Review by Win Wiacek
Retired Colonel Sir Harold Wilberforce Clifton is back in another adventure from Bob De Groot, this time originally published in 1982. The Gentleman Detective is again enduring the mixed blessing of a holiday in England when he is outrageously dragged out of his permanent dudgeon and unwanted retirement by his old spymaster handlers. They need him to attend to a tricky problem only someone of his vast experience and discretion can handle.
It begins in the sleepy hamlet of Dormhouse, where the vacationing surly sod livens up his day by furiously debating the correct surface temperature of toast, annoying village “bobby” Constable Walrus and failing to fish in idyllic streams. That changes in an absurdly fraught instant when old associate Captain Twincam ambushes him.
Twincam’s partner is Sir Jason: a strapping Adonis of a young man with generations of pedigree and privilege behind him. His family – the highly-entitled clan Macassock -have always produced sons who became spies or clergymen, and despite this lad’s heartfelt desire to be a jazz musician, he will do his duty and follow family tradition. The minor noble has finished training and is – on paper at least – a superbly-schooled, hyper-fit, lethally capable super-agent in waiting. There’s only one small snag: this aristocratic boy wonder freezes at the merest hint of actual action.
With the future of the whole hidebound spycraft system under threat, the Secret Service need someone to teach the lad how to use what he knows for the good of the nation. No expense spared, carte blanche in methods used and the promise of some much-missed excitement finally induce old warhorse Clifton to agree, and no sooner does he accept the mission than fate smiles on them as mentor and apprentice stumble into an armed robbery and indulge in a spectacular high speed chase through the verdant countryside. It’s an utter disaster and the Colonel realises he has his work cut out for him if he’s to unleash the tiger buried deep, deep, deep inside the spy scion.
Under the safe artistic hands of Turk visually spoofing 1970’s London and eternally staid and stuffy English manners with wicked effect, these comfy thrillers are big on laughs, but also pack loads of consequence-free action into their eclectic mix. Delightfully surreal, instantly accessible and doused with daft slapstick offering splendid fun and timeless laughs for all.