It is 1916, and for the young men and women of Britain, exotic and enticing Salonika promises chances of heroism and honour. Sunny, an ultra-modern warrior in his hot air balloon, envisages duels in the sky, man-to-man. Timid little Winner hopes to use his artistic skill in recording the ferocity of every sort of conflict on the instant. He has not bargained for falling passionately in love with Elsie Fox. Elsie, born into poverty and hardship, seizes all her chances – a nurse, a reckless driver, a convert to Serbian rebellion. But she has disappeared, and Winner must find her, even at the cost of his life. Partially-sighted spy catcher Simon finds time for his pursuit of archaeology in this ancient place. Quartermaster Otter’s sluggish wits are amazingly sharpened in a prolonged encounter with a German submarine.
The moral of this story, at least for Winner: anyone can be heroic if the prospect of cowardice is even more frightening. In the mountains of Macedonia, Serbs and Bulgarians, locked in ancient hatred, fight one another to the death. In Salonika there is every temptation for servicemen and nurses: suave villains, cafe society, beautiful women. Typically, The Follies’ amateur entertainment provided by and for those same servicemen, snatches success from inevitable first night disaster. The author is to be congratulated on keeping a tight control of people and events.
I loved this delightful, crazy, high-spirited story, and everyone in it. Many novels are called thrillers. This one thrills from suspenseful opening to its mighty unstoppable climax.