Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Trouble on the Thames: Victor Bridges

Trouble on the Thames by Victor Bridges was published in 1945, but is set in the late 1930's, in the lead up to World War II. Owen Bradwell loves his career as a naval officer but fears he will be stuck with a desk job because he has become color-blind. His former skipper has sent him to talk to Captain Greystoke about a possible assignment. Greystoke requests that he go undercover and watch a man who is suspected of being a Nazi agent. As luck would have it, he was already planning to vacation near the area he needs to surveil. He will borrow a friend's punt to travel down the Thames. If you are like me and don't know what a punt is, here is a definition: "a long, narrow, flat-bottomed boat, square at both ends and propelled with a long pole, used on inland waters chiefly for recreation."

A second set of characters is introduced: Ruth Barlow and Sally Deane, who own and run an interior decorating shop. An unsavory character is blackmailing Sally's younger sister and Sally plans to come to her rescue. She ends up rescuing Oliver when he walks into a bad situation and  is hit on the head, resulting in amnesia.


This novel is described as a spy thriller but it is heavy on the adventure and romance, and thus not my usual cup of tea. Yet I was thoroughly engaged in the story. I can't say why exactly, but it really pulled me in and kept me turning the pages. There were some slow parts at the beginning when the author set up the various characters and their background and in the middle when Owen is punting around, but the rest of the story moved at a nice pace. Publisher's Weekly described this book as a "charming entertainment" and I would agree with them.

The characters seemed like stereotypes to me. There was the spunky heroine (Sally), the brave male protagonist (Owen), etc. Most of the characters were described as very good or very bad, with very few shades of gray. Yet I did like the main characters quite a bit. The bad guys were not portrayed with much depth.

Although this book was published in 1945 and the setting is London and surrounding areas right before the beginning of World War II, the writing felt more modern to me. The text did have its share of ethnic slurs, although this fit in with the times, with war threatening.

This book was my choice for the Crimes of the Century meme, hosted by Rich at Past Offences.

Per the Poisoned Pen Press web site:
Victor Bridges (1878-1972) was a prolific author of crime and thriller novels from the years before the First World War to the 1960s. Much of his fiction was set in Essex and East Anglia. His most popular book, Greensea Island, sold over 300,000 copies, but his work has been largely forgotten since his death.
Martin Edwards wrote the introduction for this edition, and he provides more information about the author.


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Publisher:    Poisoned Pen Press, 2015 (orig. pub. 1945)
Length:        222 pages
Format:        Trade paperback
Setting:        Late 1930's, UK
Genre:         Espionage fiction
Source:        I purchased my copy at my local independent bookstore.


20 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review. This sounds like a good book to pick up. The English have a liking for spy stories involving the sea. The classic is The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers (who was Irish). There are also the works of Harry Edmonds such as The North Sea Mystery (although I don't think he is read much any more).

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions. I do have a copy of The Riddle of the Sands and plan to read it someday. I had not heard of Harry Edmonds.

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    2. I've never heard of Victor Bridges but I shall have to check him out. This book doesn't sound like a match for me, either. But I'm intrigued that despite the adventure and romance, you enjoyed it, so I might give it a try.

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    3. Debbie, I was reading along in the book trying to figure out why I was enjoying it so much... I decided just go with it. I guess that is why he published so many books.

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  2. Thanks, Tracy, as always for the candid review. I know what you mean about characters who are somewhat stereotyped and have little depth. Still, I do like the setting, and sometimes, espionage stories are enjoyable even if they aren't full of depth.

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    1. The setting was a big factor in my enjoyment, Margot. And the book has gotten some good reviews elsewhere.

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  3. Thanks Tracy for this review. Looks like you're looking for new spy thrillers? I know I went looking for some new authors to try besides le Carre and a bunch of other known writers.

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    1. I do like to find new authors of spy fiction, Keishon. I have some other books (more contemporary) that have been on my shelves longer, and I should get to them too.

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  4. Not read him at all tracy, but allows intrigued about new authors and great that books like this are still finding audiences!

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    1. It is great that the vintage mysteries are being reprinted, Sergio, especially in this case where I don't see any affordable used copies. My husband found this one for me.

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  5. Oh I am definitely reading this one, Tracy. Never heard of the author but what the heck - I liked your review. And I love books set during this time.

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    1. I would love to know what you think of this book, Yvette. I had not heard of him either.

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  6. I'm not a huge fan of spy thrillers, so I may pass on this one, but I like the overall sound of this one.

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    1. Ryan: Even though I picked this to read at this time because it is spy fiction, it really doesn't read like most of today's spy thrillers. But it is more a thriller than a puzzle mystery, I guess. But a fun read.

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  7. Sounds good, Tracy, particularly the "British Library Spy Classics." I wonder what else they have under the tagline.

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    1. Prashant, it looks like in the US there is Traitor by Sydney Horler, and two titles by E. Phillips Oppenheim will be available later this year.

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  8. Sounds like a great find for the 1945 meme, pleasantly old-fashioned.

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    1. It was perfect for the Crimes of the Century meme, Moira, and I was pleased that I did not let it sit on the shelves forever, as I do with so many books.

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  9. Off to look this one up. Thanks. Sounds great! Remind me, were you reading spy fiction only for this month or for several months? Just curious. I am always looking for great spy fiction.

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    1. Keishon, replying a bit late to your comment. I started reading a bunch of John le Carre books (the George Smiley books) and then that sort of motivated me to read more spy ficion. So yes, more spy fiction in the last few months than usual.

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