The Eiger Sanction (Jonathan Hemlock Series #1)

The Eiger Sanction (Jonathan Hemlock Series #1)

by Trevanian


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Jonathan Hemlock lives in a renovated Gothic church on Long Island. He is an art professor, a mountain climber, and a mercenary, performing assassinations (i.e., sanctions) for money to augment his black-market art collection. Now Hemlock is being tricked into a hazardous assignment that involves an attempt to scale one of the most treacherous mountain peaks in the Swiss Alps, the Eiger.

In a breathtakingly suspenseful story that is part thriller and part satire, the author traces Hemlock’s spine-tingling adventures, introducing a cast of intriguing characters—villains, traitors, beautiful women—into the highly charged atmosphere of danger. The accumulating threads of suspicion, accusation, and evidence gradually knit themselves into a bizarre and death-defying climax in this exciting, entertaining novel that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the last absorbing page.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400098026
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 05/10/2005
Series: Jonathan Hemlock Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 299,555
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

Trevanian’s books have been translated into more than fourteen languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. He lives in the French Basque mountains. His new novel, The Crazyladies of Pearl Street, will be released in hardcover in June 2005.

Look for these other Trevanian classics from Three Rivers Press: Shibumi, The Loo Sanction, The Summer of Katya, and The Main.

Read an Excerpt

Montreal:MAY 16

Earlier that night, rain had fallen on Boulevard St. Laurent, and there were still triangular pools on the uneven sidewalk. The rain had passed, but it remained cool enough to justify CII operative Wormwood's light tan raincoat. His taste ran more to trench coats, but he dared not wear one, knowing his fellow agents would scoff. Wormwood compromised by turning the collar of his raincoat up and plunging his hands deep into his pockets. One of these hands was clenched around a piece of bubble gum he had received only twenty minutes before from an evil-smelling gnome on the forbidding grounds of Ste. Justine hospital. The gnome had stepped out suddenly from the bushes, giving Wormwood a dreadful start, which he had tried to convert into a gesture of Oriental defense. The image of feline alertness might have been more effective if he had not had the misfortune to back into a rosebush.

Wormwood's step was crisp along the emptying street. He felt uplifted by a sense—not of greatness, to be sure—but of adequacy. For once he had not muddled the job. His reflection rippled along a dark shop window, and he was not displeased with what he saw. The confident glance and determined stride more than compensated for the sloping shoulders and balding head. Wormwood twisted his palms outward to correct his shoulder slump because someone once told him that the best way to achieve manly posture was to walk with the palms forward. It was most uncomfortable, and it made him walk rather like a penguin, but he did it whenever he thought of it.
He was painfully reminded of his recent encounter with the rosebush, but he discovered that he could relieve his discomfort by nipping the seam of his pants between thumb and forefinger and tugging it away from his buttocks. And this he did from time to time, ignoring the open curiosity of passersby.

He was content. "It's got to be a matter of confidence," he told himself. "I knew I could pull this off, and I pulled it off!" He treasured a theory that one attracted bad luck by anticipating it, and the results of his last several assignments seemed to lend support to the concept. In general, theories did not hold up for Wormwood. To his problem of balding, he had applied the principle of Keep It Short and You'll Keep It Long, and he always wore a crew cut that made him appear less significant than necessary, but his hair continued to fall. For a while, he had clung to the theory that early balding indicated uncommon virility, but personal experience eventually forced him to abandon this hypothesis.

"This time I'm home free, and no screw-up. Six o'clock tomorrow morning I'll be back in the States!"

His fist tightened down on the bubble gum. He could not afford another failure. The men at home base were already referring to him as the "one-man Bay of Pigs."

As he turned left into Lessage Lane, the street seemed empty of sound and people. He took note of this. By the time he had turned south again on St. Dominique, it was so silent that the sound of his footfalls seemed to clip back at him from the facades of unlit, dreary brick buildings. The silence did not disturb him; he whistled as a matter of choice.

"This think-positive bit really scores," he thought jazzily. "Winners win, and that's a fact." Then his round boyish face contracted into concern as he wondered if it was also true that losers lose. He tried to remember his college logic course.
"No," he decided at length, "that doesn't necessarily follow. Losers don't always lose. But winners always win!" He felt better for having thought it out.

He was only one block from his third-rate hotel. He could see the damaged sign H TEL in vertical red neon down the street.

"Almost home free."

He recalled CII Training Center instructions always to approach your destination from the opposite side of the street, so he crossed over. He had never fully understood the reason for this rule, beyond simple sneakiness, but it would no more occur to him to demand an explanation than it would to disobey.

St. Dominique's wrought iron streetlamps had not yet fallen prey to urban uglification in the form of lip-blacking mercury lamps, so Wormwood was able to amuse himself by watching his shadow slip out from beneath his feet and grow long before him, until the next lamp assumed domination and projected his shadow, ever shortening, behind him. He was looking over his shoulder, admiring this photic phenomenon, when he ran into the lamppost. Upon recovery, he glanced angrily up and down the street, mentally daring anyone to have seen.

Someone had seen, but Wormwood did not know this, so he glared at the offending lamppost, straightened his shoulders by twisting his palms forward, and crossed to his hotel.

The hall was reassuringly redolent of that medley of mildew, Lysol, and urine characteristic of run-down hotels. According to subsequent reports, Wormwood must have entered the hotel between 11:55 and 11:57. Whatever the exact time, we may be sure he checked it, delighting as always in the luminosity of his watch's dial. He had heard that the phosphorescent material used on watch dials could cause skin cancer, but he felt that he made up for the risk by not smoking. He had developed the habit of checking the time whenever he found himself in a dark place. Otherwise, what was the use of having a watch with a luminous dial? It was probably the time he spent considering this that made the difference between 11:55 and 11:57.

As he climbed the dimly lit staircase with its damp, scrofulous carpet, he reminded himself that "winners win." His spirits sank, however, when he heard the sound of coughing from the room next to his. It was a racking, gagging, disease-laden cough that went on in spasms throughout the night. He had never seen the old man next door, but he hated the cough that kept him awake.

Standing outside his door, he took the bubble gum from his pocket and examined it. "Probably microfilm. And it's probably between the gum and the paper. Where the funnies usually are."

His key turned the slack lock. As he closed the door behind himself, he breathed with relief. "There's no getting around it," he admitted. "Winners—"

But the thought choked in mid-conception. He was not alone in the room.

With a reaction the Training Center would have applauded, he popped the bubble gum, wrapper and all, into his mouth and swallowed it just as the back of his skull was crushed in. The pain was very sharp indeed, but the sound was more terrible. It was akin to biting into crisp celery with your hands over your ears—but more intimate.

He heard the sound of the second blow quite clearly—a liquid crunch—-but oddly it did not hurt.

Then something did hurt. He could not see, but he knew they were cutting open his throat. The image of it made him shudder, and he hoped he wouldn't be sick. Then they began on his stomach. Something cold rippled in and out of his stomach. The old man next door coughed and gagged. Wormwood's mind chased the thought that had been arrested by his first fright.

"Winners win," he thought, then he died.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Superior suspense on almost every page…the hero is a masterpiece of conflicting qualities—something for everyone.” —Anatole Broyard, New York Times

“Trevanian can write hoops around Ian Fleming.” —Boston Globe

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Eiger Sanction (Jonathan Hemlock Series #1) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
BeckyJG on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jonathan Hemlock is a professor of art history in New York. He commutes to the city from Long Island, where he lives in an abandoned church filled with indulgences large and small, including a greenhouse wing, a giant Roman-style bath, and a humidity and temperature controlled basement gallery to display his priceless collection of Impressionist paintings (most of which were obtained through less-than-legal channels). Hemlock wants what he wants, you see, and--according to the battery of psychological tests given him by Army Intelligence when he was a soldier in the Korean conflict--lacks "the nerve of conscience" to hold him back from the pursuit and acquisitions of these wants.To make the money to keep him in fine art and to finance his travels, Hemlock also works for the Search and Sanction Unit of the somewhat bungling American intelligence agency known as CII. Search and Sanctions eliminates those responsible for the elimination of CII's own agents; Hemlock works in Sanctions, as a freelance assassin, a job for which, considering his lack of a certain nerve, he is perfectly suited. As The Eiger Sanction opens, Hemlock is eying a $10,000 Pissarro with a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to purchase. How perfect, then, to be offered a gig, called a "sanction," in the euphemistic bureaucratic government speak of CII. But, he tells Mr. Dragon, head of Search and Sanction, it's to be his last job, and he'll be charging double his normal fee. And no, he won't sanction the as yet unidentified second subject, thank you very much, he wants out. Hemlock travels to Montreal to carry out his assignment. There he meets up with the contact who will be providing him the specifics of the assignment, the lovely Felicity Arce--pronounced as you would expect--whom, with very little effort, he beds even as he is receiving said assignment. Hemlock is just that good. In addition to his superior knowledge of paintings and his talents as an assassin, Hemlock is also a world class climber. This talent is the impetus behind the enigmatic albino Mr. Dragon's ardent pursuit of Hemlock to carry out the second sanction. It seems that although Search and Sanction hasn't identified the second man on the Montreal job they have managed to ascertain that he will be involved with a party that has been organized to climb the Eiger, one of the most difficult, even murderous, of Alpine climbs. Although Hemlock has not climbed in several years, and although he has twice been defeated by the Eiger, he's the only man in the organization who could both endure the conditioning needed to prepare for a climb of this caliber and already possesses the skills.He really is just that good.It takes some deliciously underhanded manipulation on the part of Mr. Dragon and his minions, but Hemlock is eventually convinced to accept the job. He's whisked off to Arizona for his conditioning, and from there to Switzerland, where he must deal with a whole new class of criminal annoyance: the Eiger Birds, wealthy tourists--including a Greek shipping magnate and his American wife and a pair of bigger-than-life married actors--who descend upon the hotel facing the mountain as soon as word gets out of an attempt on its summit, so that they can watch the climb's progress and--hope upon ghoulish hope--be there to see any tragedies that might unfold. The action on the Eiger, including detailed descriptions of climbing technique, routes, and weather challenges, is gripping, as is Hemlock's attempts to suss out which of his fellow climbers is his target...and then get him before he gets Hemlock.The Eiger Sanction is a wry, self-aware, action/adventure story, a spy novel which simultaneously holds its own with the best of the genre while rigorously spoofing its conventions. It is truly a damned shame that nobody reads Trevanian anymore (the copy of The Eiger Sanction that I read was literally the only copy available from both the sprawling City of Los Angeles Public Libra
hockeycrew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My husband is a fan of the Clint Eastwood movie that was adapted from this book so I purchased it for him. I decided to read it after he told me that it was the most accurate book to movie adaptation he had ever seen. I have to agree. In fact it was so similar to the 70s movie that I found it distracting me from the real book.Johnathan Hemlock is a college art professor by day and a secret agent assassin when he needs the extra money (especially to fund an extensive black market art collection). He is called by his agency to perform a sanction that requires his particular expertise as a mountain climber. He must climb the North Face of the Eiger, a mountain on which he has failed twice before. One of the members of his team is also an assassin, Hemlock must figure out which one before he is finished off himself. The book was well written with a great deal of wit and interesting descriptions. Those not familiar with mountaineering and climbing may find the technical parts of the book a little hard to understand. And as mentioned earlier, it is remarkably similar to the movie and the differences can be fun to point out. It is also a very 70s James Bond kind of book, the ease at which Hemlock can hop into bed with women in this story is laughable. Perhaps it's because I've grown up in a generation constantly educated about the risks of being promiscuous.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable
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