A Review of Puppet on a Chain

Puppet on a ChainPuppet on a Chain by Alistair MacLean

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three stars or four? Three or four? How about three and a half?

This Alistair MacLean book is an odd one. It’s darker than his other books, and even creepy. It’s about Paul Sherman, a British Interpol agent, in Amsterdam looking for the source of drug trafficking into Britain. Aided by the Dutch police and by two good looking female assistants, he’s almost immediately thrown into the thick of things when the person he was coming to meet is gunned down at the airport in his sight. After that, he’s followed to and from his hotel throughout the novel.

It was amusing to see “cannabis” as the source of so much evil in this book, considering pot is now legal in several states. However, the main drug Sherman is after is heroin. And he finds it in the strangest of locations. One of my complaints about the book is, after years on the case — from afar — and after the Dutch have done nothing, in one to two days, Sherman finds the drugs, the source, the dealers, everything. It’s not very believable. In fact, the implausibility of the story is something I just don’t like about the novel. Sherman is constantly having his gun taken from him by the bad guys, who never kill him, thus giving him the opportunity to escape. He’s above the law, breaking numerous laws himself as he tries to find out what he’s after. The person we think to be the main dealer, Reverend Goodbody, has a whole town under his spell and willing to commit murder for him. Really? Then there’s the life-like female puppets hanging from a chain on top of a warehouse. It’s too much to take.

Additionally, Sherman isn’t very likeable. He lies constantly. He’s a sexist pig. (This book was written in the 1960s….) After treating his female assistants like annoying children the whole way through the book, at the very end, he all of a sudden wants to marry one of them. Say what? He’s so condescending. Prig. I wanted to like him. I wanted to be on his side. The bad guys were so bad, that I had to be on his side, but I think I secretly wanted him to die too. Terrible of me, I know.

This book is not the author’s worst, but it’s far from his best — very far. It is fast paced and entertaining, yes, but just not very believable, and that knocks it down a star for me. The sexism knocks it down another star. Three stars. Very cautiously recommended.

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