Book Review: Jailbreak In Czechoslovakia

The Canceled Czech is a thriller by Lawrence Block and was first published in 1966. This one in a series of novels featuring American super spy Evan Tanner. I hadn’t heard of him either until I came across this little piece in an used bookstore.

Tanner is handsome. clever, and good with the ladies. It is not clear what agency he works for. He seems to be some kind of freelance troubleshooter. Tanner has one unique characteristic which could could either drive him mad or come in handy at times. He apparently suffered a war injury that robbed him of the ability to sleep. He has to incorporate some meditation and relaxation exercises to help keep his faculties together.

Evan Tanner is engaged to take a trip to Czechoslovakia to bring a Nazi war criminal back to America. His allies are a group of Jewish operatives and an overly amorous female Nazi. He gets the target out of jail, but he has to keep him alive until he can make it back to the States. Since this is a Nazi, Tanner also has to avoid the temptation to take matters into his own hands and even the score for those lost in the Holocaust.

I haven’t read much of Block’s works, I am aware of his stature in the realm of crime fiction. I am not sure this is one of his better efforts. I didn’t find Tanner all that interesting, and the German woman’s nymphomania just seemed a bit farcical. This really felt like a James Bond knockoff.

I did appreciate the setting, and Block does have a fairly engaging prose style. To be fair, this was in Block’s early years. I probably just like his other protagonist, Matthew Scudder, better.

It’s not a terrible book. and it’s not a terrible idea to read Block. I just hoped this would have engaged me more than it did.

I think for the next literary port of call will be early nineteenth century England where Viscount Sebastian St. Cyr indulges his curiosity in the macabre and investigates the murder of a man thought to have died years before at Botany Bay in Who Speaks for the Damned by C.S. Harris.

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