RARA-AVIS: Gold Medal--Richard Telfair--Bill Pronzini

From: Larson, Craig ( Craig.Larson@trinidadstate.edu)
Date: 27 Aug 2002

Hope this isn't a repeat, but I never saw the message after sending it yesterday:

I finally had the time and inclination to get involved in one of the "theme" discussions and so read a Monty Nash spy thriller by Richard Telfair, _The Bloody Medallion_. It was a very fast-moving book and a fast read overall. Well-written, with good descriptions of the locales (the story moves from London to the French countryside to Spain). And the idea of a "medallion society" of communists fighting against fascism was a good one (the secret society was started by the survivors of a massacre of Russian freedom fighters and each carries a medallion with a piece of faded red cloth inside, supposedly dipped in the blood of martyrs).

Nash is the "fox head" of his two-man espionage team and is after the forces responsible for the death of his partner and "fox tail." Higher-ups suspect the fox tail of being a defector, which suddenly means that all of the counterintelligence the two have collected for years has also become suspect. Monty realizes the only way that he can straighten things out is to make an escape and conduct his own investigation. He trusted his partner and cannot believe the man was a traitor.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? I wish I liked it a bit more. There was just something missing in the mix--some "oomph" or something that really would have made this one a grabber. It just doesn't live up to expectations engendered by such characters as Matt Helm or Remo Williams or even Joe Gash. I've been buying Nash thrillers over the years when I can find them and have several others on-hand. Do they get any better?

It didn't help that the book I read next was _The Vanished_ by Bill Pronzini, the second in his Nameless series. I've finally tracked them all down and am trying to read the series in order. This was a good one, with the detective trying to find a newly-returned soldier who has disappeared somewhere between the airport and his fiancé®  The investigation takes him to Portland, Oregon, and to the man's former posting on an army base in Germany. Along the way, he makes the first tentative steps toward a new romance with a woman who has been hurt many times before. Ultimately, the investigation leads him to a place where it will be difficult, if not impossible, for this relationship to progress and the book ends with a great line: "What would I say to Cheryl? What would I say?" (out of context, this doesn't make a lot of sense, but in context, it packs a hell of a punch). The book had me immediately wanting to start into the next one, which, unfortunately, I hadn't packed to bring with me.

Craig Larson Trinidad, CO

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