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Matt Helm – The Wrecking Crew
Fawcett – Reprint – (July 12, 1979)
David Hamilton was a prolific writer and created one of the most enduring and loved characters in spy fiction: Matt Helm. Matt Helm is a battle hardened spy who has no compunction about sacrificing anyone in the vicinity for the achievement of his assignment. Helm is an assassin plain and simple and when his organization tells him to put the touch on someone then nothing will get between him and the task at hand.
Reading a Matt Helm novel is a little like stepping into a time machine. The Wrecking Crew was the second in the 27 book Matt Helm series and does not disappoint. It is important when reading Matt Helm to keep in mind that the books were authored at a time when sexist impulses were common currency both in real life and in print. Helm has a gift for understatement, spotting the bad seed and ferreting out the target.
In The Wrecking Crew a slightly older, slightly out of shape Matt Helm is dispatched to Sweden to try and put the touch on a spy named Caselius a long time enemy agent who has finally been located in Sweden. There are of course difficulties in dealing with the local constabulary and the local “intelligence” agents on the ground in Stockholm. The beauty of the Helm novel is the sparseness of it all. Hamilton was an economical writer that rarely uses two words where one will do the job. So too the plot of The Wrecking Crew is quite direct and proceeds with a brisk pace from the start when Matt Helm (code named Eric) comes out of retirement to go undercover as a photographer in Sweden.
The Wrecking Crew stands both as an historical novel of the fantastic type of spy thriller in which little is believable but everything is intriguing and pulls the reader as well as a snapshot of how east and west perceived each other at the time. Hamilton, who passed away in 2006, was a good story teller and a good writer and The Wrecking Crew is definitely worth the read.