Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Who Guards a Prince: Review

Reginald Hill, best known for his Daziel and Pascoe detective series, gives readers his take on the suspense-driven, international conspiracy thriller in Who Guards a Prince (1982). There are royals in danger, a secret society that involves Freemasonry, a sex and blackmail scheme to control an up-and-coming young senator with his eye on the presidency, and a little Fenian/Irish American plotting and counter-plotting just for good measure. The book is littered with bodies--people with their tongues cut out, burned up in a fire, killed in car "accidents," blown up, shot, and dropped 20-some stories out of windows. Just a normal few weeks on both sides of the pond--British or American victims, we're not picky. We might even add a Canadian or two just for luck.

Balance that out with a disgruntled British policeman by the name Doug McHarg--a disillusioned, but doggedly-devoted-to-duty widower who used to be the security man for Price Arthur and who has stumbled across the trail of the secret society.  Much to their displeasure. McHarg follows the meager clues and finds himself the target for a series of Masonic death-attacks. Can he save Prince Arthur from becoming the latest victim and prevent the society from fulfilling their aims for power?  And can he do so without sacrificing people he has begun to care about--because the society doesn't care who it hurts if it can pressure its enemies into leaving it alone...or doing its bidding.

This novel is over-the-top and far too busy with all the conspiracies and schemes and side-issues. And the scattered bodies bothered me much more than the somewhat gruesome thriller that I just finished (especially that tongue business). At least I understood the killings in there are so many senseless deaths. So many people crushed under the wheels of the secret society machine and we're just supposed to take it in stride. To top it off, it winds up very predictably with a shoot-em-up ending (which takes place in America where such things happen, you know) and a "surprise" unmasking of the evil genius behind the plots. I will admit that McHarg's method of dealing with the mastermind is unique...but it seems more suitable for an over-blown thriller movie.  I just really wasn't taken with this at all. ★★ may be generous.

The best part? A sub-plot with Prince Arthur and his lady-love, an Irish American who must go against her family's anti-English sentiments to be with man she cares for. No sloppy romance--just a nice little thread to follow.

This fulfills the "Man in the Title" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card.


Anonymous said...

I like Hill's books a lot but this is one I've not come across - thanks Bev, though admittedly it doesn't sound like the author at their best!

fredamans said...

I don't think I would pick this one up. I'm not one for conspiracies. The ones I do like, have to be spot on and done well. Great review!

Bev Hankins said...

Sergio, I also like Hill's books with Daziel & Pascoe--I just don't think he does this well.