A Coffin for Dimitrios

A Coffin for Dimitrios

by Eric Ambler

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307949950
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/19/2011
Series: Charles Latimer , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 128,000
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Eric Ambler is often said to have invented the modern suspense novel. Beginning in 1936, he wrote a series of novels that introduced ordinary protagonists thrust into political intrigues they were ill-prepared to deal with. These novels were touted for their realism, and Ambler established himself as a thriller writer of depth and originality. In the process he paved the way for such writers as John Le Carré, Len Deighton, and Robert Ludlum. He was awarded four Gold Daggers and a Diamond Dagger from The Crime Writers Association, named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers Association, and was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth. In addition to his novels, Ambler wrote a number of screenplays, including A Night to Remember and The Cruel Sea, which won him an Academy Award nomination. He died in 1998.

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A Coffin for Dimitrios (Charles Latimer Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's true that Eric Ambler provided a model for Graham Greene, John Le Carre and other first-class literary novelists. Greene called him "our greatest thriller writer." But in my opinion this book is not his best, despite its reputation for being so. His most perfect novel may Background to Danger, more satisfying for characters that you can care about and scenes of true danger and escape.
ProfessorBoh More than 1 year ago
The reviews are correct. Le Carre, Deighton, and Furst have all followed after a master. If you enjoy intrigue, mystery, and suspense over an action thriller, then Ambler should be on your list.
datrappert on LibraryThing 7 months ago
This was my first Ambler, and it is a great introduction to his seductive work. He is one of those authors that you feel would have been a fascinating person to know. He's a great story teller and the intelligence comes through in every line. The book and its background may seem a bit dated -- and so many others have copied his story of an amateur who steps into a little deeper water than he was expecting, but no one has done it better than Ambler. There is a wry sense of humor that runs through all his work, no matter how dark it is. If you are into stories of suspense or spies or detectives, put this one on your must read list.
annbury on LibraryThing 8 months ago
One of the old master's masterpieces. Powerful plotting, compelling atmosphere, and characters who linger in the mind for years -- no, decades. This one, written just before WW!!, is set in the Balkans of the 1930's, with excursions to Switzerland and Paris. A terrific book, as readable as one written yesterday.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Charles Latimer, former lecture of political economy, quits the academic world and becomes a writer of crime fiction, with such titles to his credit as "A Bloody Shovel," "I, Said the Fly," and "Murder's Arms." He does all right as a novelist, and decides one day that he needs a change of scene. Off he goes on vacation to Istanbul, where he meets a Turkish secret policeman, a Col. Haki. Haki contrives some reason to speak to Latimer, then invites him to view a corpse which has recently washed up onto shore from the Bosphorus. As it turns out, the body belongs to one Dimitrios Makropoulous, whose dossier is full of political machinations and other crimes. Latimer is convinced that if he could retrace the steps of Dimitrios, and find out how his body washed up on shore, that he could write his best book yet. Armed with the info provided by Col. Haki, he does his best to find out just who was Dimitrios Makropolous...and enters into a world of intrigue and into the life of a very dangerous individual.An amazing story, I can definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of British crime fiction, or anyone who likes novels set just before WWII.
praymont on LibraryThing 8 months ago
**spoiler alert** In the 1930's Eric Ambler pioneered the modern espionage thriller. His mastery of this genre was acknowledged by Graham Greene and John le Carre. Indeed, Philip French (film critic for The Observer) has noted the influence of 'A Coffin for Dimitrios' on Greene's script for the great movie called The Third Man.There are some plot clunkers in 'Coffin for Dimitrios', but it remains an intelligent tale fraught with moral ambiguity. It is one of Ambler's best works. The story moves along at a good clip with some memorable characters (played by such actors as Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet in the 1944 movie that was based on this story).Ambler wrote this novel in 1938. It was published in 1939. His tale about competition among the European powers in the run-up to war thus makes for ominous reading. For example, shortly before the war that was known for the blitzkrieg and for Pearl Harbor, Ambler has one of his characters say that "in a future war ... the mobility and striking power of modern armies and navies and the existence of air forces would render the element of surprise more important than ever" (pp. 154-5). (Ambler's reputation for such foresight was even more clearly established in his earlier book 'Dark Frontier', where he wrote about the secret development of an "atom bomb.")This book is also notable for its mention of the massacre of Greeks and Armenians at Smyrna in 1922, a crime that Ambler terms a "holocaust." Tens of thousands of civilians were murdered during this massacre by Turkish forces and in earlier, nearby massacres of Turks by Greek forces. The world's great powers did not intervene to stop the killing. There were many western ships just off the coast at Smyrna -- the sailors could see the burning city and hear the cries of the civilians who lined the edge of the harbour. After a while, the crews made an effort to rescue people who had made it into the harbour, but nothing more was done to stop the mass killings even though some of the European powers (notably, the UK and France) had backed one side or another in the Greek-Turkish conflict.In view of the great powers' complicity in this savagery via their Machiavellian diplomacy, it is telling that after characterizing the villain in his story as having an air of "distinguished respectability" (p. 269), Ambler adds that this villain, an undeniably evil man, resembles a "guest at a large diplomatic reception" (pp. 269-70) and "a member of an east European legation" (p. 270). Behind the urbane mask of great power diplomacy -- the mask of Dimitrios (as this chapter is called) -- lies a capacity for great evil.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Despite my going through an intense espionage thriller phase many years ago, I never even heard of Eric Ambler until the last few years. His books are often held up as some of the founding works of the genre. Before LeCarre, Fleming and Follett there was Ambler cooking up the memes that would become so familiar. So I finally read one and it was good. Not entirely surprising since I¿ve read a lot of what came after, but it held my attention quite well.One thing that stood out was the novel¿s construction. We do not follow a spy directly, nor do we interact with his handlers or agency. The man in question isn¿t really a spy at all, but more of a mercenary for hire who isn¿t too picky about the job. Need an assassin? Call Dimitrios. Smuggler? Ah, Dimitrios is your man. A spy? No problem, Dimitrios can get it done. It is the ever-changing nature of his activities that have kept him out of harm¿s way for so long and part of the reason our protagonist, Charles Latimer, is fascinated by him. Often he says to himself that he really should give up the chase and go back to his detective stories, but he can't; he's obsessed.Latimer isn¿t a cop or a spy-chaser, he¿s a novelist. At first I thought he was being deliberately hooked into Dimitrios¿s story in order to ferret him out, but that wasn¿t the case. He was just interested and wanted to see how much he could really do as opposed to just writing about detectives and how they get their men. From each bit of information, he discovers more and meets people connected with Dimitrios. He¿s a bit bumbling and innocent, but he has flashes of cunning and capitalizes on lucky breaks very well.Mixed in with the intrigue is a lot of interesting history that gets overshadowed by the two world wars on either side of the decade. The villainous politicians and the violence they wrought added a lot of flavor to the story and firmly cemented its time and place.As I said, Ambler has created memes of the genre that are no longer surprising, so I wasn¿t as shocked by the actions and outcomes as a reader in the 1930s would have been. Despite that, I liked Latimer and his obsession and stuck with him until the end.
dougwood57 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Eric Ambler pretty much invented the modern spy thriller and Coffin for Dimitrios (originally published in the UK as Mask of Dimitrios) is his best known work - perhaps in part because it was made into a movie in 1944. Charles Latimer writes "detection novels" (romans policiers) and is slowly drawn into research on the story behind the murder of Dimitrios - who was Dimitrios and how did he end up floating in a Turkish harbor? Latimer begins to trace Dimitrios' known movements through Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Switzerland, France, and Croatia. What begins as mere professional curiosity eventually becomes deadly serious. The storyline gets pretty complex - Dimitrios is involved in a couple assasination plots possibly with the backing of an international bank, but those events are mostly kept in the background. Latimer meets Mr. Peters who has his own plans regarding Dimitrios (Sydney Greenstreet is perfectly cast as Mr. Peters in the movie). The highlight of the book is the lengthy description of Dimitrios' exploitation of a Yugolsavian bureaucrat's greed and sense of self-importance. The best book by the guy who started noir.
neurodrew on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I bought this on the advice of the author of ""Night Soldiers"", Alan Furst, for its masterful treatment of the spy and intrigue genre prior to WWII. It lived up to its billing. It is complexly plotted, and highly atmospheric, with stops in Turkey, Bulgaria, France and Switzerland, and interviews with master spies and rogues. There was a bit too much narration of background history, but a good and tidy ending.
benfulton on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Very enjoyable. I found the protagonist's naivete a bit much at times, but maybe it's correct for the time and place. Starts slowly but the last 50 pages drip with tension.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most masterful thrillers I've ever read. Dimitrios is an international criminal mastermind- think Blofeld in the Bond stories. The narrator - protagonist is an average bloke on holiday who matches wits against his adversary. ALFRED HITCHCOCK praised the writer as the best in the business; what better recommendation is there?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sometimes the movies seemed a little better than the book perhaps more "happy" american style pagecounter
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A classic.