Review: "Terror's Cradle" by Duncan Kyle
1970s were a great decade for adventure novels. A wave of writers, mostly
British, were writing suspense adventure, usually featuring a common man in
very uncommon trouble. The most popular, and the most remembered, is Alistair
MacLean, but there were others. Desmond Bagley, Gavin Lyall, and Jack Higgins
all come to mind. But the genre cultivated other writers, while not quite
consistent enough or lucky enough to break into the top level, who wrote some
pretty damn good yarns. One such writer is John Franklin Broxholme. Broxholme
published 15 novels between 1970 and 1993, mostly using the pseudonym Duncan
Kyle, including his 1975 novel, Terror’s Cradle.
John Sellers is a British newspaperman in Washington D. C. covering a Senate corruption case that may implicate an English politician. It’s a bust, but before Sellers can fly home to London he’s sent on a junket to Las Vegas where a starlet, who is a magnet for trouble, is in more when a man is found dead in her hotel bathroom. His Las Vegas trip is cut short when he’s threatened, and then actually chased by armed gunmen. When Sellers returns to England, he learns his coworker and friend, Alison Hay, has disappeared after a seemingly successful assignment in the Soviet Union.
Terror’s Cradle is a slick adventure novel. The protagonist is strong and vulnerable, and even better, stubborn. He quits his job and plays a harrowing game with both the KGB and CIA. His mission is to find Alison Hay. The locales are exotic from the desert landscape of Lake Meade in Las Vegas to Gothenburg, Sweden to the Shetland Islands in the North Atlantic. The pace is smooth and quick; it charges out of the gate and never slows. The action scenes are believable (although the climactic action is on the whacky side) and even better, exciting. A chase scene in the opening pages transitions from Lake Meade to the barren desert landscape of its shores, and it’s one of the better I’ve read:
“As I stumbled quickly between the sheltering rocks, I heard the car stop and doors open and close. Then there was silence. I kept going, frantic to get space and distance between myself and the road.”
Terror’s Cradle is literate, intelligent, and exciting. The prose is sharp. The plot is complicated but linear, and smoothly perfect. There isn’t much mystery about where the story is going, but it is so concise and exciting it doesn’t matter.