Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: DEATH OF A CITIZEN by Donald Hamilton


Matt Helm - Death of a CitizenMatt Helm is retired from the war business. His days of covert killing and globetrotting replaced by a suburban comfy lifestyle where his family and writing career consume and fulfil him. However, a chance encounter with a former sexy operative, Tina, at a local party thrusts the agent known as ‘Eric’ back into the world of bullets, blood and bruising fist fights.

DEATH OF A CITIZEN took a while to get going (about a third of the book) as author Donald Hamilton established Helm as a writer and family man with a darkly brooding sense of violence bubbling beneath the surface. Slowly unravelling his back-story and assignments during the war effort, Helm is built up as a once successful assassin turned soft. Luckily, all it took was a subtle signal from the deadly Tina to turn that around and merge past and present into what is a surprisingly decent action thriller.

I wanted to love this book (I haven’t seen the adaptations fortunately) having been a fan of pulps from some time, this reprint of the first Matt Helm book original published in 1960 promised much yet felt slightly off centre to me. Conceptually, DEATH OF A CITIZEN ticked all the boxes but for some reason (which I can’t put my finger on) it felt like something was missing – perhaps it was the use of Helm as a has-been who effortlessly springs into action despite seeing no recent action.

While I enjoy a good twist as much as the next reader, DEATH OF A CITIZEN constantly changes the goal posts – working more often than not yet at times seeming a little too convenient as a means to progress the story.

Will I read more Matt Helm novels? Yes. Reading the blurbs of some of the upcoming books reminds me of a cross between Bond and Quarry. For DEAHT OF A CITIZEN, I give it a pass mark.


Books in the Matt Helm series:

  1. Death of a Citizen (1960)
  2. The Wrecking Crew (1960)
  3. The Removers (1961)
  4. The Silencers (1962)
  5. Murderers' Row (1962)
  6. The Ambushers (1963)
  7. The Shadowers (1964)
  8. The Ravagers (1964)
  9. The Devastators (1965)
  10. The Betrayers (1966)
  11. The Menacers (1968)
  12. The Interlopers (1969)
  13. The Poisoners (1971)
  14. The Intriguers (1972)
  15. The Intimidators (1974)
  16. The Terminators (1975)
  17. The Retaliators (1976)
  18. The Terrorizers (1977)
  19. The Revengers (1982)
  20. The Annihilators (1983)
  21. The Infiltrators (1984)
  22. The Detonators (1985)
  23. The Vanishers (1986)
  24. The Demolishers (1987)
  25. The Frighteners (1989)
  26. The Threateners (1992)
  27. The Damagers (1993)

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