Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Death Stalk in Spain by Don Smith

Death Stalk in Spain by Don Smith
Award Books AN1040, Copyright 1972

Here one that's a bit different. Take a PI that works for a special department of the CIA and send him around the world performing investigations for the USA. The "Secret Mission" series by Don Smith are a blend of adventure, intrigue and decent PI story. Phil Sherman is our world traveler PI, a pretty sharp guy that isn't afraid to bend the rules at times.

In "Death Stalk in Spain," Sherman is asked to help the U.S. Navy in locating a missing rescue submarine and it's rogue captain, Lt. Kelly. Kelly has obtained information on the location of ten tons of gold that was sunk by a German U-boat during WWII. He needs the U.S. sub to retrieve the gold from the depths and has the ex-captain of the U-Boat that sunk it as his partner. Sherman starts piecing it together and then a beautiful Spanish woman is thrown in the mix, playing both sides of the fence. After a couple of close encounters with death, he stays on the trail and pursues the surviving conspirator in a suspenseful climactic chase at the end.

"I heard the gunshot as I hit the water and stayed under as long as I could. I came up and gulped down a lungful of air, and a rifle cracked at the same instant as the bullet snapped overhead. I went under again and changed direction. The rifle did worry me. It had the range."

Not a bad mystery story, with a good amount of exciting action that is the norm for these series books. Phil Sherman doesn't have special Hi-Tech weapons or other spy tools; in fact he doesn't even carry a gun. What he does is follow the leads and perform some nice detective work. As in all of these, there is plenty of heated activity at the end to wrap it up. Sherman isn't afraid of the ladies and can be a charmer, throwing a joke or two. The dames always seem to be involved with the caper, but he'll show compassion for them and lets them off in the end. What works well is that Sherman comes off like an average PI. Not a super spy, just a “dick on a case” whose turf just happens to be locations throughout the world.

Don Smith creates an entertaining novel. As these adventure novels go, the "Secret Mission" series is one of the better ones out there. Smith even gives us a geography lesson; in this one we get a full understanding of the coast of western Spain. I liked that and it definitely helps the story. Overall a very intriguing novel that kept me glued to the story all the way through. This is the only book of the series that I own, but it was good enough for me to hunt down another. As for Don Smith, I don't know much about him but I may have read a book of his in the past about the mafia. I vaguely remember it followed the success of Puzo’s "The Godfather"-but I could be wrong, it was a while ago.

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