(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Alistair MacLean was a writer of thrillers in the tradition of John Buchan, though without Buchan’s depth. Although a few of his books, such as H.M.S. Ulysses (1955), may be described as straight adventure stories, most of MacLean’s novels involve international intrigue or espionage. In contrast to a writer such as Robert Ludlum, however, whose lengthy novels of intrigue and espionage feature tortuously complicated plots, MacLean crafted taut narratives that move at breakneck speed from the first chapter to the last. The hero of a MacLean novel faces one apparently insoluble problem after another, leading to a final confrontation fraught with peril. Formulaic but vividly realized, many of MacLean’s novels have been adapted for the screen.