Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Whip Hand: Rex Carver

From the cover of my Arcturus Crime Classics edition:
This fast-paced thriller opens with laconic private eye Rex Carver accepting an apparently straightforward job of tracing a missing young German au pair. Never one to avoid trouble, Carver soon becomes entangled in a dangerous game of international espionage and double dealing.
Although I have read only three books by Victor Canning, I have become a big fan of his writing. This book is along the lines of a James Bond thriller, although the protagonist, Rex Carver, is a private eye and not a spy. He does do some side jobs for a British secret service department. This is the first in a series of four books featuring Carver, and I look forward to reading the others.

In this book, Carver follows his assignment, and the au pair, Katerina, whom he has fallen for, to Paris, Dubrovnik, the island of Mljet, Venice and Germany. He finds that agents from Germany and Russia are also interested in her.


The plot was rather over the top for me and serpentine, but Carver's first-person narration kept me engaged. He was a delightful although flawed protagonist. I also enjoyed two of the female characters in this book, Hilda Wilkins, Carver's secretary and partner in the private detective agency, and Verité Latour-Mesmin, whose boss indirectly hired Carver to find Katerina. Verité is very cool and professional but slowly warms up to Carver's charms.

And I loved the ending of the book. That always makes a big difference to me.

See these other resources:
At the Victor Canning pages
At Simon's Book Blog
At Clothes in Books

John Higgins, who created the Victor Canning pages, which cover Canning's writings in depth, has written a book, A Rex Carver Companion, about the Rex Carver books, including background material about Canning. I have only dipped into that because this is the only Rex Carver book I have read so far, but I am enjoying it immensely.


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Publisher:  Arcturus Publishing, 2011 (orig. publ. 1965)
Length:     254 pages
Format:    Trade paperback
Series:     Rex Carver #1
Setting:    UK, France, Yugoslavia (now Croatia), Italy, and Germany
Genre:     Mystery
Source:    I purchased my copy

18 comments:

  1. Again, a new author and set of books for me. As I've told you, I love your reviews of these vintage books. It's nice that they are not forgotten.

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    1. I am very glad I learned about Canning's thrillers several years ago, Kay. Now I have several more books of his to find and read.

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  2. I have two Victor Canning books here, unread paperbacks, but I don't think either is a Rex Carver. I'll have to check.

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    1. The other two books were in a another loose series of books from the 1970's, Rick. Very different from this one, but I have enjoyed them all.

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  3. I'm glad you enjoyed this, Tracy. Sometimes, thrillers can be a little 'over the top.' But when they're well-written, the author can make you willing to put down that disbelief. It's good to hear you think Canning can do that.

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    1. You are right, Margot, it is the author's skill in making a story believable and entertaining that makes the difference.

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  4. I've not read anything by Canning, Tracy, altho I've seen his name on paperback books seemingly forever. Maybe now that you've introduced him to me I will give him a try!

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    1. I had not even heard of Canning until 3-4 years ago, Mathew, and I don't see them much around here. I have two more to read and will be looking for more.

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  5. The only Carver book I've read is "The Python Project," which I highly recommend. Totally agree that Carver's first person narrative is very engaging. Higgins called this "much the best of the series" which pleased me.

    Btw, I've also read Canning's "Panthers' Moon" and consider it one of the best adventure books I've ever read.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions, Yankee Cowboy. I have had a copy of The Python Project for a while, but then saw The Whip Hand and decided to read it first. I will be looking for a copy of Panther Moon.

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  6. I think I've vaguely heard of Canning, but nothing I can put my finger on. I like the sound of this book though, Tracy. I especially love a good ending. Some mighty good books have been ruined by bad endings.

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    1. A good ending really makes a book for me, Yvette. I can forgive an uneven book if it ends well, but I am very dissatisfied if a promising book has disappointing ending.

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  7. I still need to get something read by this author.

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    1. You do, Col. Are all your books with you now?

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    2. Not yet - everything else is there, but not the BOOKS!

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    3. But books are the most important thing, Col. You have do have lots and lots of them, though.

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  8. Thanks for the shoutout, and yes, I really enjoyed this one. Like you, I couldn't write that much about it, because I hate to give away spoilers. The driving force of the book was a complete surprise when it finally turned up.

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    1. It took me some time to work up to reviewing this one, Moira, because I knew I did not want to reveal too much yet wanted to do the book justice.

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