The End of the Web by George Sims

Beware the spider!

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Leo Selver’s marriage has never been the same since his young son died, and he has taken to having a string of short affairs. When we meet him he is just about to embark on a new one, with a beautiful young woman called Judy Latimer. But Leo is worried about some business deal he seems to be involved in with a man he doesn’t really trust. Soon things are going to turn nasty – very nasty – for Leo and his business partner. And it will be up to Ed Buchanan, former policeman and old family friend, to try to work out what’s going on before things get even nastier…

This may be one of the vaguest little intros I’ve ever written and that’s quite intentional. One of the things I’ve noticed most since I’ve being reading some of these older crime novels is that authors were far more willing to mess with the reader’s expectations and play with structure than we tend to think. This book is a prime example of that. The beginning follows a fairly conventional pattern for a thriller – ordinary man caught up in a situation that brings him into danger – and it looks as though it will go on in the traditional way, with him struggling to extricate himself from the mess he’s in. But then the author turns it on its head, and the book suddenly veers off in an entirely unexpected direction. I was taken aback, I must admit, but it works well, lifting this out of standard thriller territory into something a little more original.

Published in 1976, the book is set only a few years earlier in 1973, mostly in London though with trips out to the countryside and also over to Amsterdam. As with most thrillers (back in those happy far-off days, before turgid soggy middles and endless angst became obligatory), it goes at a cracking pace but, despite this, the author creates a good feel for the time period through references to some of the music and clothes, etc., and his sense of place is just as good.

The characterisation is also very good, achieved with an admirable brevity of description. Leo isn’t exactly likeable, especially to a modern (female) audience who might feel that he should have spent a bit more time thinking about his wife’s feelings rather than indulging in sad, middle-aged fantasies about young women, but his grief over the death of his son is real and makes it possible for the reader to sympathise. He’s no hero, as he discovered himself during the war, but when the chips are down he does his best.

Ed, who becomes the main character as the book progresses, is however an excellent hero! Ex-boxer, ex-policeman, all round nice guy with a bit of a romantic streak, he manages the tricky balancing act of being tough with the baddies but gentle and caring with the women in his life – not just his romantic interest, but with Leo’s wife, whom he looks on almost as a surrogate mother. And remarkably for the period, he doesn’t patronise them! It’s a short thriller, but Sims still finds room for Ed to develop over time, so that in the course of the novel he gets to know himself better and make changes in the way he lives his life.

Can’t find an author pic, so here’s a nice spider instead…

There’s plenty of action and a plot that hints at what I discovered later from Martin Edwards’ intro to be true – that Sims himself had connections to the code-breaking facility at Bletchley Park during the war. There are some seriously chilling moments and some touching ones, and a dash of humour from time to time to keep the thing from becoming too bleak. The writing is very good and the pace never falters. Bearing in mind that it’s the ’70s, Sims seems to be quite forward-thinking, managing to avoid the usual pitfalls of blatant sexism, etc., and he in fact paints a positive picture of the burgeoning multi-culturalism that was beginning to really take off in London at that period. All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed this, and will certainly look out for more from Sims. I hope the British Library will resurrect more of these thrillers – from this example, they’ll be just as enjoyable as the mystery novels they’ve been re-issuing.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press.

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33 thoughts on “The End of the Web by George Sims

    • I didn’t read many thrillers back in those days either – I still only read the occasional one. But I do hope the BL reissues more if this one is anything to judge by. Sometimes a fast-paced story is just what’s required… 🙂


  1. This sounds marvellous! Unlikable characters are great fun, especially if they are well written. I’m not sure that is a nice spider, though, he looks a bit vicious. So many legs!! 😀


  2. This does sound really good, FictionFan. I always respect an author who can turn a story on its head like that, and still keep the reader wanting to know what happens next. That takes finesse. Interesting, too, your comment about how Golden Age authors (and the classic authors, too) played with story structure. Hmm…..I’m going to have to think about that one…


    • It took me by surprise, but he carried it off. Yes, there’s a tendency to think the older mystery writers wrote to a formula – how often is Agatha Christie accused of that? But as I’ve been reading/re-reading them recently I’ve realised they took just as many chances as any of today’s writers – often more. And on the whole the quality of the actual writing is better, I find. I think they get a bad rap… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • I know – it’s such a pleasure when a writer of that era manages to avoid sounding like Harvey Weinstein!! It’s the British Library again, like the mystery ones, but they’ve only done a few of the thrillers so far. I get them via Poisoned Press on NG mostly – they do the Kindle versions for the BL.


    • Yes, definitely an author who was looking to the future rather than the past for once – hurrah!

      Haha – I have a nice little spider quote for tomorrow that I’m sure will send my sister screaming for the hills… 😱😈


  3. Glad to be reminded of this – I read a couple of his books when they came out, but I haven’t thought of them for years.


    • I don’t think I ever came across him back in the day – I didn’t read too many thrillers back then. But I believe they’ve brought back two of his so far, so hopefully there might be more to come… 🙂


  4. I really don’t think I can cope if you start selling the thrillers as well as the mysteries but this does sound so good – I’m loving the range of books (and techniques) you are discovering through this backwards look at crime fiction and how lovely to avoid that saggy middle, and the obligatory angst.


    • Hahaha – I know, I have mixed feelings too. Part of me would love the BL to release more and the other part is screaming nooooooooooooo!!!! I’m thoroughly enjoying reading some of these older books and truthfully finding lots of them much better than I expected. More books! Just what I need… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This one sounds very good. It’s a real balancing act when writing contemporary fiction. One wants to put in some references to the times as they are, but not so many that the work is dated the minute it hits bookshelves. Not sure I needed that spider photo this morning, ha!!


    • Yes, it must be. I don’t like when it’s heavy-handed, but I do like to feel I can recognise when a book is set just as much as where. Haha – I seem to be having a bit of a spider theme this week… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ok this is sick of me, but I love reading books about husbands cheating in fiction, it’s a guilty pleasure! Obviously I hate reading about it in real life tho…

    Very interesting note you made about authors being more likely to risks back in the day…


    • Hahaha – I love reading about all kinds of people I’d hate in real life, so you’re not alone! And poor old Leo paid for his cheating in the end… 😈

      It’s surprised me – we have a tendency to think the golden age mysteries were very formulaic, but whether it’s just that the ones that are being reissued are being selected precisely because they’re a bit different, I don’t know, but several of them have taken big risks with structure, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Your review absolutely reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1972 thriller Frenzy. It has a dash of humor, but also the women are treated fairly, and it’s a bit forward thinking in that sense. It’s also set in England! Have you seen it?


    • No, I don’t think I have! I shall add it to my watchlist. Now you mention it, Hitch tended to have quite strong, independent-minded female characters in a lot of his films. Weird, considering he was apparently pretty awful to a lot of his leading ladies off screen…


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