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A book by Eric Ambler

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"Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died." Erma Bombeck

  • Jul 18, 2010
Dr. Frigo is the nickname of Dr. Ernesto Castillo. His father either died or was assassinated and was a leading figure in the Democratic Socialist Party in St. Paul-les Alzes. With his death, leadership in the party would normally fall to Ernesto.

With this in mind, he's summoned to Commissaire Gillon's office to defend himself and assure the Commissaire that he wants no part of politics.

Segura Rojas, a compatriot of Castillo's father and Manuel Villegas, who leads the Mexican group of the party, return to the Island.

Ernesto's mistress, Elizabeth Martens tells him that she believes that the French Secret Service needs a victory and that's why they want Castillo's help.

A CIA agent becomes involved, offering bribes and looking ridiculous.

Gillon persuades Castillo that if he wants to know how his father really died, he should pretend to go along with Rojas and Villegas. Villegas had been in Mexico because he'd been exiled there by the junta that overthrew Castillo's father. His health wasn't good and Gillon and the CIA think that if they could get inside information on his health from Castillo, they would have an advantage.

The story is told in narrative style with little drama or suspense. It's more in the style of learning the facts from reading newspaper articles, simply put to the readers, to draw their own conclusions. The style reminded me of Graham Green in "The Honorary Consul."

The novel was written in 1974 and serves as an interesting account of what was accepted as a crime or mystery novel of that time.

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July 18, 2010
Interesting what passed as a crime/mystery novel then. Thanks for the insight!
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Mike Draper ()
Ranked #54
Michael A.Draper retired from working as a financial planner with Mass Mutual.   Married to Diana for 48 years, one son and daughter-in-law and two lovely granddaughters.      … more
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What pleasurable admiration one derives from the fact that in an age, and an area, where most writers become burnt-out cases, Eric Ambler - who after his classic beginnings and less remarkable middle years and books - is now getting better and best. Burnt-out cases is a deliberately chosen term since this new novel takes place in Graham Greene-land - one of those desolate little Central American coffee republics where even the palm trees are "like tired, untidy women." Here Dr. Frigo (which means frozen meat) assumes an uncommitted, spectator stance after the assassination of his father (was he a real liberator or just an opportunist?) twelve years before, ignoring his mother's treason theory and her desire to have Ernesto (his given name) as an avenger. But he just goes about his doctoring and has an affair with one of the most charming creatures met in a long time - Elizabeth, an artist, also a Hapsburg of direct descent six times removed from the Empress Maria-Theresa of Austria, Elizabeth who makes unsettling insinuations and only too direct historical referrals to the Hapsburg past which might be pertinent now. Particularly since Ernesto is asked, forcibly, to attend Villegas, his father's successor and candidate for a new takeover backed by international off-shore oil interests. But apparently there is something very wrong with his patient, more than his "abdominal inconveniences" - there's his slurred speech which when finally diagnosed...
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ISBN-10: 0297768484
Author: Eric Ambler
Genre: Mystery, Literature
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Date Published: November 1974
Format: Hard Cover
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