Pray for a Brave Heart Helen MacInnes 341 pages
I’m a big fan of spy novels, specifically spy novels that have to deal with post World War II action. So I was looking forward to this. It took exactly three pages for me to stop.
The story follows William, Bill, Denning as a man leaving Berlin, and the Army after hunting down property taken by Nazis during the war. Denning is planning a nice, quiet holiday in Switzerland before heading home and being discharged. His plans are interupted when an old friend, Meyer, comes to see him and asks for some unofficial help on an unauthorized mission. Denning agrees, and under the cover of his Swiss holiday, acts as back up to Meyer as he tries to determine if Nazis are still operating- this time using stolen diamonds to fund their current activities.
There are several issues with this story and the writing. The writing is stilted, and the dialogue is vague. The book opens with a long, involved conversation between Denning and Meyer, but because of the issues with the writing of the dialogue, you don’t know who these people are, or why you should care. This issue with dialogue gets moderately better as the book progresses, but honestly, most people would have stopped reading after the first ten or so pages, which is all dialogue, and near impossible to get through.
The characters are never fully developed, seen most keenly with Denning, our hero, who we’re supposed to identify with. But that’s impossible when you never learn anything about him. He’s a cardboard cut out who is never fleshed out, making it even harder to want to follow him. There’s a large cast of supporting characters, including a ridiculous woman named Francesca, who we’re supposed to read as some sort of Resistance fighter, the over the top American wife of a reporter, Paula, and her hapless husband. Then there’s the cast of international Keystone cops who appear out of the woodwork, and for no reason (with no evidence) all decide to support and trust Denning as he carries out Meyer’s mission. We never learn much about these characters, that read more like caricatures than anything else. To make matters worse, MacInnes adds an entire town full of characters at the end of the book, for little reason I could discern.
The plot itself is ridiculous, with the diamonds acting as the McGuffin of the action. They seem to be mentioned just to start the action, as we never learned much about them, or why they’d be so important- other than the fact that they are diamonds, and therefore represent money. Most of the action reads as though someone was checking off boxes on what they thought a post World War spy novel should contain:
- Diamond smuggling
- Resistance fighter
- Organized crime
- American hero
- International cops
The problem is, it reads as though someone were just checking off boxes. There is no character development, no clear or interesting plot, and nothing that hasn’t been done a dozen times before, and better.
I give this a 0 out of 5 stars.