After a week of business related to his U.S. Space Agency job, Ian Ferrier stops in Málaga, Spain, to visit Jeff Reid. Ian and Jeff worked together eight years before, gathering evidence of Khrushchev’s rocket installations in Cuba.
Now Jeff works for an American wine importer, and Ian’s current work entails scanning the skies for another Cuba-type crisis, this time satellite-based.
Jeff remembers Ian’s love of flamenco and takes him to see the local flamenco star, Tavita, dance.
Before the evening is over, Jeff meets a man claiming to be a defector from the assassination division of Cuba’s Foreign Intelligence Service. As he goes to alert his superiors to the defector’s demands, Jeff is the victim of a cyanide attack.
Barely alive when Ian finds him, Jeff confides in Ian, who becomes a de facto CIA agent when Jeff is assassinated.
Message shows why Helen MacInnes became known for “highly literate” spy novels. Readers must be as alert as the intelligence operatives.MacInnes’s story is tense but restrained. Readers seeking explosions and high-speed chases should look elsewhere.
So too should readers who want James Bond-ish sex romps. Ian appreciates beautiful women but he’s not going to risk his life to bed one.
Message from Málaga by Helen MacInnes
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich  367 p.
1971 bestseller #6. My grade: B+
Passing through Paris on his way to Greece, historian John Craig runs into one of his Columbia professors, a former Auschwitz inmate on his way back to the states after testifying at the trial of Nazis in Frankfurt.
The Double Image by Helen MacInnes
Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966. 309 pp. My grade: B.
Over drinks, Sussman confides that he’s seen a dead Nazi on a Paris street.
Craig wonders if Sussman is hallucinating.
Then he sees a man follow Sussman from the cafe.
The next day Craig learns the professor was found dead, apparently of suicide.
Those unsettling experiences—and a party hosted by his brother-in-law in the foreign service—plunge Craig into the grim world of Cold War international espionage.
Helen MacInnes keeps a tight rein on her complex plot. She sketches the main characters in only slightly more detail than necessary to make their behavior believable.
There’s nothing of James Bond about Craig. He can use his fists or a pistol, but his intelligence is his main weapon.
And he doesn’t get even one woman into bed—not even the one woman he’d like to have there.
The Double Image will please readers who like their entertainment fast moving and intellectually challenging.