Thursday, March 12, 2015

"The Black Shrike" by Alistair MacLean

It's been a few years since I read a new-to-me Alistair MacLean book.  I really enjoy his writing -- it's streamlined and fast-paced, and I never figure out his plot twists ahead of time.  Exactly what I like in a spy novel!

In The Black Shrike, Agents Bentall and Hopeman get sent to Australia to find a bunch of very important scientists and their wives who have gone missing.  Bentall and Hopeman never reach Australia, and they spend the rest of the book pretending they're married and trying to figure out what's really happening on a mysterious island.

As MacLean books go, this was not in my top five, but I liked it quite well.  Bentall had a self-deprecating sense of humor that amused me -- he was always berating himself for screwing things up that he didn't really, and so on.  The suspense was top-notch, the heroics were appropriately thrilling, and the plot twists caught me off-guard as they should.  

Particularly Good Bits:

I tried out my carefree laugh to see how it went, but it didn't, it sounded so hollow and unconvincing that it lowered even my morale (p. 27).

I was still giving my impression of one of the statues on Easter Island, carved from stone and badly battered (p. 158).

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for violence and suspense.


  1. Hi! I found your post through an "Alistair MacLean" Google alert. Glad to see readers are still enjoying his thrillers.

    I agree with you about The Black Shrike - it's good, but not in his top five. (In fact, it's #8 in my rankings.) Want recommendations for other MacLeans? Feel free to drop by my fan site at

    P.S. Hope you enjoyed the LOTR Read-Along; Tolkien is another of my favorite authors. My #1, though, is Charlotte Bronte. I see some of Anne's books on your To-Read List, but no Charlotte; perhaps you've already read some? (Jane Eyre is my favorite book - as you'd see at my other site, - and I'm most of the way through the lesser-known Villette, which is similarly astounding.)

    1. I've only read maybe eight of his books, so I'm by no means a connoisseur, but those I've read, I've definitely enjoyed! That's very cool that you have a fan site for him -- definitely an author who deserves a loyal fan base!

      We had an absolute blast with the LOTR Read-Along! Feel free to look back through some of the posts from it if you like :-)

      And as a matter of fact, Jane Eyre is my favorite book too! I have not read anything else by Charlotte Bronte, though, or anything at all by Anne -- the only other Bronte book I've read is Wuthering Heights, which I did not dig. I do want to read Charlotte's other books, though they're not "officially" on my to-read list just because... I haven't added them yet, lol.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by :-)

    2. Hi - just FYI, I finished reading Villette and have posted a review of it at my site. It has its quirks but is definitely worth reading if Jane Eyre is your favorite! See my review for more details (but no spoilers).

    3. Very cool! I'll check out your review -- thanks for telling me :-)

  2. "A small dusty man in a small dusty room."
    "You and me and the lights of London..."

    Probably my two most quoted MacLean lines. Well, as much as my favorite lines from Secret Ways. But those two lines from Black Shrike always stuck in my head. I will randomly say them to myself at odd times.

    And yep, this one is good, but not in my top five either. (Coincidentally, like Big Dave, it's my #8!) Usually there's a happy ending for hero and heroine in his books, and I always appreciated that this book deviated drastically from that.

    1. Two extremely quotable lines. And yes, I was struck by how this one doesn't have that usual happy ending, though it does end very well.

      Trying to think what my list of favorites for MacLean is. Probably:

      1. Fear is the Key
      2. Where Eagles Dare
      3. The Secret Ways
      4. Puppet on a Chain
      5. Guns of Navarone

  3. Hey, There! I was looking for the "small dusty man" line, as I couldn't remember which MacLean book it was in. (Tom is watching "Where Eagles Dare", which is what brought it to mind.

    Black Shrike may not be his best, but it's still one of my favorites. I'm going to have to dig it out and read it again.

    1. Hi, Janet!

      When in doubt about something to do with Alistair MacLean, ask DKoren. She will undoubtedly know! :-)

      Been a while since I've read any of his books -- I should pull one off the shelf soon.


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