Title: The Case of The Four Friends
Author: John Masterman
Masterman, John (1956). The Case of The Four Friends. London, Hodder and Stoughton
PZ3 .M39372 Cas
Date Updated: June 23, 2015
This book, also known as The Four Friends from Lisbon, is a novel of wartime double agents intrigue in Lisbon, written by the chairman of MI5’s double cross committee. Nigel West has dubbed it one of the “Best Spy Novels by Spies.”
Despite the acclaim that An Oxford Tragedy had garnered, Masterman did not publish a follow-up until 1957. The novel, again starring Ernst Brendel, was called The Case of the Four Friends, which is “a diversion in pre-detection”.
In the novel, Brendel is persuaded by a group of friends to relate a story of how he “pre-constructed” a crime, rather than reconstructing it as in the conventional manner. As he says, “To work out the crime before it is committed, to foresee how it will be arranged, and then to prevent it! That’s a triumph indeed, and is worth more than all the convictions in the world”.
His tale then was about four men, each of them either a potential victim or potential murderer. The pacing of the story is quite slow and the narrative is interrupted from time to time by discussion between Brendel and his listeners. Even so, the novel maintains its interest on the reader throughout, partly because of the originality of its approach.
This novel was the last of Masterman’s crime stories and he wrote no more works of fiction. However, his best known work was still to come, and it would involve his wartime experiences as part of the Twenty Committee.