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A Coffin for Dimitrios Paperback – October 9, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


?Not Le Carre, not Deighton, not Ludlum have surpassed the intelligence, authenticity or engrossing storytellling that established A Coffin for Dimitrios as the best of its kind.??The Times (London)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375726713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375726712
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Eric Ambler is the recipient of four Gold Dagger Awards and one Silver. In 1975, he was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.

Customer Reviews

Ambler is one of a few good writers in this genre.
It combines a compelling story with a tight plot and very interesting characters.
Alan Lewis
This is the best of his I've read yet, one of his great classics.
Rick Bruner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

129 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on July 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
but who paid for the bullet."

Compact, amusingly cynical little sentences such as the above bubble up throughout Eric Ambler's "A Coffin for Dimitrios" and, in fact, throughout most of Ambler's books. That is just one reason why Ambler's books are so enjoyable and have held up so well over time.

For those not familiar with his work, Ambler was to the modern British spy novel what Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett were to the American detective novel. Ambler transformed the spy novel from a simplistic black and white world of perfect good guys versus nefarious bad guys into a far more realistic world where sometimes the difference between good and evil is not all that great.

Typically, Ambler would take an unassuming, unsuspecting spectator and immerse him in a world of mystery and intrigue in pre-World War II Europe. The result was a series of highly entertaining and satisfying books that many believe set the stage for the likes of le Carre, Deighton, and, most recently, Alan Furst. A Coffin for Dimitrios was one of Ambler's best known works. (It was made into a movie starring Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet.) It is a very entertaining read.

The plot is relatively easy to follow. Charles Lattimer is a British University professor who retired from academia once he discovered that writing mass market detective stories was far more lucrative. While on holiday in Istanbul he makes the acquaintance of a Turkish police inspector who is an admirer of Lattimer's work. Lattimer is invited to the policeman's office where he is provided with ideas for a book the police officer is writing. While there he is invited to join the officer in viewing the body of a master criminal, Dimitrios, who has just been fished out of the Bosporus.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
It's amazing how quickly the books of second-rate writers become dated. I'm partial to thrillers, and my bookshelf groans with stories, set in the Cold War, that I will never read again. Their settings are as strange to me now as the Roman Empire or renaissance Europe. Their time is past. No so Ambler. 'Dimitrios' is based on people, not place. He created so many memorable characters: the Turkish secret policeman, clownish off-duty, ruthless and cold-eyed at his work; the Bulgarian good-time girl, whose head and heart told her different things; the hen-pecked offical in Belgrade, with his greedy wife; the respectable cafe-owner who slides, without resistance, into the lucrative world of prostitution and drug-smuggling; the successful Swiss businessman whose business just happened to be selling secrets. These are not people I have come across in real life, but they all strike me as flesh-and-blood characters. I could imagine having a fascinating conversation with any of them. In terms of place, the end of the Cold War has actually helped Ambler. We (I'm British) seem to have returned to the Europe of the inter-war years: corrupt, amoral, nervy, and prone to occasional outbursts of horrific violence. The significant difference, of course, is that we have no Hitler around now. In 'Dimitrios', Hitler is never mentioned by name, but he is always there, hovering, as it were, just out of the corner of your eye. Ambler's prose is wonderful. He tells a complicated story so well, lingering just long enough to sketch in profiles of people and places, before getting on with the plot.Read more ›
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Lenore S. Schellinger on July 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
Ordinarily, I don't read thrillers, but since this was one of my mother's favorite books, I thought I would give it a try. What a surprise!
Instead of some overblown macho stud like James Bond, the protagonist is Charles Latimer, a quiet English academic, who becomes intrigued by the death of an arch-felon, Dimitrios Makropoulos. He decides to find out more about this Dimitrios, and winds up traversing Europe from Istanbul to Paris.
There are no gimmicks in Ambler's writing; he presents a mystery and unravels it. Supposedly, Ambler is responsible for the "modern" spy thriller. If so, he did it well, but the genre devolved after him. A Coffin for Dimitrios is a superb book whether it is classified a mystery, thriller, or whatever.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
To read or not to read the great spy novels of Eric Ambler? That is the question most people ignore because they are not familiar with Mr. Ambler and his particularly talent.
Mr. Ambler has always had this problem. As Alfred Hitchcock noted in his introduction to Intrigue (an omnibus volume containing Journey into Fear, A Coffin for Dimitrios, Cause for Alarm and Background to Danger), "Perhaps this was the volume that brought Mr. Ambler to the attention of the public that make best-sellers. They had been singularly inattentive until its appearance -- I suppose only God knows why." He goes on to say, "They had not even heeded the critics, who had said, from the very first, that Mr. Ambler had given new life and fresh viewpoint to the art of the spy novel -- an art supposedly threadbare and certainly cliché-infested."
So what's new and different about Eric Ambler writing? His heroes are ordinary people with whom almost any reader can identify, which puts you in the middle of a turmoil of emotions. His bad guys are characteristic of those who did the type of dirty deeds described in the book. His angels on the sidelines are equally realistic to the historical context. The backgrounds, histories and plot lines are finely nuanced into the actual evolution of the areas and events described during that time. In a way, these books are like historical fiction, except they describe deceit and betrayal rather than love and affection. From a distance of over 60 years, we read these books today as a way to step back into the darkest days of the past and relive them vividly. You can almost see and feel a dark hand raised to strike you in the back as you read one of his book's later pages.
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