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The Torch of Tangier
Lily Sampson Thrillers, No. 2

by Aileen G. Baron

      If you, like me, used to devour Helen MacInnes for the way she brought exotic locales to life, then filled them with intrigue and excitement, you're really going to like this book. It's a tale of war, treachery, espionage and what it's like to be a normal person caught in the middle, highlighted by beautifully evocative writing about Tangier during WW II. It's not hard to believe Bogart is watching over Rick's Cafe just a few miles down the coast in Casablanca.

For a dedicated archaeologist and scholar, Lily Sampson has a real knack for landing herself amidst modern world trouble. Loneliness and Chicago's bitter cold leave her susceptible to Hammond Drury's invitation to join his dig in Morocco. She's still there a year later, but little else is the same. Spain is in control, with arrogant Spanish police and Nazi agents everywhere. The erstwhile dig site now houses donkeys and anti-aircraft batteries. But that doesn't drive out Dr. Drury, who encourages Lily to stay too, until one afternoon she arrives back at the hotel, baffled to find German spies breaking into her room.

Soon Lily and Drury are attached to the American Legation, but really working undercover for Operation Torch, an Allied mission to control the area. When the deceits and double crosses lead to murder, the authorities make Lily's life even more difficult than the swarm of foreign agents around her have already done, forcing her to prove her innocence to save her life.

The writing was a bit frustratingly elliptical at times, but that was clearly for effect - to make the reader feel as Lily did, with things continually going on around her that she was caught up in but didn't understand. Other than that, this was just a wonderful bit of fast-paced escapist reading, with some virtual travel to a very vividly depicted different place and time and a story which kept twisting and turning until the last - literal on my part - gasp. I definitely plan to find and read the prior Lily Sampson story. Recommended.

The Book

Poisoned Pen Press
May 2006
Historical mystery/thriller [Tangier Morocco 1942]
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The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2006
© 2006