Book Review: A Dandy in Aspic

A Dandy in Aspic

A Dandy in Aspic by Derek Marlowe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this one at first. And “enjoy” might not be the right word.

Very slow moving, although I enjoyed the glimpses of 60’s London.

Alexander Eberlin is a civil servant in London. He is one of those “dead inside” characters that were so popular in 60s & 70s fiction. His main pleasure in life is his clothing. He is a dandy and a great admirer of Beau Brummell (Brumell is also one of my favourite historical figures.)

Anyone else remember the old Department S & Jason King TV shows? I used to love watching them on a Friday night. This is how I pictured Eberlin looking. He is holding another cast member. I don’t remember so much smoking since I last read a Mary Stewart thriller.

But all is not as it seems and Eberlin is actually a double agent by the name of Krasnevin. He is sent to Berlin – to kill himself.

The action picks up quite a bit once Eberlin arrives in Berlin, although there are lots of meditative pauses with his friend.

Another friend of Eberlin’s from London, the gamine Caroline keeps turning up. Is she as artless as she seems?
Caroline was played by Mia Farrow in the 1968 film of the same name.

I’m assuming Caroline’s part was expanded for the film. But I am quite envious of some of the clothes Farrow wore;

Well some of them!

Forgive me for going offtrack – I just love 60’s clothes and wish I had been a teen then!

This book was heading for a 3★ rating, but the action at the end is amazing and a very spectacular finish. As shame that most reviews find the film lacklustre. I would have expected a decent film director could make this story an outstanding film.

I can’t go higher than 4★ because of the slow, almost dull start and the almost constant misogyny. The words may be coming out of his characters’ mouths, but they feel like Marlowe’s own ideas.

All this Prentiss took in his stride with a wry smile and a bashful grin when close friends discussed his pedigree of prettily rich ex-lovers, and would repeat over pints of beer at his Chelsea pub, when others admired his latest girl-child: “I would give her to you, but she is part of a set”…

Blech.

Ugh, and all the groping male hands. Sometimes nostalgia may be misplaced.

If you like to have likeable characters, this may also not be the book for you – although I did feel a tepid liking for Caroline.

An interesting period piece.

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