Kenton, the hero of this story, is a freelance journalist, and the reason that he is so good at his job is that he has the gift of being able to speak a foreign language as if it is his own. This gives him an edge in reporting on European politics and he gets the interesting stories more easily. However, he also has a major flaw; he cannot hold on to money. He has gambled all his money away while in Nuremberg, Germany and now owes money to a friend. He is headed to Vienna in hopes of borrowing money to pay him back. On the train, a stranger asks him to carry his money over the border; Kenton only agrees because the man promises to pay him three hundred marks, three times what he needs to repay the debt. And this is what leads to his involvement in the nefarious plot of this book.
This was a fun, entertaining spy story, not overly serious. Kenton meets up with Andreas Valeshoff and his sister Tamara, who are Russian agents. Valeshoff and Tamara are interesting characters and there are lots of adventures and thrills. And twists and turns that confused me at times. I liked reading a spy thriller set in Austria that was written before World War II had begun.
Background to Danger was initially published as Uncommon Danger in the UK. The book was made into a film starring Peter Lorre, as Valeshoff, Sydney Greenstreet as a villain, and George Raft as the hero (called Joe Barton in the film), and with a screen play by W. R. Burnett. Tamara was played by Brenda Marshall. I enjoyed the film and in general it kept to the same plot as the book. At first Peter Lorre as Valeshoff did not fit the picture I had of that character, but as I got used to him in the role, I changed my mind. There were two major differences that distinguish the film from the book, but I think the film is more enjoyable not knowing about those, so I will just recommend that you read the book and watch the movie.
Publisher: Vintage Crime / Black Lizard, 2001 (orig. pub. 1937)
Length: 280 pages
Format: Trade paperback
Genre: Espionage fiction
Source: I purchased my copy