Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Operation Terror by The Gordons

Title: Operation Terror
Author: The Gordons
Publisher: Doubleday & Company, Inc. (1960)

If Michael and I were on the East Coast we'd obviously be distracted by events of greater import than our monthly duo post. Since we are dry and with power on this side of the US we will forge ahead with this month's pick but I'm definitely keeping our Atlantic friends in my thoughts and wishing as quick a recovery as possible. 

All the credit goes to Michael for this Halloween pick and he sure did pick a good one. It's not exactly horror but the chilling suspense builds nicely and, if you're not a horror fan, this is a wonderful alternative for getting your holiday creeps. For anyone new to the series, this is where Michael and I choose a book/movie pairing and I say a few words on the book and Michael says a few words on the movie.

Click here for Michael's film review of Experiment in Terror

at It Rains... You Get Wet

Rip said to her, "Is anybody listening in?"
"You don't have an extension?"
"But somebody may be listening to you?"
"Could be, Pete."
"Somebody in the house?"
"Somebody outside?"

Thus begins the partnership between Kelly Sherwood and John Ripley to catch a bank thief. Sherwood, a bank teller, is ambushed in her garage by a man who promises her a cut if she helps him rob the bank. He also threatens her (and her sister) if she does not help. Not long after he leaves, she calls the FBI (TSTL Miss Sherwood is not!) to report his threats. He was waiting for her to do this and attacks her. He makes more threats and it isn't until Ripley, an FBI agent, calls back that she is able to alert the authorities.

"Where were you at noon? I waited for you at the drugstore." As she groped for words, he continued accusingly. "You always eat lunch at the drugstore, but today you didn't. Why didn't you? I'm asking why you didn't."

She thought quickly. "I brought lunch with me today."

"No, Kelly, you didn't. I'll tell you what you did. You were talking with the police. You were telling them about last night." 

She raised her voice. "I wasn't. I tell you--"

"Shut up." The trigger had snapped. He said angrily, I'm going to punish you. I'm going to do it through your kid sister..."

Operation Terror isn't just the title but the philosophy of The Gordons' villain. He threatens and harasses Sherwood relentlessly and without much of a pattern. He disrupts her sleep and keeps her in constant paranoia regarding the safety of her sister. He wants to break her down, break her will and so be reasonably sure that she will abet him in his robbery. Against this assault, Sherwood works closely with Ripley and the FBI to determine the identity of the robber.

It's possible that many readers prefer modern thrillers with all the suspense that modern technology can offer but I have to admit to being a sucker for finding a payphone, getting access to punch cards, and waiting several days for background information from the "main office." Not only does it change the pace and strategy of a manhunt but it has the feel of placing the story in an alternate universe (ha! I say this like I don't remember only needing a dime to make a call at a payphone:) with alternate rules. The fun of it is re-organizing your expectations for what can and cannot be accomplished under a particular set of circumstances.

And the "details" really are satisfying. This is a thriller with a brain full of characters with brains (and a surprising mini-twist for the character of the villain). Instead of rolling your eyes at the obvious holes you'll find yourself wondering if you could have got around the FBI/villain's plan. The lack of holes keeps the suspense as the centerpiece and that is pleasing indeed. 

For all the positives there is something slightly clumsy about the writing. I could never quite put my finger on why it seemed to stutter but that it did I could never ignore. It's a short book that you ought to fly through with very little pause but that isn't quite how it reads. It's not a deal breaker or anything, just noticeable. On the plus side, it's properly copy edited and what a refreshing quality that is!! (Yeah, that's right, I just got excited about copy editing! But seriously, have you seen some of the slip ups in books getting into bookstores these days?)

Don't miss this big thriller in a small package, it's a quick and satisfying read. Perhaps this means I should seek out more work by The Gordons. Anyone have any suggestions?
Don't forget to check out the film review. 

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Click here for an index of the joint post series


  1. Another fine review, Rachel. And I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this. It was interesting to compare the crime thriller of today with that of one from 50 years ago. Yes, the copy editing of yesteryear seems to be craft that keeps falling between the cracks these days. For a short work, it had a good level of detail, I thought. I had fun with it very much. This was the first ever book I read by this 'team'. I wonder if the "something slightly clumsy about the writing" aspect could be attributed to that fact. Hmm... Anyway, this was fun pair to end our year on. Many thanks, Rachel.

    p.s., so glad you mentioned what is happening elsewhere as your lead thought. There's a lot of devastation that keeps coming out of the region, and our thoughts and best wishes should be centered there. Good one.

  2. Very nice write-up. I came here via Michael's link and the fact we both reviewed the movie almost simultaneously. I've never read the book, but it does sound pretty good. I'm generally into older thrillers and mysteries anyway so the "retro" aspects aren't something that would bother me. I'll have to try and get hold of a copy.


  3. Hey Michael, I agree re comparing older and newer thrillers and about the level of detail. It was impressive to have such a thing in a shorter novel, and for it to not bog down the pace. I hadn't thought of the team writing being responsible for the clumsiness but that is a very good point. It wasn't enough to keep me from trying out another one so we'll have to compare notes on other Gordon novels if we get to them.

    Hi Colin! Welcome! Thanks for stopping by. If you like older thrillers then I think you will enjoy this one. IMO, it had all the fun things about older thrillers and none of the things that drive me up a wall (raging sexism, homophobia, etc).