James Mills "Haywire"
Corgi Original pbk (0 552 14389 8) £5.99
"Ol’ man Evil he’s a gettin’ the better of it. But what’s this? That ol’ Good hand is fightin’ back. Glory be, just look, Good is winnin’ the battle"
So says murderous preacher as he enacts the age old batttle between the forces of dark and light with his tattooed hands in the classic fifties thriller Night of the Hunter. I paraphrase you understand. And now just forty years later we have Night of the Hunter Part II - this time it’s technological.
This time the money stuffed in the toy is a cool hundred million bucks in bearer bonds. Is it any wonder the government is so keen to eradicate inflation? This time the moral balance is weighed against a background of CNN updates. This time the mad preacher is replaced by a series of gun crazy drug traffickers. But nine year old Charley is as resourceful as ever in evading all comers. So young and so wise - how unlike my own dear children.
Doug Fleming has turned his back on the dirty world of drug enforcement, but in an entirely unexpected turn of events a) he finds his past catching up with him and, even more surprising b) is thrust against his old, satanic adversary. Once Charley goes missing all Doug has to do is c) betray his friends before d) discovering that they weren’t his friends in the first place and e) discovering that his side is just as bad as theirs. That one took me by surprise as well.
This betrayal business is a tough job, but someone has to do it. The course of spiritual regeneration never did run smooth. And make no mistake, this is a major confrontation of GOOD and EVIL. The bad man doesn’t wear a black hat - his eyes turn red. Yes they really do. Demons stalk the earth and only Guardian Angels can save the good of heart.
Haywire is a gripping story. The fact that the plotting is formulaic should not detract from its enjoyment. John Le Carré has used exactly the same template for a dozen novels over the past three decades and his public aren’t sated yet. (J.C.)

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