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This review is taken from PN Review 58, Volume 14 Number 2, November - December 1987.

Crimes & Punishments OVER-FINE FEELINGS Anthony Price, For the Good of the State (Gollancz) £9.95
Nicolas Freeling, Cold Iron (André Deutsch) £8.95
A. M. Kabal, Bad Money (Allison & Busby) £10.95
Ivan Ruff, Dead Reckoning (Heinemann) £10.95
Reginald Hill, Child's Play (Crime Club) £8.95
Dick Francis, Bolt (Michael Joseph) £9.95
Robert Barnard, Bodies (Crime Club) £8.95
Jonathan Gash, Moneyspender (Crime Club) £8.95
Margaret Millar, Spider Webs (Gollancz) £9.95

However highly we may respect the thriller as the most direct descendant extant of the great nineteenth-century novel, it would be absurd to pretend it is the book its ancestor was, and there are limits to the weight it can carry. All disciplined writing has, by definition, limits, and the thriller's prove empirically to be fairly precise. Its prose must not be too fine. Its people must not be too subtly or too sensitively made. Its trims must not be pretentious. It must not be over-melancholy or over-long.

It is almost entirely the better thriller writers who fall for these baits and slide to perdition. Le Carré indulged in too loosely deployed length in The Honourable Schoolboy, disciplined himself with the beautiful plotting of The Little Drummer Girl, then bogged down again in the embarrassingly deep feeling of A Perfect Spy. He must recover balance, for we cannot do without him; or without Anthony Price, for many books one of the very best, but who in his last three - the latest is For the Good of the State - has fallen into self-indulgent feelingness and allusiveness and introspection, and the cloggingly slow pace all these entail. Nicolas Freeling, at his Dutch-based outset a finely original story-teller with a gift for the macabre, went on record as intending to show that the good thriller and the good novel could be one and the same, and thenceforward (but slowly, because he was really good) it was downhill all ...


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