Monday, May 29, 2017

Decision at Delphi: Review

Innocents Abroad...Kenneth Strang, architectural illustrator, is off another routine assignment--or so he thinks. Lee Preston, editor of Perspectives--a monthly magazine on architecture and the decorative arts, has hired him to sketch Greek classical structures and ruins as they would have been when built. The illustrations will be paired with photographs taken by Strang's regular collaborator Steve (Stefanos) Kladas showing what these buildings currently look like.

But from the moment Strang boards the ocean liner headed for the Mediterranean, nothing goes as planned. A second piece of luggage is added to his baggage...sent along by Kladas and it contains papers and film rolls that Strang needs to keep safe. Then when the architect arrives in Greece, Kladas is behaving oddly. He won't stay at the hotel as planned; he won't even stay put long enough for the two men to discuss their strategy. But Kladas isn't the only one behaving oddly--Strang's old friend Alexander Christophorou is also being secretive while also giving Strang nebulous warnings about other Americans and Englishmen in the city. There's a rich young Greek woman who tried to ward Kladas to stay away from Greece and someone keeps searching Strang's luggage looking for who knows what.

Things really heat up when Kladas disappears and then is reported dead and Strang finds himself a pawn in a murderous game of international international intrigue with an endgame labelled assassination.  He doesn't mind the danger for himself (truth be told he's kind of enjoying the spy in the corner business). But then Preston sends Strang another photographer to take his place. C. L. Hilliard--who not only takes beautiful pictures but is also a beautiful woman disguised behind those masculine-sounding initials. And when they fall in love, Strang finds that he has unwittingly handed the enemy the weapon they needed. How can he keep Kladas's secret safe, rescue the woman he loves, and help prevent the nihilists from wrecking the civilization that has been rebuilding since World War II?

Decision at Delphi (1960) is a gripping espionage thriller with believable characters. Strang served in WWII, so it isn't unexpected that he can handle himself in tight situations. Every character we meet has an interesting backstory that works into the present and MacInnes provides the motives and philosophies of the different factions without making the reader feel like they've sat through a Cold War lecture. There are many historical details necessary to understand the setting and events in late-1950s Greece and MacInnes provides them in a way that keeps the story moving. She also keeps the tension up--making it clear that Strang may well be trusting some of the wrong people, but it is difficult to tell where true loyalties lie is some cases. 

Good historical background, beautiful descriptions of the countryside in Greece and the area surrounding Delphi in particular, and compelling characters all combine in an exciting adventure. ★★★★

[Finished 5/28/17] ********
It's a little difficult to see, but the young woman on the cover (Miss Hilliard, I presume) has a camera around her neck. So, this fulfills the "Camera" category on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

1 comment:

Jacquie said...

Back in the late Sixties, I had a college professor who put me on to MacInnes. After I read my first, I could see how intelligently they were written. She was exceptional in a genre so heavily dominated by male authors. Thank you for reminding me with your detailed review.