cover image Waiting for Orders

Waiting for Orders

Eric Ambler. Mysterious Press, $22 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-241-9

Most of these eight mildly diverting short stories disinterred from the work of British suspense master Ambler were written in 1939-1940 as Ambler, already a successful novelist ( A Coffin for Dimitrios ), awaited his call to military duty. Six ingenious detective short-shorts star a heel-clicking, umbrella-toting refugee (``Dr. Jan Czissar. Late Prague police. At your service'') who infuriates the outclassed Mercer of Scotland Yard by being insufferably and invariably correct. In a preface, Ambler relates that the ideas for these tales came from a standard two-volume work on forensic medicine. Two suspense stories, however, beg for further development. In ``The Army of the Shadows'' an English surgeon driving in the Swiss Alps becomes stranded during a snow storm and then entangled in the intrigues of prewar anti-Nazis. Here Ambler expressed the soon-to-be-unpopular view that the enemy was not the German people but the Nazi tyranny. In ``The Blood Bargain,'' salvaged from a failed novel, a corrupt Latin American tyrant uses subtle psychological tactics to gain his release from insurgents, then finds exile extremely dangerous. (Feb.)