24 January 2014

Review: ARMS FOR ADONIS, Charlotte Jay

  • first published 1961
  • this edition published by Wakefield Press 1994
  • 189 pages
Synopsis (Wakefield Crime Classics)

The blood of Adonis, thought Sarah, remembering the church that was built like a pagan temple. Coquelicot rouge - the symbol of a dying man whose blood stained the hillside in the spring.

Sarah Lane, abandoning her French lover for the brilliant Lebanese sunshine, believes that the day will belong to her alone. But when a street bomb hurls her into the arms of a dangerously handsome Syrian colonel, she finds herself trapped once again. Is this a kidnapping? A seduction? Or merely the chaos of the Middle-East?

The Wakefield Crime Classics series revives forgotten or neglected gems of crime and mystery fiction by Australian authors. Many of the writers have established international reputations but are little known in Australia.

My Take

Charlotte Jay, an Australian author, wrote this book during the months leading up to the Suez Crisis in 1956 when she was living in Beirut during a one year tour of duty by her husband John, a senior official for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Middle East. This gives the setting of the novel a touch of authenticity and also gives it a relevance to today's readers.

This novel reminded me of those I read in the 60s, by authors like Susan Howatch and Victoria Holt. It is a thriller/romance almost gothic in style. The description of the setting is wonderful and sent me off Googling the tourist sites of Lebanon.

I don't think I was ever in any real doubt about how the plot would turn out but there were a few twists and turns that caused the occasional doubt. I think the plot is much better drawn than the novella HANK OF HAIR by the same author that I read recently.

Embedded in the main story are Jay's reflections on the political revolution taking place in the Middle East in the 1950s and in particular how it affected ordinary people. There is also reflection on how Britain is being affected by a flood of refugees who despite being Moslem can claim British citizenship. They aren't always going to be an asset to their new country.

This was a satisfying read, and you'll notice it is part of my reading for the Vintage Reading Challenge. I think I will also include it in my 7th continent reading (history) for the Global Reading Challenge. It carries with it a feeling of authenticity, and I've come away feeling that I've learnt quite a bit.

My rating: 4.5

I've also reviewed 4.5, BEAT NOT THE BONES


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - I was thinking of Victoria Holt too as I read this. Sometimes those romantic suspense/thrillers can be very well done, and it's good to know that Jay wrote some satisfying novels. I must look up some of her work.

skiourophile said...

I should try this one - I wasn't grabbed at all by Beat Not the Bones (although that was many years ago and I might better appreciate it now I've read more classic crime). The setting of this one sounds more my thing.


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