Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Fifth Passenger: Review

Edward "Teddy" Young was a British graphic designer, submarine officer, and publisher. In 1935 he joined the then new publishing firm of Penguin Books and was responsible for designing the cover scheme used by Penguin for many years as well as the sketch for the original penguin logo. During World War II he served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) and became the first British RNVR officer to command a submarine. He used his wartime experience in the Royal Navy to pen the classic WWII memoir One of Our Submarines. He also puts his naval and submarine knowledge to good use in his 1963 mystery thriller, The Fifth Passenger.

In The Fifth Passenger, Peter Carrington is a London solicitor who served during the war with Captain William Howard. He owes Bill Howard his life and now Howard is calling in his favor. The book opens with Howard on the run. We don't know what he's done--if he's running because he's a traitor or because he's discovered a traitor. When Carrington receives a terse phone call asking him to meet Howard in Brixham, he doesn't know either. All Howard tells him is

I've got myself in a spot of trouble, Pedro. Can't tell you what it's about on the telephone--it's just that I've done something rather stupid and got myself involved in something that's become too big for me....Get down to Brixham as soon as you can...I'll meet you there tomorrow evening or the day after. But keep it under your hat at all costs. Don't try to find me, don't make inquiries about me, don't tell anyone you're expecting to meet me.

Carrington's loyalty to his former commander takes him immediately to the seaside town where there is no sign of Howard, but a large schooner by the name The Black Pearl waits in the harbor. The schooner is waiting on a few passengers and the weather to clear before setting sail for the West Indies. Soon, all the passengers are aboard--except for the mysterious Mr. Hitchcock, the fifth passenger. Carrington's sure that Hitchcock is Howard in disguise and settles down to wait as well. But Carrington isn't the only one waiting for Howard. Who will win the cat and mouse game? And at what cost a win? Carrington finds himself back on a submarine before he discovers the answer.

This book was Young's single foray into the espionage/mystery field. It is a pretty nifty story for a first and only fiction effort. Carrington's adventures as he tries to make contact with Howard--all while avoiding the men who are on Howard's trail (including one of Howard's oldest friends, Tony Gardner)--are played out like a chess match, particularly with Gardner. There is also a love interest for Carringtion that actually fulfills an important role in the game rather than serving as a distraction. Overall, a well-done, yet low-key espionage thriller. ★★★★

This fulfills the "Boat" category in the Vintage Silver Scavenger Hunt. It also fulfills the "Not on land" category for the Mystery Reporter Challenge because all of the climatic action takes place on board a submarine and the schooner.

All challenges fulfilled: Vintage Mystery Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, Cloak & Dagger, My Kind of Mystery, 100 Plus Challenge, Outdo Yourself, Charity Challenge, Triple Dog Dare, A-Z Mystery Author Challenge, Mystery Reporter, Mad Reviewer 


fredamans said...

I feel like I need to be more open-minded to this one. It's not what I would normally pick up. While you loved it, I wonder if I could get into it. Probably more suited to my husband.

Anonymous said...

Never heard of this one before Bev - I am a bit rubbish when it comes to sea adventures, must admit - I just find that my mind wanderd after a while, doesn't matter if it is MOBY DICK or, say, HMS ULYSSES - poor of me, I know. The novella-length OLD MAN AND THE SEA is about as far as I can take the genre!

Bev Hankins said...

Sergio: I detest The Old Man and the Sea. A great deal of the action in Fifth Passenger takes place before the sea voyage--so I don't think it would bother you as much as Moby Dick (I don't care for that either).

J F Norris said...

I see this book all the time in the used shops out here. Maybe I ought to buy a copy. Like I need more paperbacks in this warehouse of a home. The blurb on the back never enticed me but this review makes it sound like a Hitchcock kind of thriller. HA!