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7 October 2012

by Manning Coles. Hardcover, H&S published January 1948.  8th in series.

I have almost all of the Manning Coles’ “Tommy Hambleton” books. I love them, read my way through them all every few years, and would really like to acquire the couple  that I don’t yet own. They’re witty, clever, often very funny, and I have liked the series character since I first ran across him in a copy of Pray Silence, which I picked up in a charity shop in the mid1960s.

Let the Tiger Die is one of those books that makes you chuckle almost from the start. Tommy is on holiday in Sweden soon after the war. Over some days he observes a German being followed by three men and being Tommy he’s interested. When the man is abducted he can’t bear to stay out of events and follows the abduction car in a taxi. This results in two murders, that of the abductee and the taxi driver, while the abductors phone the police and claim that the killer was Tommy. He flees Sweden – in the abductors’ own boat, which then seizes up, and he is rescued by a Dutch captain with an obsession about company promoters, which he believes Tommy to be – and imprisons him until they arrive and he can turn him into the Dutch police. Things then become complicated. This book is the second in which two ex-Argentinian model-makers appear. Forgan and Campbell have a shop in Clerkenwell Road in London, and a habit of becoming embroiled in odd events. In fact any event in which they become embroiled becomes odd even if it hadn’t started out that way. (They turn up in several books in this series, adding farce and colour to those books thereby.) As in the series to date, this book while set after the war, continues to pit Tommy against Germans determined to continue with Hitler’s work. The book ends with Forgan using one of their number’s bombs to blow up the conspirators while only Hambleton, Forgan, Campbell, and a large dog named Tonio, escape.

This series started with Drink to Yesterday, which was frankly brilliant. Witty, incisive, and very funny, although it is the second book (Pray Silence) that I prefer by a small margin. I enjoy the entire series although I find some books better than others, however that is personal preference and other readers would, almost certainly, prefer different ones according to the type of theme they favour. The series is notable for its one liners – although most run rather longer than a single line. But very rarely does one of Cole’s books fail to produce one or more out-loud laughs from me each time I read them. Since recently we have also been seeing on TV a series called Nazi Hunters, I’ve found it interesting to note how often what is said on the TV series agrees with items from the Cole’s books. Of course, since one of the authors, (the author” Manning Coles” was actually two people,) was a spy in Germany during WWI and returned to the Intelligence Service before WWII and into 1958, they should know what they’re talking about – and they do.

I would recommend the series, however readers should be aware that several of the earlier books have minor comments or brief episodes that embody the casual racism of the time. I do not believe that the authors were genuinely racist, but the terms and 2-3 brief episodes particularly in the first couple may anger or distress readers. It’s a pity, and I hope that should the books be republished in future, these offhand mentions and minor events could be altered or expunged so as not to leave false impressions and spoil the books for younger readers.



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