Book Report: The Retaliators by Donald Hamilton (1976)

I saw the Dean Martin Matt Helm movies before I found this book at a book fair, cheap, so I didn’t know whether to expect the Austin Powers tone in the novel. It’s more of a straightforward paperback thriller: Matt Helm, counteragent, finds himself framed as a traitor, so he runs south to Mexico with the wife of a tycoon. Her brother was a copatriot of Matt’s, and he was killed when captured during the frame-up. There, Helm finds details about their mission that was about to start before the frame-up takes place: kill an assassin who has his eyes on a revolutionary Mexican general.

Helm relies on assistance from a Mexican colonel he trusts from a previous mission, but too many people are shooting at Helm for his comfort or for his trust.

The voice is a bit wordy, probably looking for a certain braggadocio in the character. The pacing a bit slow, and the first person narrator keeps things a little close to chest. The plot itself is a little too clever for its own good and relies on a bit of Helm making cognitive leaps that I wouldn’t have seen coming. The result is a second tier paperback thriller, way below John D. MacDonald’s work, but good enough for some throwaway time.

Apparently, Helm has a legion of fans; perhaps the earlier books in the series are better.

Books mentioned in this review:

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