Friday, April 21, 2017

They Tell No Tales

You would scarcely credit the wonderful things people don't see. Why, there was a Bank messenger knocked down and robbed of fifteen thousand pounds in this very street some years ago, in the middle of the day with the pavements full of people, and how many of them saw it, do you think?

They Tell No Tales (1941) by Manning Coles is the third of his Tommy Hambledon spy novels. Hambledon has just returned to England after a successful spying stint in Germany. He's barely had a chance to get used to British ways again before he's asked to join a junior intelligence officer at Portsmouth Harbor to find the leader behind a series of sabotaged British vessels. Each ship has been outfitted with some revolutionary new gizmo that will make it better, faster, deadlier in wartime. Someone is leaking information and then someone else is arranging for the ships to sink before they can be truly tested.

Jimmy Bellair, Hambledon's intelligence contact, has rooted out a dockyard worker with information who insists on telling his story to someone higher up than Bellair. He will be available on New Year's Eve and they arrange to meet at the Cafe D'Albertini. The Dockyard worker makes it to the cafe, but is shot to death as he walks through the door. Everyone at the restaurant or in the surrounding area is suspect. And at first it seems that no saw or heard anything. Bellair and Hambledon become friends with many of the suspects and manage to check their stories and discover what they really know without arousing suspicion. Bellair even goes so far as to get himself engaged to one of the young women (temporarily). Hambledon manages to keep himself more aloof, yet also manages to discover the finer details which eventual lead to the mysterious "boss" at the top. Both men will be shot at and injured before it's all over...but when it's over the sabotage is too.

Spy thrillers aren't my standard fare, but I regularly enjoy the novels by Manning Coles. Tommy Hambledon is a very human and believable spy. He likes to portray an image of imperturbability and disengagement, but he is very attached to his colleagues and has surrounded himself with men he can trust. The novel is a very satisfying read with plenty of action, a bit of standard detecting, and subtle humor. A recommended series. ★★★★


Kate said...

Like you spy/espionage and thriller novels are not always my cup of tea. But Cole's series is definitely one of the exceptions. Glad you enjoyed this one, though my two favourites from this series are the first two books.

Bev Hankins said...

Kate--I haven't been reading them in order (just taking them as I can find them), but I've enjoyed all that I've read so far. Coles is an engaging author.