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57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Danger and Intrigue from Eric Ambler
In early September, 1939 Great Britain and France declared war on Germany when Hitler's forces invaded Poland. Little happened for months. The French remained behind the Maginot Line; the Germans were secure behind the newly completed Siegfried Line.
Eric Ambler wrote Journey into Fear during this period of relative calm. Ambler, as well as most Europeans, expected a...
Published on April 25, 2003 by Michael Wischmeyer

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars bo-ring
Someone told me this author wrote like Dick Francis so perhaps my expectations were too high. I only finished it because I kept hoping it would get better. The plot was slow, the "twist" predictable, and the climax fell flat.
Published 3 months ago by Carmela Klug


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57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Danger and Intrigue from Eric Ambler, April 25, 2003
This review is from: Journey Into Fear (Paperback)
In early September, 1939 Great Britain and France declared war on Germany when Hitler's forces invaded Poland. Little happened for months. The French remained behind the Maginot Line; the Germans were secure behind the newly completed Siegfried Line.
Eric Ambler wrote Journey into Fear during this period of relative calm. Ambler, as well as most Europeans, expected a replay of the trench warfare of WWI. Hitler's unexpected blitzkrieg across Belgium, Holland, and France was yet to come.
As with his previous story, A Coffin for Dimitrios (1939), the setting begins in Istanbul and we again briefly meet Colonel Haki, head of the Turkish secret police. Mr. Graham, a naval ordnance engineer for an English armament manufacturer, has been assisting Turkey with plans for modernizing their naval vessels. The project was tiring and Graham is anxious to return home. But German agents have other plans.
Journey into Fear would have worked effectively as a Hitchcock thriller involving a common man in an uncommon situation (and undoubtedly Ambler's stories influenced Hitchcock). Graham is unprepared to play the role of an assassin's target. He is just an engineer doing his job. His efforts to escape are often ineffective and even amateurish, but would we readers have done differently? We share his frustration and fear at his inability to prevent the noose from tightening.
For those new to Eric Ambler, I would recommend beginning with A Coffin for Dimitrios (also titled The Mask of Dimitrios) and to be followed by Journey into Fear. Both are good stories. I would rate A Coffin for Dimitrios slightly higher.
Journey into Fear was made into movie in 1942, produced by Orson Welles' Mercury company, directed by Norman Foster, and starred Joseph Cotton and Dolores Del Rio.
Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, and Zachary Scott starred in The Mask of Dimitrios in 1944. It was directed by Jean Negulesco.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Escape Thriller: Realistic, Vivid and Noir!!, May 27, 2003
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Journey Into Fear (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. In a way, these stories are like a more realistic version of what Dashiell Hammett wrote as applied to European espionage.
Since Mr. Ambler wrote, the thrillers have gotten much bigger in scope . . . and moved beyond reality. Usually, the future of the human race is at stake. The heroes make Superman look like a wimp in terms of their prowess and knowledge. There's usually a love interest who exceeds your vision of the ideal woman. Fast-paced violence and killing dominate most pages. There are lots of toys to describe and use in imaginative ways. The villains combine the worst faults of the 45 most undesirable people in world history and have gained enormous wealth and power while being totally crazy. The plot twists and turns like cruise missile every few seconds in unexpected directions. If you want a book like that, please do not read Mr. Ambler's work. You won't like it.
If you want to taste, touch, smell, see and hear evil from close range and move through fear to defeat it, Mr. Ambler's your man.
On to Journey into Fear. Many people rate Journey into Fear to be one of the greatest novels of physical terror and a chilling treat. Almost everyone agrees that it is one of Mr. Ambler's best novels.
The book opens with the engineer Graham boarding a ship, the Sestri Levante, along with 9 other passengers in Turkey during December 1939. Safely in his cabin, he muses on his injured hand, which "throbbed and ached abominably" from being grazed by a bullet the night before. Alone, he realizes that he has "discovered the fear of death."
He then remembers the events that led up to the hectic last 24 hours. He has been in Turkey to help England's ally prepare its defenses against potential invasion. Foreign agents have been assigned to kill him so that the defenses will not be completed before an attack occurs. The assassin shoots at him when he returns to his hotel room from an evening at a night club, and just nicks him. Colonel Haki (of A Coffin for Dimitrios) takes charge of Graham, and arranges for him to leave by ship to avoid another attempt. Air flights have been suspended due to an earthquake, and the train is too hard to guard. The colonel vouches for all of the passengers. Graham reluctantly agrees.
As the boat sails off, Graham recognizes the tenth passenger as the assassin assigned to kill him, Banat. Seized by terror and knowing he's trapped aboard the ship, he tries everything he can think of to save his life. Will his best be enough?
For those who like stories involving the psychology of chilling terror, this book will be a delight. For those who want nonstop action, this book will be boring.
Mr. Ambler has provided us with an in-depth look at the psychology of killers and their prey that reminds one of the famous short story, "The Most Dangerous Game." As Colonel Haki notes, "The real killer is not a mere brute. He may be quite sensitive." Colonel Haki's theory is that killers have "an idee fixe about the father whom they identify . . . with their own [weakness]. When they kill, they are killing their own weakness." The hunted can crash about in the underbrush and merely draw the killer, or learn to control fear and think out a solution. Ambler is clearly interested in the subject of whether the rational mind will win out over the abnormally compulsive one. Along the way, Graham also learns a great deal about himself, a sort of self analysis through terror.
In addition, Graham is introduced to Mademoiselle Josette in the night club, and must from then decide how he will deal with the temptations she presents to him as a married man. This subplot greatly strengthens the story rather than being a distraction from it.
After you finish this impressive story, please think about when you have been terrified. What did you learn from that experience? Does this story add to your understanding of what one needs to do when terribly frightened?
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lost Art of Writing, January 2, 2001
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This review is from: Journey into Fear (Paperback)
This is an excellent story that will keep you enthralled throughout! The main character Graham is an ordinary fellow who gets caught up in the struggles of WWII Europe. Ambler does a fine job of developing Graham's predicament. The amazing thing, however, was how believable it was! Without resorting to superhuman feats or gratuitous sex and violence, Ambler draws you into the story and characters with amazing skill. Sadly this is becoming a lost art. All modern day "thriller" and "mystery" writers should read this book before putting ink to paper!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, September 10, 2000
This review is from: Journey Into Fear (Hardcover)
This is definetely one of Eric Ambler's best! It is a story about an English engineer, Graham, who is being chased all over Europe,on the Italian streamer,"The Sestri Levante" by people who would like to kill him! On the streamer he makes good friends, enemies, meets a spy, meets his assassin and falls in love. The brilliant thing about this book is that there seems to be a twist in every new chapter that you start, also, another element is that he doesn't stress too much on the details (a la Tom Clancy) and is a very simple writer which keeps things interesting! He is admired all over the world for his books, even by his fellow authors, in fact, John LeCarre described him as "The source on which we all draw." This coming from probably the best Cold War Espionage/Thriller writer! I rate this as one of his best! Highly recommended!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true classic of danger and suspense., April 20, 1999
By 
D. R. Schryer (Poquoson, VA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Journey Into Fear (Hardcover)
Journey into Fear is one of the handful of novels that Eric Ambler wrote before Word War II. And, like A Coffin for Dimitrios, it is a classic. The protagonist is an English engineer returning from Turkey with valuable knowledge. Axis forces are determined to prevent him from doing so. In order to protect him, Turkish authorities have arranged for him to travel on a cargo ship which carries a few passengers -- all of whom have supposedly been investigated and found to be harmless. Imagine then the terror he experiences when he discovers that one of the passengers is a man who recently tried to kill him. Now the supposedly safe cargo ship has become a trap from which escape seems impossible. His frenzied attempts to save himself are twarted again and again. This is the sort of chilling masterpiece that has made Ambler a legend.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good If You Like This Stuff, March 3, 2006
This review is from: Journey Into Fear (Paperback)
I don't usually read suspense novels. Yet once in a while, I try one, hopeful I will become involved. Regardless, the outcome is always the same: I'm reminded that I'm NOT a fan of this genre, even when the author is as respected as Eric Ambler.

Despite these misgivings, I can see that Ambler brings a lot of skill to his work. With these skills, Ambler delineates clear characters, creates focused interaction between his characters, and moves the plot forward briskly and with surprising turns.

With suspense novels, I think the test of their quality is: Could this be a movie? In this case, the answer is YES (twice as a matter of fact and once with Orson Wells). Indeed, the experience of reading this book was, for me, akin to watching a well-paced movie. For this reason, new fans of this genre continue to read and enjoy this pre-WWII suspense novel.

At the same time, I have my reservations about Ambler. In general, he has a conversational/expository style, with long-winded characters going on an on about the twists and turns in the plot. This style, he does extremely well. But isn't a big test of a writer's skill his ability to do the mundane-that is, move a character across the room-while holding the reader's interest? Usually, this is something Ambler doesn't even try to do.

Of course, for the most part, his style works very well and keeps the plot moving. But at the book's conclusion, this absence of you-are-there writing has Ambler condensing the climactic scene into just a few paragraphs. This is a scene that a different kind of wordsmith, such as Elmore Leonard, (as well as most movie directors) would developed more fully. Still, this is fine work!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Job In Security, April 19, 2005
Graham was a highly paid engineer for an armaments manufacturer who often traveled abroad. The Anglo-Turkish Treaty meant a trip for him, and he enjoyed travel. The deal was closed, and Graham will leave the next morning. The company's representative takes him to a local nightclub. Someone watches him, then leaves. When he returns to his room, shots are fired at him. It was an attempt at murder, to sabotage the armaments deal. For reasons of personal security, Graham will return by ship. Colonel Haki shows Graham photographs of suspects, and Graham recognizes the man who was watching him.

The ship docks at Athens. Mr Kuvetli asks Graham to show him around Athens. When they return, Graham finds a new passenger, one that he has seen before. Graham had been given a revolver for his protection, but he left it in his suitcase. When he decided to carry it, he found that it was gone. The enemy agents know he is defenseless, and can succeed either by stopping or delaying him. The German agent makes him an offer he can't refuse: die now, or take a 6-week vacation! But the latter choice means he would disappear without a trace, solely dependent on the mercy of his enemies. Firing a bullet into a gasoline tank acts as a deus ex machina. Of course, the good guy wins in the end. The individuals encountered in this book all have their little secrets.

Ambler's novels feature an individual struggling against the powers of a state, and surviving. This 1940 story must have been written during the Sitzkrieg of 1939-1940.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pre-war thriller delivers, April 1, 2006
By 
David Bonesteel (Fresno, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Journey Into Fear (Hardcover)
Graham, a British engineer who specializes in munitions, becomes the target of German spies as he travels from Turkey to England in the months preceding WWII. He takes passage on a small boat, where many of his fellow passengers will reveal surprises about themselves and he will encounter both friends and foes in unexpected places.

Eric Ambler's prose is efficient and graceful as he moves his plot along smoothly. His characters are delineated well, their interactions are well-focused, and the twists and turns in the plot are satisfying.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Suspense as understood by a master, December 15, 2007
By 
Tom Turnip (California, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Journey Into Fear (Paperback)
Few books that call themselves "thrillers" actually thrill, mistaking extravagant action scenes and prodigious gouts of violence for suspense; but this book is a redeeming and gripping exception. It is marvelously effective, sinking its hooks into the reader's emotions as viscerally as a book could do. One feels genuinely afraid for Graham, the out-of-his-depth protagonist who must survive a trip from Istanbul to London just as World War II is breaking out, despite hostile agents who will stop at nothing to prevent him from carrying dangerous knowledge home.

Ironically, the tension is never stronger than when Graham thinks he has figured his situation out and is confident of his chances; for anyone who has read Ambler knows that he cannot have seen farther ahead than his experienced, professional and resourceful enemy. As Graham repeatedly sees his naïve reasoning undone, the reader experiences the same tightening of the guts that he must. Throughout, Ambler's narrative skill is superb, as when Graham observes his enemy "inspecting him: secretly, as the hangman inspects the man whom he is to execute the following morning; mentally weighing him, looking at his neck, calculating the drop."

The plot is very well done, and deceptively complex: though at first it appears to be merely a high-stakes game of hide-and-seek, Ambler does a beautiful job of choosing exactly the right moments to reveal that there has been quite a lot more going on than met the eye. The emotional tension of the story makes these revelations all the more effective.

My only complaint is that there is a point, fairly early in the book, where Ambler masks his intentions just a bit too much; all indications are that Graham has escaped danger, and the reader's only clues to the contrary are the fact that there are still very many pages remaining, and the frustratingly inappropriate spoilers given on the book's back cover (avoid reading this if you can). However, this is soon made up for, and eventually it becomes impossible to put the book down. Highly recommended.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best spy/mystery book I ever read, July 4, 2001
By 
This review is from: Journey into Fear (Paperback)
Since other reviewers described very accurately the plot and the tone of the novel, I skip that part. I also consider this novel a very scary novel because anyone person can be in place of Graham [the main character]. The difference between this novel and the others where an innocent man is accused or chased by the criminals or the police is that the people who are trying to kill him have a legitimate and convincing [from their point of view] reason to kill him. And this is where the suspense comes from. I consider this and the and a few of Le Carre's novels to be the best spy novels of all time.
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Journey Into Fear
Journey Into Fear by Eric Ambler (Paperback - December 3, 2002)
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