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Is there anything you would change about this book?
There is probably a practical reason for “Horse Under Water” not being filmed, but it may be that the convoluted plot and lack of a clear-cut Cold War stand-off are explanations. The novel also ends with a number of appendices, suggesting that the novel doesn’t accommodate the historical context, dating back to the 1940s, and the aftermath of the plot’s resolution particularly well.
If you’ve listened to books by Len Deighton before, how does this one compare?
One reason why Len Deighton’s 1960s’ spy-novels read so much better than his 1980s’ “Berlin Game” and its sequels, featuring Bernard Samson and his family and colleagues, is the character of the first-person narrator-hero. Whereas Deighton’s later novels rely on the motifs, plots and standard characters of the genre, “Horse Under Water”, “The Ipcress File”, “Funeral in Berlin” and “Billion Dollar Brain” have Harry Palmer, as the first-person narrator is retrospectively called after the film versions came along. John Le Carré found a different and equally successful narrative solution to Deighton. He, too, encompasses the varied angles and multiple deceptions that make up a spy novel, without making any character and certainly not the reader all-knowing. His characters and, especially, their patterns of speech have become rather wearing, though, even as the moral and ethical issues have remained vital, while reading “Horse Under Water” (the second of the Palmer novels) years after reading the others, I was taken, again, by the narrator’s voice and his style.
Deighton’s use of popular culture – consumer products and long-gone shops – also distinguishes his fiction from Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, in which products define the hero but have little substance or historical resonance in themselves. Harry is very smart, in his story-telling style as well as his investigations, and, accordingly, “Horse Under Water” can be funny as well as being a thriller, making the quips of James Bond seem quite predictable. Some of the humour derives from Deighton’s ability to juxtapose the often fantastic plot with the absurdity of civil-service bureaucracy.
What about James Lailey’s performance did you like?
It helped that the reader of the audio version uses the accent made so well-known by Michael Cane in the Harry Palmer films.
Did Horse Under Water inspire you to do anything?
Any additional comments?
I look forward to listening to the new versions of the other Harry Palmer novels, but hope that a less well-known Len Deighton novel, "Spy Story", is produced as an audiobook.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
imagine listening to a great story read by someone doing a very very bad Michael Caine impression.....
1 of 1 people found this review helpful