The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

That demned elusive Dimitrios…

😦

Latimer, a novelist, becomes fascinated, for reasons so obscure that even he doesn’t know what they are, by a criminal he has just been told was found dead. This criminal, Dimitrios, appears to have been a multitasker, involved in every crime across Eastern Europe for at least a decade – from theft and murder, to drug smuggling, to political assassination. They sought him here, they sought him there, the police of several countries sought him everywhere, but to no avail. Now our intrepid, though immensely dull, hero intends to follow the trail backwards with a view to – I don’t know – find out who the real Dimitrios was, or something. He will do this by meeting people in various underdescribed and unevoked locations across several countries, listening while they tell him lengthy stories about political events that may or may not be based on reality – don’t know, don’t care. Have never been quite so bored in my entire life, except possibly during the whale classification sections of Moby Dick. Since I am refusing to read past the 30% mark this is not a spoiler, but I assure you with 100% confidence the twist is going to be that the corpse turns out not to have been that demned elusive Dimitrios after all…

Book 11 of 80

Loads of people love this book, though why is a mystery to me. Let me give you an example – if you find this paragraph thrilling, then you’ll probably find the whole book fascinating. However, if, like me, you feel a discombobulating sensation as of braincells masochistically imploding one by one, then you probably won’t…

From the start, Stambulisky’s policy towards the Yugoslav Government had been one of appeasement and conciliation. Relations between the two countries had been improving rapidly. But an objection to this improvement came from the Macedonian Autonomists, represented by the notorious Macedonian Revolutionary Committee, which operated both in Yugoslavia and in Bulgaria. Fearing that friendly relations between the two countries might lead to joint action against them, the Macedonians set to work systematically to poison those relations and to destroy their enemy Stambulisky. The attacks of the comitadji and the theatre incident inaugurated a period of organised terrorism. On 8th March, Stambulisky played his trump card by announcing that the Narodno Sobranie would be dissolved on the thirteenth and that new elections would be held in April.

Book 8 of 12

This was The People’s Choice for August. Sorry, People – I don’t hold you in any way responsible for my misery. Not only was I fooled into buying this book but I even added it to my Classics Club list. If anyone other than myself is to blame, it’s the people who gave it five stars on Goodreads. I can only assume they are part of a dastardly conspiracy (probably led by Dimitrios himself) to trap the unwary…

Amazon UK Link

45 thoughts on “The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

  1. FF, I really have to disagree. I found it totally engrossing and the recreation of the 1920s marvellous. And how can you not love lines like these: “Colonel Haki was slowly turning the pages inside the folder, and on his way was a look that Latimer had not seen there before. It was the look of the expert attending to the business he understands perfectly. There was a sort of watchful repose in his face that reminded Latimer of a very old and experienced cat contemplating a very young and inexperienced mouse.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, I’m sure you’re not alone in disagreeing! Sometimes a book and reader simply have the wrong chemistry and that was definitely the case here. I tried, but eventually I reached a point where I just couldn’t bear to read any more. But the number of five stars it has on Goodreads shows plenty of people found something in it that totally escaped me!

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    • Haha, well, don’t tell anyone but I did carefully pick the worst paragraph… 😉 Hopefully you’ll get on better with it – certainly loads of people seem to think it’s great! (They’re wrong, though… 😂)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ouch! Sorry to hear this one didn’t do it for you, FictionFan. I will admit, it does start off slowly… You make an interesting point about Latimer’s motive; I wondered about that, too, when I read the novel. Showing what a dead character was like by following his trail can be an effective tool to move a novel along, but when the pace isn’t interesting and the writing doesn’t keep the attention…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It still sounds like one I should have enjoyed, but sometimes books and readers simply don’t gel! Still, on the upside, at least I don’t have to add any more of Ambler’s books to my TBR… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hurrah, I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggled it with, but well done for having more perseverance than me! I can’t say I felt I was learning anything much about Europe, possibly because a) I was so bored and b) I couldn’t tell which bits were fact and which fiction…

      Liked by 1 person

    • It all reminded me of Citizen Smith, or nights out with the lads from the union back in the seventies. Hahaha, it did send me off to Google to find out if Cocktail Sobranies are still available – my luxury item back in the day when I wanted to pretend to be sophisticated… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Surely there was a better option that I voted for! To begin with, this isn’t my kind of book and you clinched that with the paragraph you shared. Clearly many have enjoyed it, so I’m sorry it didn’t work for you.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I actually looked back to see what the other choices were and can honestly say this would have been my last pick! But that’s not to say what I did pick you would have liked any better. (The Ghost Bride)

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s the problem – who knows? If even I can’t tell in advance if I’m going to like a book, how are The People supposed to know? 😉 The Ghost Bride could go either way I feel – I did love The Night Tiger but that’s no guarantee…
          But I always remind myself that at least it’s another one off the TBR…

          Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, nothing like a good rant to get a book out of your system! 😉 Yes, it’s all so subjective – the blurb and reviews for this still make it sound like one I should have enjoyed. Fooled again!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a shame. This does have excellent reviews on Goodreads and I have thought about reading it once or twice. Maybe I’ll still try it one day, but that paragraph certainly isn’t very appealing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, to be fair I did pick the worst paragraph I could find… 😉 The blurb and reviews still make it sound like one I should have enjoyed, but it’s all so subjective – sometimes a book and reader simply don’t gel. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it if you do decide to try it sometime. 😀

      Like

  5. Not a fan of that paragraph. Never a fan of being bored while reading. Thank you for trying to spare others’ precious reading time. If they still want to dive into this book after slogging through that paragraph, then they’ve been fairly warned. You can sleep at night, knowing you did your best to save them. Next!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was fascinated by this episode in 20th-century history as described here, one up till then I vaguely remembered from who knows where in my magpie reading – so yes, I did enjoy it, as it veered towards a political thriller. But would I have enjoyed it otherwise? I can’t guess!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, dear. Misery, indeed. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t one who voted for this one, so don’t blame me! I barely made it through the first sentence of that immense paragraph, and I have to agree with your review (which, at least, made me laugh!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I promise I wouldn’t blame you even if you had voted for it – after all, I bought it!! The blurb and reviews still make it sound like one I should have enjoyed, but honestly – Macedonian Autonomists? Good grief! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I have to disagree with you on this one. Eric Ambler wrote brilliantly about the complicated political situation throughout Europe at the time and its impact on the lead-up to WWII within his books. And he carved out a new path that was then followed later by others later in having characters who are not part of the espionage world get drawn into it by those who are, such as Colonel Haki, to serve the purposes of the secret world. (And I think we’re supposed to shake our heads and roll our eyes at the ludicrous situation he’s giving in that paragraph!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, always happy to be disagreed with – what a dull world the blogosphere would be if we all loved the same books! I suspect if I’d known more about the politics of the region at that time I might have got on better with it, but honestly (Call me insular. I do!) those Macedonian Autonomists failed to set my little heart beating. For a start, I’d have had to look up a map to find out where Macedonia is! 😉 Haha, ignorance is bliss sometimes, but sometimes not! But mostly I found his writing style dull – he’d go to a place, tell us nothing about it, have a meal, tell us nothing about it, and then some other character would drone on in an uninterrupted monologue which felt like someone dictating a wikipedia article. Ah well! I tried… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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