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Drink to Yesterday by Manning Coles

Title: Drink to Yesterday (Tommy Hambledon #1)

Author: Manning Coles

First published on 1st January 1941; reprint by Rue Morgue Press on 1st January 2008

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers | Espionage

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

Manning Coles is the pseudonym of two British Authors – Adelaide Frances Oke Manning and Cyril Henry Coles. The duo wrote many spy thrillers from early 40s to early 60s. Drink to Yesterday is the first book in a series featuring Tommy Hambledon.

This is my first Manning Coles read – and a first in the espionage series written in the 1940s. First things first, why don’t they write spy thrillers like this one anymore? I admit Drink to Yesterday is way different from your usual spy story – begins with a housekeeper finding a dead body and an inquest is held; then comes the flashback – from Michael Kingston’s school years to serving as a spy for the British Intelligence to his death.

Michael Kingston joins the army at seventeen (under a false age) under a false name Bill Saunders. After serving a term at the battlefield, Bill is absorbed into the British Intelligence. He goes to Germany under the false name Dirk Brandt and involves himself in the German Intelligence – befriends a paraplegic man named von Bodenheim who serves as a German Intelligence officer.

Along with Tommy Hambledon, Bill engineers the murder of a scientist breeding cholera germs, an arson at the Zeppelin plant and the murder of Bodenheim (latter part of the story). Bill falls in love with the vicar’s niece, Diana, and ends up marrying her – but he cannot tell her about his secret missions; also, no one at the War Office know of their marriage. (A spy’s encouraged to remain single.)

The story is well-paced; falls a little flat for a few pages where the readers are given a detailed explanation of Bill and Tommy’s plans – but this doesn’t affect my rating. I really loved the suspense – an espionage story just before the war – spies, zeppelins, Allied Power and much more! Character development is excellent and so is the storytelling.

The double games Bill plays – gosh! Sometimes he’s Michael, sometimes Bill and sometimes Dirk – Phew! Quite a handful of personalities to follow! The ending is excellent. Expect the unexpected, that’s for sure!

I am glad to have come across this series and I am looking forward to reading more of Manning Coles’ books. If you love spy thrillers, you must give this gem of a book a try.


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