Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Danger Within: Michael Gilbert

The Danger Within by Michael Gilbert was first published in the UK as Death in Captivity. The book is short and sweet (about 150 pages in the edition I read), and it is my favorite book so far this month.

This book is an exceedingly good story of men incarcerated in a prison camp in Italy toward the end of World War II, and it is also a murder mystery. It features an amateur detective, a prisoner in the camp who is asked to look into the circumstances of the death of a fellow prisoner. He discovers along the way that he enjoys the puzzle and is obsessed with solving it.

I was most impressed with the plot development and the detailed description of daily life in the camp. There is a large cast of characters. None of the characters are cardboard, by any means, but there is less emphasis on characterization and more on the story.

Everything I know about prison camp life during World War II comes from the movie The Great Escape. This book, published in 1952 and based on the author's experiences during the war, painted a very similar picture. The reader (at least this one) is just as interested in the success or failure of the attempts to escape from prison as how the murder will be solved. Yet it is a very good puzzle, with clues revealed along the way.

Michael Gilbert's actions during the war, after being captured in North Africa and sent to multiple prison camps in Italy, are very interesting and gave him plenty of background for this novel. My edition of The Danger Within, a reprint edition published by Rue Morgue Press, has an introduction by Tom and Enid Schantz, which goes into detail about various escapes and recaptures experienced by Gilbert and other prisoners-of-war in Italy. They based their summary on a non-fiction book written by Tony Davies, When the Moon Rises, which recounts his escape attempts, successful and otherwise. That information is included here at the author's page at the Rue Morgue Press site.

Other reviews:
  • It was at Sergio's blog, Tipping My Fedora, that I first read about this book. He covers this book in detail at this post.
  • Another informative review at Only Detect.


18 comments:

  1. Adding it to my towering pile. Thanks Tracy. Falls right in line with my interests.

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    1. Good, Keishon. I found it interesting and a good read.

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  2. What a different setting for a mystery! I'll look for this one Tracy!

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    1. Peggy Ann, I was intrigued when I first heard about this book. And it did not disappoint me.

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  3. I read this one years ago, when I was going through a lot of Michael Gilbert - he's a writer I like partly because he does such diverse settings - Cathedral Close one minute, then a local council, then a POW camp. I don't remember much about it in fact, except that I liked it, so maybe you will inspire me to re-read it.

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    1. Moira, I enjoyed it from every aspect. I loved how they were bartering and scrounging for clothing they could use after escape. I can't believe that really works (but obviously it did). I intend to read more Michael Gilbert. I bought several books at the book sale but can't remember which ones.

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  4. Tracy - I've not read this one, but I have liked the Michael Gilbert stories that I have read. This one sounds like it has such a fascinating setting and premise! Definitely one I must try - thanks.

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    1. Margot, I found it enlightening and entertaining.

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    1. Great, Col. I think you will like it.

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    2. Don't tell the embargo police, I ordered it!

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  6. I think this is a terrific book TracyK - so glad you enjoyed it too (and thanks also for the kind mention).

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    1. We are in agreement on that, Sergio. I appreciate you featuring it on your blog and introducing me to the book. I look forward to trying more books by Michael Gilbert.

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  7. Tracy, good choice. I like the idea of a prisoner-turned-amateur detective doing something as constructive as investigating a murder in a WWII prison camp.

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    1. Prashant, It was a good choice for a vintage read and my first Michael Gilbert book. He has some that feature espionage, and I am going to try those too.

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  8. You sold me at 150 pages! I'll look out for this one.

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    1. Sarah, I agree. The length is perfect.

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