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Passport to Peril
Robert B. Parker (1905-1955)
Hard Case Crime 2009
254 pages

It is kind of silly to say about a mystery novel written in the early fifties that it is a good old fashioned thriller but there you go. Fans of Cold War era Orient Express murders with shady characters belonging to different factions, a damsel who may or may not be in distress, a purloined letter, and the resourceful good guy will be more than pleased with Passport to Peril. No, the author is not the Parker of the Spenser / Jesse Stone series.  In fact, according to the notes about the author, this Robert B had a really fascinating life.

The oddest thing about reading this particular mystery is how many plot elements and character types would later become fodder for John LeCarre or Robert Ludlum. Passport to Peril is like a blueprint to the basic post WW II Cold War espionage thriller. Reading it now really is like déjà vu all over again.

Using a fake passport, John Stodder wants to go to Hungary to find his MIA brother. It turns out the passport is not a fake but was stolen from Blaye, a dead man Stodder is now impersonating. He boards the Orient Express, comes to the aid of Maria,  a mysterious woman who works for the original and dead Blaye. Maria is in possession of a letter many people want to get their hands on. These include Russians, Nazis, an American spy and his wife, and a Hungarian Countess.

Passport to Peril is a fun read that will remind many of fifties and early sixties B-movie thrillers. There is also a strong element of adventure involved here. It has a somewhat convoluted plot with many baddies and a couple of ladies in distress (or are they?).

It is the kind of mystery – thriller that makes for a good airport or beach read.

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