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No Comebacks by Frederick Forsyth | Book Reviews

No Comebacks is a collection of ten short stories by Frederic Forsyth. These stories, with themes of blackmail, betrayal and murder, were published individually over the years 1972-1979 and as a collection in 1982. All the stories portray the author’s characteristic affinity for portraying routine of professional lives in meticulous details and an attempt at a surprising twist at the end.

Book Title : No Comebacks
Author :
Publisher : RHUK (1 March 2001), Cornerstone Digital (May 30, 2011)
# of Pages : 320 (Paperback), 336 (Kindle)
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No Comebacks features Mark Sanderson, a middle-aged wealthy Englishman who is not used to not getting what he wants. In spite of his established Casanova image, he is on a lookout for a woman he could marry. When he finally meets Angela Summers, he knows that his search for a wife is over. While she likes Mark, she is not-so-happily married to Major Archie Summers and has no wish to separate from her husband as long as death do them part. But her unscrupulous lover decides not to wait for natural death. He instead hires a mercenary to do the job for him. With money he can buy everything including best of the professional killers around. Crime never pays though, or does it?

There are No Snakes in Ireland is story of an Indian medical student – Harkishan Ram Lal, struggling to make the ends meets while he is in Ireland. During the school holidays, he takes a rough construction job to save enough money for his next semester. Here, he is the “odd-one-out” and is continuously bullied by his uncouth supervisor. One day the torture crosses the line of his endurance and he decides to avenge himself. True to India’s reputation as a country of snake-charmers, this young, intelligent man resorts to a snake as a weapon (Really? That was my first reaction). Never mind, moving on, he sneaks venomous snake in Ireland and contrives that his supervisor should get bitten. However, things do not go as he planned…Will he end up murdering innocent people in his quest for revenge? A young aspirant doctor whose calling in life has been saving lives, will he survive such a crime?

The Emperor, to a large extent, is a story of an old man and the sea. Written in so much of an Ernest Hemingway style, it parallels his widely acknowledged and popular plots. Mr Murgatroyd is a reputable bank manager, who has led a monotonous life so far. When he wins a trip to Mauritius from the bank, he knows this is the first and last holiday of this kind in his life. On a spur of moment, he ends up going fishing in the sea and for the first time in his life, finds something that is not worth giving up. The experience is brutally fatiguing but proves life changing for him.

There Are Some Days when nothing, but absolutely nothing, happens to go as planned. While most of the time it is just frustrating, for Murphy and his comrades the series of co-incidences just prove to be too much. They have a sure-shot plan to capture a truck carrying one of the finest liqueur in the world (a few thousand pounds worth of Cognac) and make some quick money out of it. Instead they end up stealing a truck that is carrying compost for which their dangerous customers do not want to pay. In a hasty attempt to dump the truck, Murphy crashes it with a tractor on a farm track. Even though it is a country road out of the way, a police car shows up right on the scene of accident before he can get away. But, this is not the end. The compost bags have been thrown around in the crash and the policemen discover something else in the bags hidden in the stinky manure. Funny little read……

Money with Menaces circles around the theme of blackmailing. Samuel Nutkin is a god-fearing, reputable gentleman, a senior employee in an insurance company. When he finds an adult magazine by accident, first time in his life he starts fantasizing what it would be like to be with a woman that is not his wife. Finally, he decides to go for it. But, after only one encounter he receives a set of photographs and a demand for money. Will he meekly give in to the blackmail as hundreds like him do or does he have something up his sleeve?

Used in Evidence starts with a lone man’s fight against being evicted from his home when the developing city needs a carpark. The old man resists all attempts by the council to move him from his home. But, ultimately when the authorities break in by force and carry him out, they receive a shocking surprise waiting for them – a mummified dead body of a woman in the space between the wall and the chimney. Straightaway she is taken to be his wife who disappeared a few years ago and he is charged with the crime. He does not break his silence even then. But when the forensic experts finish their investigation, all of them are in for another shock.

Privilege will appeal to all of us who at some point of time or another were a helpless victim of a powerful bully. Newspapers and all other forms of media today have a power of communication and hence the power of making or ruining someone’s life. When a newspaper reporter writes an article about a fraud company, he also implies that Bill Chadwick was a part of the fraud. In reality, he was one of the victims of the fraud himself and suffered from it. When he tries to explain his side of the story to the newspaper editor, he is casually brushed off. When he consults his lawyer, he learns that he will have to practically go bankrupt if he filed a court case and may or may not achieve anything at the end of it. In spite of everything looking so dark, Bill cannot bear to let the newspaper get away with smearing his reputation. He studies the law himself and comes up with an ingenious plan to set the scores right.

Duty – as the author says, doesn’t really fit-in with rest of the lot in this book. It is story of a crime of different kind: A war crime. In a war, what is seen as patriotic duty on one side, is a homicide and sometimes genocide for the other side. Every picture tells a different story with a change in perspective. An Irish couple is travelling in countryside France when the broken car engine leaves them to seek shelter for a night in a middle-aged couple’s home who apparently do not speak any English. Soon they discover however that the husband who comes across as slow-witted – almost dumb – person is an ex-soldier from United Kingdom. In a desperate try to establish some communication between them, the visitors press him into describing his war experiences. As these things go, they end up listening to the one story, that they are least prepared for.

A Careful Man – What would you do if you knew you would die in six months? Mr. Timothy Hanson learns that he is a patient of terminal cancer and has only a few months left to live. He has no living relations he is attached to. But, he is a wealthy man. So it appears that all his money is going to into unworthy hands. He proves himself indeed a very careful man, as he manages to evade income tax and other government sharks and his greedy relatives such that none of them receive a penny of his money. Did he actually carry all that money with him when he was buried in the Atlantic Ocean?

Sharp Practice is one of those familiar stories that you see time and again in crime literature, drama, movies and so on. A good, naive, trusting man engages himself in a game of cards with complete strangers and looses. In this story, Judge Comyn is travelling by train when he meets a not so bright Mr. O’Connor and a priest who has never played cards before. At the end of the journey, the priest has won a magnificent sum. The judge does not regret it much as it is all going to go to charity. But, the next day in court who should be the criminal but O’Connor. He is there defending himself from a charge of cheating while playing cards while travelling on train…another journey with another innocent traveler. Is he really a criminal who uses marked cards to cheat people on this train or is he a victim himself?

Enjoy……….

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