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Thriller Thursday Review – A Coffin for Dimitrios

A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

The 1939 thriller kicks off when a Turkish police officer invites Charles Latimer, a former British academic now a mystery writer, to a corpse viewing. Police pulled from the Bosphorus one Dimitrios, a con man and spy. The policeman gives Latimer a sketchy account of Dimitrios’ life of crime: thief, killer, spy, narcotics smuggler, assassin and human trafficker.

Latimer, partly as an experiment, partly out of pique at being treated like an amateur by the policeman, decides to fill in the blanks in Dimitrios’ criminal history. The story narrates Latimer’s meeting Dimitrios’ former victims, marks, and henchmen. Things start to get messy and dangerous. Rum guys wonder why a professorial type should be interested in somebody whose death relieved a lot of dodgy people.

There’s no whining about the big bad world but there’s no moral or ethical ambiguity either, a point that draws me to these old suspense novels. Although all the thrillers Ambler wrote in the 1930s are worth reading, A Coffin for Dimitrios is the classic that has never gone out of print.



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