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Split (A Simon Abelard Mystery) [Paperback]

Bill James
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 25 2002 Simon Abelard of British Intelligence Series
Known for his British procedurals featuring detectives Harpur and Iles, James introduces a new protagonist of mixed black-and-white parentage named Simon Abelard. Recruited into the `Outfit' (British Intelligence) as a token but then rapidly advanced on his own merits, Simon now finds his spying abilities in less demand. Here, he tracks ex-pal and treacherous co-worker Julian, who has stolen a pile of money from some revenge-minded drug traffickers. Along the trail, Simon finds more than one body and makes more than a few mistakes. Marked by exceptionally dry humor, pontifical observations on espionage, and masterly plotting, this should appeal to fans of intrigue. Library Journal. "Best of all, the marvelously mordant wit that makes every new James book a must is present in abundance." Publishers Weekly.

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From Publishers Weekly

John le Carr‚ and Len Deighton grabbed the British spy story by the scruff of its neck and gave it a vigorous shake in the 1960s, and James provides the same valuable service with this first installment in a new series about a mixed race intelligence officer named Simon Abelard. Abelard's black father, a Cardiff dockworker, spent a lot of time telling his son "that the two of them were as much a part of what he always called `the current GB' as everyone else, so they might as well look after it." Simon's white mother, tougher and less sentimental, worries that her son is being set up by his bosses chief among them a Welsh gnome with the splendid name of Verdu Cadwallader. Certainly somebody inside the Outfit seems intent on keeping Abelard from his appointed task, which is to find and bring in a fellow agent who has apparently become a high level drug dealer and is ready to abscond with ill-gotten millions. With his Harpur and Iles police series becoming somewhat predictable, it's a great pleasure to see James turning his considerable energies to a supposedly defunct genre ("Spying was like the dead parrot in the Monty Python sketch," Abelard muses). Best of all, the marvelously mordant wit that makes every new James book a must is present in abundance. As Abelard prepares to visit the Outfit's ministerial minder, a rising Labor Party star called Beal, he mentions to Cadwallader that his grandfather was a mahogany plantation slave in the West Indies. " `Oh, God, really?' " Cadwallader says. "This is great. Give Beal plenty of that. You'll have him weeping and beautifully ethical and pliable. Mow that corn, gnaw that tree."

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Known for his British procedurals featuring detectives Harpur and Iles, James introduces a new protagonist of mixed black-and-white parentage named Simon Abelard. Recruited into the "Outfit" (British Intelligence) as a token but then rapidly advanced on his own merits, Simon now finds his spying abilities in less demand. Here, he tracks ex-pal and treacherous co-worker Julian, who has stolen a pile of money from some revenge-minded drug traffickers. Along the trail, Simon finds more than one body and makes more than a few mistakes. Marked by exceptionally dry humor, pontifical observations on espionage, and masterly plotting, this should appeal to fans of intrigue.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Ho Hum Spy Novel Feb. 23 2004
By A. Ross
Format:Paperback
Post cold-war spy novels have all been grappling with the fundamental "what now?" question that arose following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This first of a new series is very much part of that stocktaking, as a British intelligence agent is sent to track down a former colleague who's gone rogue. Simon Abelard is a mixed-race Welshman from Cardiff's mean Tiger Bay streets, and the token darkie in his section. His colleague Julian has been putting his covert skills to work for drug dealers, and has gone missing after diverting around $9 million into a Swiss bank account. James uses this plot to make heavy weather of how in the post-Cold War era, spies have nothing worthwhile to do and are thus more susceptible to the lures of the almighty dollar.
This is a somewhat shaky setup-spies have always been tempted by fiduciary inducements, and have always been liable to run their own games on the side. James doesn't present any new twists on this theme and without any new ideas to propel the narrative, it simply becomes a very elaborate game of who's conning who, as a bevy of Simon's higher-ups get involved in the case. Indeed, the majority of the suspense comes not from the chase for Julian, but from Simon's uncertainty as to who in the large cast of bizarre secret service muckity-mucks is corrupt and who the nasty men also after Julian are. Eventually, of course, a woman gets involved, only heightening the conventionality of the proceedings. Everyone speaks in code, doublespeak, and innuendo (except for Simon's delightfully straight-talking mother), but it rarely feels real or even probable. Fortunately, everything is laid out in a visceral style that really captures the grimy side-street hotels and cold-hearted sides of London and Paris. It's the kind of book that lets itself be read, but by the end one is left with a bit of a "so what" feeling. I'm very unlikely to read the sequel, A Man's Enemies.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Abelard. but no Heloise June 5 2002
Format:Paperback
Simon Abelard works for the British Secret Service, also called the ?Outfit?. He is given the job of catching and bringing in fellow spy Julian Theobald Bowling who had turned into a major international drug dealer. Bowling is on the lam, because he stole 9 to 13 million dollars from his associates. Obviously, they want it back. Who is after him? Suspect are Abelard?s boss, Verdun Catwallander, his associates Matson and Field, Judith Stewart from another government service, Graf/Glass who wants money for German political party slush funds, and various other players. With so much money involved - whom can you trust? Where to find Bowling? It becomes a ?Third Man? game, until Abelard secures the help of Bowling?s girl friend Lucy Mary McIver, who seems to work for the U.S.State Department. Bodies begin to pile up. Bowling is found, then lost, then found again, then lost again, and so on. In the end it all sorts out, of course.
This book is written rather badly. Just about every third sentence ends with a question mark. The many asides are not helpful, nor is the constant reference to Abelard as half black. The language does not use the easy going humor of the Harpur and Iles books. This is the first of a projected series featuring Abelard. Let us hope that things improve.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ho Hum Spy Novel Feb. 23 2004
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Post cold-war spy novels have all been grappling with the fundamental "what now?" question that arose following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This first of a new series is very much part of that stocktaking, as a British intelligence agent is sent to track down a former colleague who's gone rogue. Simon Abelard is a mixed-race Welshman from Cardiff's mean Tiger Bay streets, and the token darkie in his section. His colleague Julian has been putting his covert skills to work for drug dealers, and has gone missing after diverting around $9 million into a Swiss bank account. James uses this plot to make heavy weather of how in the post-Cold War era, spies have nothing worthwhile to do and are thus more susceptible to the lures of the almighty dollar.
This is a somewhat shaky setup-spies have always been tempted by fiduciary inducements, and have always been liable to run their own games on the side. James doesn't present any new twists on this theme and without any new ideas to propel the narrative, it simply becomes a very elaborate game of who's conning who, as a bevy of Simon's higher-ups get involved in the case. Indeed, the majority of the suspense comes not from the chase for Julian, but from Simon's uncertainty as to who in the large cast of bizarre secret service muckity-mucks is corrupt and who the nasty men also after Julian are. Eventually, of course, a woman gets involved, only heightening the conventionality of the proceedings. Everyone speaks in code, doublespeak, and innuendo (except for Simon's delightfully straight-talking mother), but it rarely feels real or even probable. Fortunately, everything is laid out in a visceral style that really captures the grimy side-street hotels and cold-hearted sides of London and Paris. It's the kind of book that lets itself be read, but by the end one is left with a bit of a "so what" feeling. I'm very unlikely to read the sequel, A Man's Enemies.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Abelard. but no Heloise June 5 2002
By lvkleydorff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Simon Abelard works for the British Secret Service, also called the ?Outfit?. He is given the job of catching and bringing in fellow spy Julian Theobald Bowling who had turned into a major international drug dealer. Bowling is on the lam, because he stole 9 to 13 million dollars from his associates. Obviously, they want it back. Who is after him? Suspect are Abelard?s boss, Verdun Catwallander, his associates Matson and Field, Judith Stewart from another government service, Graf/Glass who wants money for German political party slush funds, and various other players. With so much money involved - whom can you trust? Where to find Bowling? It becomes a ?Third Man? game, until Abelard secures the help of Bowling?s girl friend Lucy Mary McIver, who seems to work for the U.S.State Department. Bodies begin to pile up. Bowling is found, then lost, then found again, then lost again, and so on. In the end it all sorts out, of course.
This book is written rather badly. Just about every third sentence ends with a question mark. The many asides are not helpful, nor is the constant reference to Abelard as half black. The language does not use the easy going humor of the Harpur and Iles books. This is the first of a projected series featuring Abelard. Let us hope that things improve.
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