When Eight Bells Tollby Alistair MacLean Published 01 Jan 2005
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From the acclaimed master of action and suspense. The all time classic.
Millions of pounds in gold bullion are being pirated in the Irish Sea. Investigations by the British Secret Service, and a sixth sense, have bought Philip Calvert to a bleak, lonely bay in the Western Highlands. But the sleepy atmosphere of Torbay is deceptive. The place is the focal point of many mysterious disappearances. Even the unimaginative Highland Police Sergeant seems to be acting a part. But why?
This story is Alistair MacLean at his enthralling best. It has all the edge-of-the-seat suspense, and dry humour that millions of readers have devoured for years.
"When Eight Bells Toll" Reviews
A very good story - I hadn't read it for a while, but well worth reading again. Very enjoyable...
Well, this definitely throws you straight into the action - so much so that I wondered if it was a sequel, or if my copy was missing a few pages! But unlike a modern thriller that goes in for loads of background, this just gets right into it.
The novel opens with our hero being confronted on a boat - at this point we have no idea who anyone is or why, so it's a full on brain blast to keep up with it all. But basically it's about a lot of gold being stolen ... pirated from the ships carrying it near the Scottish coast. The British Secret Service have got involved, trying to find out who is behind it, where the gold is now and what's happened to the crews of the missing ships.
There were points that made me smile, especially when dealing with the 'weaker' sex, and this is probably only where the book shows its age a little. It was also very refreshing not to have the action peppered with bad language. I was entertained with the story and actually enjoyed not knowing a thing about the backgrounds of any of the characters!
I believe I picked this up off a free book pile. An original issue paperback, thin with small type. But's a a MacLean and it had a helicopter on the cover. Our hero is a James Bond type, an utterly dead-pan very British undercover agent. He is pitted against a wily Greek shipping magnate who is hijacking gold laden ships in the Irish Sea. Of course, there's a beauty woman of mystery involved. Not tongue in cheek at all. Some gritty stuff takes place, as well as amazing and heroic narrow escapes. Also, now looking back, an interesting mid-century period piece. Very similar to modern spy adventures without all the computer/satellite/data analysis. An enjoyable read.
Phillip Calvert is a secret agent investigating piracy and the loss of several million in gold bullion and gems in the North Atlantic. Facing a dismissal for the untimely death of two of his colleagues on the mission, Calvert has 48 hours to recover the gold before he is taken off the job. However, the pirates and their conspirators have plans to make Calvert's termination somewhat more final.
I read this novel as I recall enjoying Alistair Maclean's novels as a child. This was apparently his first book after an attempted career as a restauranteur. Let's just say this book is a recipe for disaster.
The plot construction was clumsy. For a plot-driven novel, it relies heavily on the main character recounting events and deductions to other characters. The main character is a nauseating chauvinist, dating the novel. That's probably as far as the character development goes.
Two stars. Avoid.
My friends sometimes wonder how I know about hollow point and narrow bullets, and the first page of this book is the cause. It starts with an vivid, but accurate description of the Peacemaker Colt and what effects it should have when it's trained on a man. The pace picks up from there and doesn't stop till the end.
I was expecting what I call the "MacLean effect" to be diminished since I was re-reading this book, and I am not a teenager any more. Turns out that the old man's still got it. This timeless, fast-paced, modern-day pirates on the sea action-thriller is filled with memorable characters. Still not as good as Night Without End or Guns of Navarone, but good enough to satisfy your action-thriller craving.
I'd never read any MacLean, so when this came my way I thought, 'Why not?' Well, now I know. It's not that MacLean isn't a muscular and propulsive writer. It's that this kind of story seems horribly dated these days--the flawless hero (James Bond stand-in Philip Calvert), the flawed leading lady, the byzantine criminal scheme involving the piracy of gold bullion and other treasures. It might have mad a good film but in print comes across as creaky and ultra-contrived.