Title: The Paper Thunderbolt
Author: Michael Innes
Innes, Michael (1951) [pseud. for John Innes MacKintosh Stewart]. The Paper Thunderbolt. New York: Dodd, Mead
Date Posted: January 20, 2017
Review by ealovitt
Sir John Appleby, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police [London] shows up only every now and then in The Paper Thunderbolt to tidy up the plot or rescue his sister, Jane from various predicaments. The main narrator is Albert Routh, a seedy little conman who cheats housewives out of shillings and pence. When he takes a turn on his two-stroke motorcycle toward the sleepy village of Milton Porcorum, he never dreams that by nightfall he will be the most hunted man in England.
Jane and her fiancé, Geoffrey are both students at Oxford when Geoffrey goes missing. A professor of Art History also discovers that his fiancée and her child have vanished, and a posh asylum for alcoholics near Milton Porcorum seems to be involved with the misplaced fiancés. Conman Albert Routh is temporarily incarcerated at the asylum, which is also a center for biological research, and he escapes with a piece of paper that is the only copy of a mysterious formula.
Now the hunt begins.
This book has some of the best chase sequences in all of Innes, including the surreal climax in the vast subterranean stacks of the Bodleian Library by night. It also has some of his wickedest villains who want nothing less than to induce the lions of humanity to lie down with its lambs. They of course, will remain its only lions.
Note: the alternate title for this Appleby mystery is Operation Pax.
For more on Innes and his works see The Secret Vanguard