The Case of the Leaden Coffin (Blackguard Rogue Book 1)
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Ambler always explains complicated Balkan politics in a lively fashion, in this case through the eyes of the Greek Marukakis:. In a dying civilization, political prestige is the reward not of the shrewdest diagnostician but of the man with the best bedside manner. It is the decoration conferred on mediocrity by ignorance. Yet there remains one sort of political prestige that may still be worn with a certain pathetic dignity; it is that given to the liberal-minded leader of a party of conflicting doctrinaire extremists.
His dignity is that of all doomed men: for whether the two extremes proceed to mutual destruction or whether one of them prevails, doomed he is, either to suffer the hatred of the people or to die a martyr.
The Agrarian Party, faced by organized reaction, was immobilized, rendered powerless by its own internal conflicts. It died without firing a shot in its own defense. The end began soon after Stambulisky returned to Sofia early in January nineteen twenty-three, from the Lausanne Conference. On January the twenty-third, the Yugoslav then Serbian Government lodged an official protest in Sofia against a series of armed raids carried out by Bulgarian comitadji over the Yugoslav frontier. A few days later, on February the fifth, during a performance celebrating the foundation of the National Theatre in Sofia at which the King and Princesses were present, a bomb was thrown into a box in which sat several government ministers.
The bomb exploded. Several persons were injured. Relations between the two countries had been improving rapidly.
But an objection to this improvement came from the Macedonian Autonomists, represented by the notorious Macedonian Revolutionary Committee, which operated in both Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Fearing that friendly relations between the two countries might lead to joint action against them, the Macedonians set to work systematically to poison those relations and to destroy their enemy Stambulisky. The attacks of the comitadji and the theatre incident inaugurated a period of organized terrorism.
On March the eighth, Stambulisky played his trump card by announcing that the Narodno Sobranie would be dissolved on the thirteenth and that new elections would be held in April. This was a disaster for the reactionary parties. Bulgaria was prospering under the Agrarian Government.
The peasants were solidly behind Stambulisky. An election would have established him even more securely. The funds of the Macedonian Revolutionary Committee increased suddenly. Almost immediately an attempt was made to assassinate Stambulisky and his Minister of Railways, Atanassoff, at Haskovo on the Thracian frontier. It was frustrated only at the last moment. Several police officials responsible for suppressing the activities of the comitadji were threatened with death. In the face of these menaces, the elections were postponed. Then, on June the fourth, the Sofia police discovered a plot to assassinate not only Stambulisky but also Muravieff, the War Minister, and Stoyanoff, the Minister of the Interior.
A young army officer, believed to have have been given the job of killing Stoyanoff, was shot dead by the police in a gun fight.
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Other young officers, also under the orders of a the terrorist Committee, were known to have arrived in Sofia, and a search for them was made. The police were beginning to lose control of the situation. Now was the time for the Agrarian Party to have acted, to have armed their peasant supporters. But they did not do so. Instead, they played politics among themselves.
For them, the enemy was the Macedonian Revolutionary Committee, a terrorist gang, a small organization quite incapable of ousting a government entrenched behind hundreds of thousands of peasant votes. They failed to perceive that the activities of the Committee had been merely the smoke-screen behind which the reactionary party had been making their preparations for an offensive.
They very soon paid for this lack of perception.chronograffle.co.uk/map69.php
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At midnight on June the eighth all was calm. Too late, Stambulisky tried to rally his peasants to their own defense. Several weeks later he was surrounded with a few followers in a country house some hundreds of miles away from Sofia and captured. Shortly after and in circumstances that are still obscure, he was shot. Peters, a charming, conscienceless rogue who escorts our hero, Charles Latimer, down a barbed wire path leading to the inevitable violent denouement. Displacing Stambulisky was just one of their many profit-minded machinations.
At the end of Dimitrios, Latimer is immensely relieved to leave this quixotic quest and return to making up the harmless plots of murder mysteries. Despite the oppressive pre-war European condition, he turned in one more classic before putting down his pen and joining the army. In nineteen fourteen those mines were captured by the Germans, who worked them for the iron they needed. They have admitted since that without the iron they mined at Briey they would have been finished in nineteen seventeen.
Yes, they worked Briey hard. I, who was at Verdun can tell you that. Night after night we watched the glare in the sky from the blast furnaces of Briey a few kilometres away: the blast furnaces that were feeding the German guns. Our artillery and our bombing aeroplanes could have blown those furnaces to pieces in a week. But our artillery remained silent; an airman who dropped one bomb on the Briey area was court-martialled. His voice rose.
Because there were orders that Briey was not to be touched. Whose orders? Nobody knew.
The orders came from someone at the top. The Ministry of War said that it was the generals.
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The generals said that it was the Ministry of War. We did not find out the facts until after the war. The orders had been issued by Monsieur de Wendel of the Comite des Forges who owned the Briey mines and blast furnaces. We were fighting for our lives, but our lives were less important than that the property of Monsieur de Wendel should be preserved to make fat profits.
During one telling passage Graham curses himself for toying with her affections. He was, he told himself, treating her shabbily. She had been kind to him in her way.
THE ROGUE'S LEXICON.
Indeed, she could not have been kinder…It was no good protesting that she was out for what she could get. She had made no secret of the fact and he had tacitly accepted it. Amblerian irony! A hero always has a girl, right? Not a page flags. The plot zooms smoothly from the first page until the last. The Schirmer Inheritance Ambler returns to form with a book lighter in tone than Deltchev.
Indeed, all the Amblerian heroes of the Fifties are more conventionally sensible than the heroes of the pre-war books were. But the reversal is too quick, and the woman should have gotten a chance to tell her side of the story. One could imagine Fraser stepping into the pages of an Alistair MacLean book without too much trouble.
I was remembering a Fusilier sergeant I had met in Burma.