Murder Investigation as a European Vacation


Title: A Coffin for Dimitrios

Rating: 3 Stars

This was a mystery story written in the mid 1940’s. If that style appeals, then you will probably find this enjoyable as well.

A bored mystery writer (Latimer) is listlessly traveling. Somehow he meets up with a Turkish official who tells him a strange story of a man named Dimitrios that has been recently murdered.

Being somewhat idle, Latimer decides to see what it would take to try to solve a real mystery. Who is Dimitrios, how did he end up in Turkey, and why was he murdered?

In many ways, this has most of the forms of a classic crime noir. The protagonist is a somewhat naive man blundering into situations that he doesn’t really understand (probably thinking that he’s smarter than he really is). There is a spy who provides important information at a critical juncture. There is the oily suave but unpleasant man who wants something from the protagonist but whose motives are murky and morality even more so. And then there’s Dimitrios himself, a blunt, angry, violent man capable of anything.

For whatever reason that’s not clear, Ambler did not see fit to add in a femme fatale, which would have completed the stock character lineup.

For important reasons of plot, Latimer makes his way though Europe, from Turkey to Greece to Serbia to Switzerland to Paris. In each locale, Ambler makes a point of coloring in enough details to give you its flavor.

As has been noted in other reviews that I’ve read, there is really not a lot of action or violence. It’s more of a travelogue mixed in with interviews and research as part of Latimer’s quest. I did find it interesting as Latimer slowly but surely pieces together the life of Dimitrios.



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