RARA-AVIS: Gold Medal Matt Helm #13

From: William Hagen ( billha47@hotmail.com)
Date: 24 Aug 2002

It's been awhile since I contributed anything, but I'll try to measure up to William Denton report standards on Matt Helm #s. Read #13, The Poisoners
(1971, 224 pages). For me also, several years since I read one.

Matt is called away from a N Mexico vacation, during which time he seems to go all over the state in search of good fishing. (Do any of the series ever SHOW him fishing?) Much is made of his knowing how to get around in rough Southwestern terrain throughout the novel, as contrasted to citybred heavies he encounters.

He is ordered to go to LA after Annette O'Leary, a redheaded agent who apparently survived an earlier adventure, is seriously wounded. Helm is ordered to find the murderer and deal with him/her, showing extreme prejudice. It seems too easy when a local crime boss brings him in and hands him a gun to shoot one of his own men, because he mistakenly shot her.
  On the way back, he stops a mugging of a pretty girl who "confesses" that she is the one the local crime boss meant to rub out, and he's still after her (please protect, please).

All that's just the beginning of a plot that involves a plot to terrorize through air pollution, funded by the Chinese, headed by one Mr. Soo (also in a repeat appearance, I gather), and connected to one Nicholas, jokingly called Santa Claus (by Helm), another villain from the past. From LA, we go to Mexico, a few beatings and shootings later, to New Mexico for the climax.

As many have noted, Hamilton is quite good in setting up action sequences
(especially in complicated terrain), leaving room for Helm to make some moral decisions, in keeping with his code. Although this novel had too many longish conversations speculating motives, plans, or likely outcomes--struck me as a bit like a cozy--Hamilton can accelerate nicely. And sometimes he writes some good figurative passages, such as the following: "...the plane began to lose altitude. We descended into something that looked like a giant basket of dirty laundry--the smog clouds trapped by the coastal mountains--and discovered, to my considerable relief, that there was an airport under the grimy looking mess." LA in the 1970s. If it seems a bit fancy for a Matt Helm, it has a direct tie-in to the plot that develops.

Bill Hagen

_________________________________________________________________ MSN Photos is the easiest way to share and print your photos: http://photos.msn.com/support/worldwide.aspx

# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# majordomo@icomm.ca.  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 24 Aug 2002 EDT