Saturday, 31 October 2009

Review: I Spy: The Constantinople Caper by Graham Marks

Trey is thrilled to be accompanying his father, influential Chicago businessman T Drummond MacIntyre II, on a trip to Constantinople. Armed with a suitcase packed full of his favorite tales of super-sleuths and daring detectives, Trey can't wait for his holiday to begin. So imagine his excitement when, as father and son board the Orient Express, Trey thinks they are being followed by a mysterious stranger. Surely Trey's been reading one too many spy capers? However, as they make the journey across Europe, Trey's father appears distant and evasive. Is he simply busy with work, or is something more untoward happening? When T Drummond MacIntyre II goes missing, Trey is plunged into the secretive and dangerous world of 1920s espionage, trawling the chaotic streets of Constantinople in search of his father's whereabouts. But while Trey has always dreamed about being a spy, nothing can prepare him for the breathtaking escapades that await him in this exotic and enticing city.

The publishers have touted this as a cross between "James Bond and Indiana Jones", but to be honest there is less of the James Bond and more of the Bulldog Drummond in this story In fact, Trey's middle name of Drummond may even be a small tribute to the character created by Sapper back in the 1920s. As for the Indiana Jones comment? Think more "Young Indiana Jones" than the adult incarnation.

I found this to be a hugely enjoyable read, with a fast-paced story and a number of engaging characters who appear once Trey reaches Constantinople. Some reviewers have criticised the journey to Istanbul on the Orient Express, and Trey and his father's stop-off in Venice, as being a little superfluous to the overall story. However, Trey is just an ordinary boy with a love of pulp detective magazines, and I feel the journey makes the reader wonder whether Trey is actually being followed or is this just a product of an over-active imagination?

Once the action hots up in Constantinople Marks steers clear of the unbelieveable - everything that happens to Trey could happen to a normal boy caught up in events he doesn't really understand. All of the action scenes are perfectly plausible and made more real by the author's use of real-life characters (such as pilot Mario de Bernardi) and his descriptions of exotic 1920s Constantinople.

I have just one small criticism of this book. The first part of the book is written solely from Trey's point of view. However, half way through, following a key event in the story, this suddenly changes and there are then various viewpoints for the rest of the book. I cannot imagine an author of adult books 'getting away' with this so it shouldn't really happen in books for younger readers either.

Overall, this book may not have the complexity of many adult spy novels, but it is certainly an entertaining read for boys, and would be a great book for boys to read with their dads.


  1. Ace post! Sounds like a riproaring book. I love the blog too.

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