybe.
It’s a good life, though, with a very nice flat, a flashy car, and a very good (by British standards in the early 1960s) salary of ₤4,000—pushing $12,000 at a time when the median pay for white-collar worker in the US was around $6,000.  And with only 4 or 5 assignments (apparently) a year, Oakes has a lot of time to hang around museums and bars and pick up girls. 

Oakes is not, of course, all that he seems (among other things, he has a paralyzing fear of flying), and he is also not the brightest star in the firmament.  His boss, Mostyn, either doesn’t realize this, or affects not to realize it.  And the assignment Oakes thinks he’s about to carry out is not all that it seems either.

The (ironic) nods to James Bond are well-handled, and the plot moves right along.  Unfortunately, Oakes’s assignment seems a bit transparently not what it seems, and that lessens the tension somewhat—we know there’s a twist coming.  The twist is nicely handled, and Oakes, against all odds, comes out of the whole thing with his reputation enhanced instead of trashed.  (The first in an 8-book series.)  Well worth taking a look at the rest of the series (which I will be doing.)

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