The Spectator

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 220

Just as the hero of the novel of suspense and of the police procedure novel is increasingly a damaged figure, so the hero of the thriller is a lone figure, having affinities with the mystery man in the Western who rides into town at the beginning and out again at the end. Jonathan Hemlock is the central figure in a first thriller by Trevanian, The Eiger Sanction…. He is an art historian and collector, who works part time as an assassin to earn the money to pay for his proclivities. In this yarn his dreadful boss, the albino Mr. Dragon, sends him up the North Face of the Eiger with instructions to kill one of his climbing companions, though he does not know which. I have been a sucker for any story about mountains, especially the Eiger,… and every piece of action in the book is, indeed, gripping and terrifying. The difficulty is that Trevanian wrote and his publishers have marketed. The Eiger Sanction as a jokey, sexy spoof of a thriller, and the nonsense elements thus imported into the narrative spoil its line and pace. Underneath the floss, however, is a splendidly straight-forward and acutely rendered tale of high adventure.

"Cosgrave's Crime Compendium," in The Spectator (© 1973 by The Spectator; reprinted by permission of The Spectator), Vol. 231, No. 7568, July 14, 1973, p. 53.∗

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Anatole Broyard


Anatole Broyard