With The Ability to Kill, first published in 1963, renowned thriller writer Eric Ambler turns his attention to true crimewith an emphasis on murder. In five essays, he presents a sampling of famously intriguing (and often disturbing) cases of the last few hundred years, including 19th-century Edinburgh's Burke and Hare, who supplied the medical school with ill-gotten cadavers; Victorian London's infamous Jack the Ripper; the Frenchman Henri DesirÃ© Landru, an early 20th century serial killer; and the Californian doctor Bernard Finch and his lover Carole Tregoff, who conspired to murder his wife in 1961. Rounding out the collection are a few pieces on lighter topics such as spies and how to spot them, and novelists in Hollywood. Though his subjects are sometimes grim, Ambler's deft touch makes this examination of homicide and other matters pure pleasure to read.
This first American edition of collected true-crime pieces from the '50s and '60s by the master author of Epitaph for a Spy, Journey Into Fear, The Light of Day et al. belongs on every fan's bookshelves. Ambler's polite, leisurely stroll down memory lane is a delight. He deals with classic villains from England (Jack the Ripper), Scotland (William Burke and William Hare) and France (Marcel Petiot) along with more recent miscreants: England's James Hanratty (1961) and America's Raymond Finch and Carole Tregoff (1960). Ambler also turns his good-natured, sharp eye on film-writing and the pleasures of Maxim's, and there are lovely semifictional pieces on spies and spy-spotting. Especially delicious is the tale of ``Annettee'' in 1937 Tangier. There's nothing heavy here, and even Ambler's opposition to the death penalty is quietly posited. His new introduction has its share of graceful nuggets, too. (October 13) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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October 01, 1987
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