The Short Weekend (1953) by T. S. Strachan

Just a quick review from me today on a fairly slim green and white penguin. The story is set in sunny Madrid, post WW2 and begins with this striking opening sentence: ‘Field never thought that he would agree to murder someone.’

Short on money Tom Field is coming to the end of his stay in Spain, not looking forward to going back to England. That is until a mysterious stranger offers him a proposal in which he would accrue significant funds. All he has to do is bump off an American admiral who is arriving in a couple of weeks to discuss American aid. A train station is to be the scene of the crime and a mills grenade the weapon of choice. The first half of story charts the days leading up to the assassination, whilst the latter half is concerned with the consequences. It goes without saying that things do not quite go to plan for Field…

Overall Thoughts

If you’ve scrolled down to my rating already then you will know that this book was not a huge success for me. Although this book is only around 120 pages, (a fundamental bonus of the book), it still finds the time to waste a lot of pages on saying very little. The prose is of the sparse variety so there is not even much of a travelogue compensation. When things start to go wrong for Field the plot does become more action focused, yet this still yields little in the way of reader satisfaction. Firstly, the action itself fails to dazzle, in particular the finale show down which is immensely anticlimactic and drawn out. Never has a shoot out been quite so dull…

The second reason why I think this book may fail to please is to do with the protagonist Tom Field. I did wonder whether his name was a nod towards The History of Tom Jones (1749) by Henry Fielding, as like Jones, he is morally ambiguous, though not without some good intentions. Equally they are both somewhat disaffected, disenchanted at times and possibly lacking an internal locus of control when it comes to personal actions. The microscopic comments we get on Tom Field’s past life do hold some interest, as he was a POW during WW2, but their presence in the story is so minimal that they have little if any impact. This lack of fleshing out his character means Tom is hard to warm to and invest in. I wonder whether this book might be of greater interest to readers with a bigger understanding and knowledge of the political situation in 1950s Spain. But on the whole it is not a story I would recommend.

Rating: 2.5/5

Just the Facts Ma’am (Gold Card): Out of comfort zone

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