Adam Hall – The Mandarin Cypher

I went through the whole of Adam Hall’s Quiller series about five years ago when I was on an espionage kick. The books are pure high-speed secret agent escapism, and a quick dose of Quiller action was just what I needed to stir myself out of my current reading funk. The Mandarin Cypher is the first of the series I read. Upon re-reading it now, it has lost a bit of its sparkle, but none of its pace. Hall’s matter-of-fact stream-of-consciousness patter is great for keeping the plot moving and the pages turning. I always found Quiller’s Russian adventures the most engaging, but his outing to Hong Kong here has all the tense elements I remembered: hard targets, hard opposition, and impossible situations aplenty. If you want a throwaway afternoon thriller, you just can’t beat this stuff.